E3 Press Conferences and Devolver Digital: Cringefest or Genius Parody?

This article is something I wanted to discuss because it’s a common topic always brought up when it comes to E3 and company showcases: Cringe. Cringe takes a variety of forms when it comes to a press conference; sometimes it’s an off-color joke that dies on-stage. Sometimes it’s a painfully scripted event that makes everyone wince with how forced it is. There’s one common thing that connects it all back however: Cringe is a clear disconnect from the audience.

That said, there is a fine line. A line where audience disconnect loops back around to full-blown parody. That’s where Devolver Digital comes into play. I’ve seen various levels of criticism and talking points about it but one thing is clear; the jury is divided on if it was the most cringe-inducing press conference ever or if Devolver created the most snarky, pessimistic parody of a press conference ever.

If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out Devolver’s conference. Personally, I found it kinda funny in a zany out-there sort of way. They hit all the notes one expects of a press conference: Corporate shilling, announcing things nobody wants and over-the-top editing. This followed with an incredibly long post-show of people just playing games and making jokes until the next conference…but why is it so divisive?

When it comes to the E3, there’s a fine line of how sarcastic you can go before killing a joke. For many, Devolver hit this point at minute two. Very little games shown, very little in the way of actual news, and overall it was nothing but half-an-hour or so of making fun of every single press conference. The problem is that for many, the jokes wore themselves out. You can only point out how cynical the press conferences are before the audience groans and says “We get it”. If you’re not funny and if you’re not showing gameplay, you’re just wasting time.

That said, for others, this was the perfect amount of snark and reveals. You had to read between the lines but there were plenty of silly moments and reveals to be had. They just didn’t get a two minute “World Premier” trailer associated with them. Devolver went the route of making a joke more than anything else. Nothing really tops them bringing in Suda51, a famous and wacky developer, just to say he’s not doing anything with Devolver.

The importance of Devolver’s conference is that it highlights a point that blurs the line between audiences. Some say it’s hysterical, some say it was a tired joke before the camera even started rolling. Will a conference like Devolver ever happen again? Who is to say. In terms of what cringe is, Devolver found the most wonderful grey area to toy with fans, viewers and E3 goers all in the wee hours of the morning.

Piltover Parley Ep. 3 ft. Riot Yuujou

Welcome to Piltover Parley!

This is a series (Sometimes audio and sometimes written) where I interview significant figures in the League community and get their viewpoints, thoughts and ideas about the game!

Riot sometimes seems like a mountain you just can’t climb when it comes to getting in. For that reason, I sat down with Alexander “Riot Yuujou” Quach to talk about scouting talent for Riot, success stories and…super sentai?

Bear in mind: This is a SHORTENED TRANSCRIPT of the full interview which you can find here for full viewing or here for listening. This written portion will merely cover some questions for those who are looking for the specific questions/answers.

Getting into Riot and Working There

David aka “CaptainMarvelous”: Real quick, tell us how you ended up working at Riot because it seems like it’s not a company you don’t jump RIGHT into.

Alexander “Riot Yuujou” Quach: Absolutely true on that end. Riot’s not a company you can just, like, pop in and start right away. I started on the sales floor actually! I was folding clothes at Banana Republic and then I traded up to being a supervisor at a retail store. I was at Wallgreens. From there I went on to retail HR. I was the executive human resources at Target before this and then I just fully integrated. Traded retail for games at Riot.

CM: What’s it kinda like working at Riot? There’s a lot of conflicting stories about how Riot is but let’s hear from you; What has been your experience working at Riot so far?

AQ: For me, working at Riot, I work not on the player-facing side. I work internally on our talent discipline. I face Rioters rather than players. Really for me, it’s been an incredible experience. I absolutely love working at Riot! It definitely has had its ups and its downs; people are very nebulous, they change their opinions, they get confused, they can get frustrated. But ultimately, working at Riot has been the best experience of my entire career.

CM: So what would the day in the life of you look like? Is it something you start at six A.M.?

AQ: No no no no. Definitely not at six A.M.! Riot’s very nontraditional in that kind of way. We’ve kind of abolished the nine-to-five paradigm. We’re gamers and we tend to sleep in. We’re everyday people like you or everybody else.

So my day typically starts at ten or eleven because I can’t wake up that early. I’ll get in, probably grab some breakfast, and then trudge through my e-mails to see if I missed anything and then I get into meetings. So my jobs are people-focused. I’m often face-to-face with individuals being a “thought partner” in their work or giving them advice on how to deal with stuff. Other parts of my job include making presentations or designing learning. We’re very bored of the traditional status-quo of classroom teaching and stuff like that. It’s all about innovating that space and making it world class for Rioters.

Looking for the Unicorn

CM: In essence, you talked a lot about how Riot is looking for that unicorn, that perfect person. What is some stuff that is, for lack of a better word, a red flag for you? That “this person has potential”? Would it be talent? Experience? Something they’ve done or even just an awesome cover letter?

AQ: So there are a few things that make-or-break talent. The first is “player empathy” or just being a gamer yourself. Different rioters have different opinions on how much of a gamer you have to be to work at Riot but we all agree, at the very minimum, you have to have player empathy. Our goal is to make the best game experience and be the most player-experienced company. If you can’t understand the pain of being a player, you probably shouldn’t be working here because it’s not going to drive you to fix the things that are wrong and you can’t develop the best products for players. That’s one huge issue we have in un-gaming-related parts of our company. We’ll find people who are HR experts who have never played a game in their life. It’s like “Ugh you’d be SO GOOD but you never played a game in your life.”

On the flipside, we get tons of applicants who are hardcore gamers but have never worked a day in their life. They’re like “Just please Riot, give me a chance! If I can come face to face with someone I know I can get the job!” but they’re really lacking the experience we need to level up our company and level up our team to make our products better. I’d say those are the two big things that stick up as red flags when it comes to hiring people.

CM: Isn’t trying again something Riot’s big on as well? That person whose not going to submit that first application and say “Well they said no. I guess that’s it.”?

AQ: Absolutely! We’re definitely looking for people who are full of perserverence, who can thrive in adversity or face a challenge head on and aren’t afraid to fail. That’s definitely a strong trait we look for in potential Rioters.

Success and Failure at Riot

CM: You talked a little bit about this in your own story but what would be an example of you helped with or you were a part of that was shocking or incredible?

AQ: Hm, significant or incredible…for me, in my time at Riot, I don’t think I’ve had a significant hand in something crazy for a hire but I will tell a story about something one of my peers has done: At Riot before, we didn’t originally have a centralized recruiting model. We were all kind of piecemeal. Originally when Riot started, we didn’t have ANY recruiters. Just very recently we hired a head of recruiters and he came from. It’s very cool to see him integrate into the company because he’s been working at this very established company. Nike’s been around for such a long time.

So he’s come to Riot because we’re this brand-new playspace for him. He’s really come into his own. He’s never played League of Legends in his life but here he’s played so many games and he’s thinking outside of the box. Ways we can improve our recruiting process and ways we can reach out to more people. Help them know what Riot is so they can come to apply to our company. It’s been super cool to see that transformation and have a hand in that.

CM: As a counterpoint to that, what was kind of a situation where someone you really believed in or someone who looked like they had a lot of potential but there was just something that didn’t click? A rioter who you had to pull aside and tell them “This isn’t working”?

AQ: Yeah, we had a guy on campus. He was a super diehard fan of League and was like “Oh my god I’m gonna work at Riot! This is my dream come true!”. But day in and day out, the only thing he did was play games. He was just so into the gaming aspect of Riot that he let his responsibilities fall to the side. It was unfortunate but, because he wasn’t executing on his responsibilities and we weren’t getting any value out of him being here, we ultimately had to see him go.

He was super cool, super chill, great on the rift but in the end he wasn’t “doing” anything and was just kind of riding along. Enjoying being a part of Riot without really providing anything in exchange. That was unfortunately a time where we had to see someone go.

Closing Thoughts and…Super Sentai?

CM: So I have a major question for you: What’s your favorite sentai series?

AQ: My favorite sentai series has to be Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. The theme song was epic, I loved the plot and how gritty it was and the plot twitst took me by surprise.

CM: I just thought it was kind of overrated.

AQ: You do!?

CM: It’s good, it’s just not the best.

AQ: It was my first so I have a strong attachment to it but I’ll take that into consideration right.

CM: Is there anything else you’d like to say for people listening or people interested in Riot?

AQ: I got a couple parting words! My first is for anyone who aspires to be a Rioter. If you’re looking to make it into games and you don’t think it’s possible? I am living, breathing, speaking proof that you don’t have to have ever worked in video games to work in video games. Just believe in what you do, believe in your dreams and passions and it will take you to the right place.

My second kind of parting words is to go check out Super Sentai. It is like power rangers but it is a thousand times better!

 

 

Overwatch Uprising: Intended Design vs. Fan Favoritism

There is an interesting phenomenon going on with Overwatch. Largely designed to be a player-versus-player competitive experience, a pattern is beginning to emerge: People like the player-versus-everything types of experiences far more than the originally designed core experience.

Uprising, Junkinstein and PvE

What is most fascinating about these events is that they do a lot of what players should dislike; These events limit your character choice, create difficult scenarios and force you to be on your toes against far-stronger enemy waves. That said, people have come to latch onto these events. Along with this there is a clear feeling that people enjoy these events far more than any esport-centric or competitive experience. Why could this be?

For starters, Overwatch falls prey to the common problem of online games. That being the factor of playing with someone else. “Toxicity” is what companies call it but I prefer an old school phrase known as “being a jerk”. In competitive games, like League of Legends and DOTA2, these people are synonymous with the game in quite negative ways. Its taken a good chunk of the reputation these two games have as well, despite how players and creators are quick to try and silence those criticisms. Overwatch is no exception, with youtube compilations of people spouting out racist or aggressive comments because you picked a hero they didn’t like. It sours an experience others enjoy.

Uprising and, by extent, all PvE modes doesn’t succumb to this to any meaningful degree. There’s a sense of comradery that grows between four players fighting against hoards of computer-controlled robots. In my many hours of playing, I only recall a few instances where someone was being a jerk to the point of annoyance. Beyond that? This experience is largely more enjoyable on a purely personal level.

One can also not neglect the essence of skill required; While there are harder versions, the overall PvE experience is much easier than a PvP one. Robots stand still, can be gamed by simple AI tricks and dying is usually because they’re FAR stronger than you are individually, not being outplayed or outmaneuvered. PvP is a breeding ground for the skill frustration, no real solution other than to “git gud” and not fail. With these in mind, it seems like the PvE experience is the way to go, right?

PvP vs. PvE

Except Overwatch was primarily designed to be a player-against-player experience.

From the establishment of the Overwatch Pro League coming later this year to Blizzard doing everything in their power to push for esports success, such as hiring MonteCristo and DoA to be the leading stars of the NA OPL, Blizzard wants Overwatch to become a long-standing esports game. Blizzard isn’t truly looking to make this a game like World of Warcraft with equal PvP and PvE content. This is a game designed to focus on the interaction between living players of equal skill.

With the comparison between Uprising and the normal experience, what can be done? This is not an easy question to ask, of course, but it’s a profound one that should be investigated. There are two obvious paths to take: On one hand, Blizzard could always make the PvE events second fiddle to the PvP ones. This might annoy many casual players (who are arguably the biggest audience) but it will preserve the main identity. The alternative is to develop PvE alongside PvP, creating maps and scenarios specifically for the playerbase which enjoys it. If it gets big enough, one might even be able to host time-attack tournaments to see who can clear scenarios the fastest or with the most points.

One option you might notice I omitted was the idea of removing focus on PvP. To be blunt, I don’t forsee that as an acceptable solution. Blizzard has committed too many resources already to go back on the PvP aspect of Overwatch. Even if the majority played PvE instead of PvP, the design of the game has just put too much energy and effort into crafting a specifically PvP experience. “Too big to fail” if you will.

Design Intention vs. Design Endpoint

A good example of this scenario stretches back all the way to Warcraft 3 and the modding community. Designed to be a multi-unit RTS, Warcraft 3 ended up taking off with the MOBA-style/DOTA-like game. Blizzard didn’t really support this to any meaningful extent, the game and community springing off despite Blizzard’s focus on making the core RTS the experience they wanted to enforce. This, of course, lead to the MOBA genre taking off and games like League and DOTA dethroning the RTS.

Can a similar scenario happen here? While Overwatch’s custom tools aren’t on-par with Warcraft 3’s, it could one day come to a point where the PvE experience overtakes the PvP. A game similar to Left 4 Dead being born from Overwatch’s framework that leads to a new experience that trounces the intended design. Perhaps I’m misjudging the desire for PvE. It’s entirely possible my focus on this could be overestimated and what many loved was just a fun, side diversion. After all, the OPL hasn’t started yet and the pro-scene of Overwatch could very well explode, snuffing out the PvE lovers.

All I can truly do is bide my time and see where this goes. Uprising or not, I highly doubt the PvE aspect of Overwatch is going to stay muted.

Video Game Journalism: Lacking the First Step

Chances are, you might have heard about the immense backlash at Brash Games. It goes to show that the entry level of video game writing and journalism really isn’t friendly. It is a system that exploits people who wish to be writers and does all manner of horrible things. While Brash is not the first, there seems to be a constant question of why people get exploited, as well as a plea from others to make sure up-and-coming-writers aren’t tricked into working for free.

The problem is that these people have no first step.

Personal Experience

This is not the first website I’ve written for, nor will it be the last. Before this, I had written for two small-time websites: Splitpush.net and Fortis Core. Let me be clear that Fortis hasn’t paid me but I do it because I know those who run it and I have high hopes for it. Splitpush, conversely, paid me for my work albeit it wasn’t all that much money in hindsight.

Perhaps what frustrates me most about others who insist on finding a place that will accept me and pay me a fair wage is that those places don’t truly exist. Paying writing jobs are often contract work or throwing your resume into a giant pile in hopes that someone will pick it up. I would love to get paid for the articles I write here but I doubt that is going to happen. They need editing and I’m not the best when it comes to editing. I could use eyes on my work but beyond posting on twitter and sharing with other sites, I can’t get that “exposure” that I need.

In the grand design, people often ask how anyone could write for exposure. The answer is simple: It’s all you can get. I was shocked when I was being offered about ten dollars for what I wrote at Splitpush because I had never been paid for my writing before barring some commissions. Often, new writers will take anything they can get because we don’t have that much available to us. So we either start our own websites and hope to garner a following or we go where they’ll take us.

Stairs Without a Step

This comes back to the problem that there is a lack of a clear, first step. Most writers will have a cavalcade of stories with how they got noticed: Some went to college, got a degree and worked at small time places for cheap. Others wrote a lot on the net and eventually got noticed. Some might be able to even leverage the horror story they had into job offers and being a spokesperson about the industry. Yet in terms of an actionable start to a career in video game journalism, there isn’t much.

This, in turn, leads to the abuse situations one can see on the net. Yes, exposure isn’t great and exposure can’t pay bills…but in terms of a first step, sometimes that is the best you can get. It feels dreadful because now you’re working for free but with the hopes that this can transition into something that will pay bills and let you work. It also doesn’t help that the pool of people who wish to write about games is enormous. Competition will shut out a majority of these people, which will lead them into taking less fair work and more painful jobs.

Perhaps this sounds like whining from someone who can’t find work, which is fair, but I’d hardly say my experience is unique. Outlets like Reddit aren’t well-suited to article sharing because of the format of content that shines while people will chastise you for spamming and posting your own work as opposed to reading about it.

Paving the Cracks

I think the best question to ask is if this is a problem that can’t be fixed. Honestly, it’s probably not something you can fix. Game journalism is just like any other media and breaking in is the hardest part. Sure, we can advertise and work with companies who treat up-and-comers right but those are limited jobs and there are a lot more questionable groups than admirable groups.

The earnest, best thing we can do to help those who wish to get ahead is to try and get more of those companies who can treat writers well. The more helpful groups there are who seek to nurture writers, the better the talent pool grows and the overall industry improves. It also means shady situations are avoided and left to rot. So long as there is more positive construction than negative exploitation, there will always be a net gain.

Overall, the worst thing I see being done is the posturing that “you’re worth money” and “find a place that will pay you for your work”. If that were as easy as it was said, situations like Brash Games wouldn’t happen. There are struggling writers who don’t have a place that will pay them, making them resort to working at other places for the great reward of exposure. There is so much talk about it yet very little in the way of offers of places to go.

Everyone wants to pay writers fair wages but it seems that when that young upstart comes knocking, the wallet is empty and they’re told to get to the back of the line.

“Simple Champions Needed”: Debunking the Argument

One of the most common complaints on the boards is that every single champion Riot makes is now hard-to-understand, super complex and overall just too difficult to grasp for casual players. Rather, I’d like to propose this:

Riot still makes simple champions, the problem players face is that the disparity between skilled and unskilled has gone up.

I’m going to go over this but I’ll be using both recent and non-recent examples of how complexity isn’t primarily about the kit itself but the aspects of the champion. With that said, let’s begin.

The Shaco Effect

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“The Shaco effect” refers to something that really took off in seasons one and two. Essentially, this effect refers to the disparity of a Shaco on your team (an actual clown) versus a Shaco on the enemy’s team (The Joker with the powers of Pennywise and the Violator). Overall, I think we can all agree Shaco has a pretty simple kit: A very short stealth and crit, backstab damage, a clone that doubles his attacks and a point-and-click nuke and slow. The thing is that despite Shaco’s simplicity, he’s incredibly hard to play.

Despite how one might feel about Shaco himself, Shaco is the prime example of a simple kit done well: He has a very basic kit that doesn’t have much in the way of difficulty understanding but the requirements to be a good shaco versus a great shaco are immensely steep. He requires planning, finesse and sometimes a little stroke of luck. That is not to say Shaco is a difficult champion TO PLAY. He is just a difficult champion TO PLAY WELL.

Camille’s Release and Difficulty

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Again, using a controversial topic but let me stress my point: Camille is not a difficult champion nor complex champion to understand. She has a very straight-forward, simple kit: A passive shield. Auto-attack bonus that you have to time. Arc sweep where you want to hit the edge. Gap-closer against champs and a lockdown ult. Despite what people complain about, Camille is straight-forward and simple to play. It’s also why she was strong and overtuned: With such a simple kit, it was easy for people to simply overpower others through sheer power output rather than mechanics.

That said, let me show you what a godlike Camille looks like.

Watching that video, you can obviously see some disparity. Yes, on paper she is simple, but a skilled player is taking her to the edge and turning Camille into a venerable titan of mechanics. A great player has taken the simple parts of this champion and weaved them into combos and maneuvers that look like the hand of god coming down to play a champion. Perhaps most importantly, these moves require practice and aren’t something any old player can pick up without some time put into mastering the champion.

Difficulty, Simplicity and the Floor/Ceiling

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The most common, simple misunderstanding I’m seeing is that people are mixing skill floor up with skill ceiling. For the (likely few) who are unaware, skill floor is known as the minimum amount of skill required to play a champion. We’re talking “How much time does it take to play a champion and not go 0/12/0”. Ceiling, on the other hand, is just how complex a champion can get and how amazing a champion can be when you put time and talent into them. Garen has a low skill floor and skill ceiling. Azir, comparatively, has a high skill floor and skill ceiling. Some champions could be argued as having a low skill ceiling but a high skill floor, although most commonly it’s a low skill floor but a high ceiling.

We have to separate these two better when we’re discussing difficulty because it has become muddy. Yes, a great Camille will awe you and make you feel inadequate…but that doesn’t mean she’s insanely difficult to play when you first pick her up. Conversely, Shaco is hard to play well and you’re likely going to do poorly, despite his kit appearing “simple” on paper.

In the future, people must try to phrase arguments from all perspectives. Do not simply assume “THIS CHAMP IS SUPER HARD TO PLAY UGH RIOT MAKING ANOTHER COMPLEX CHAMPION” because their skill ability has more than a single line of text describing what it does.

Review Culture and How It Hampers Video Games

This is a seven out of ten game.

What image does that conjure in your mind?

Unfortunately, it probably doesn’t give you a great view. An OK game, likely plagued with bland segments and problems, that never really goes anywhere and isn’t worth your time. Movies and television suffer from similar problems but I feel that it is much worse in the game sphere…why is this?

To understand this, we have to go back to the advent of video game journalism. We have to look at reviews and how people consumed media. Video games appeared right when written media began to become a little less important. People wanted to know about how good or bad a game was but they didn’t want to really sit down and read an entire article about whatever the game was. People wanted a quick, concise measure about what to expect from a game. Writers saw this and knew the best way to capture an audience was to cut down the entire review into something that could fit into a single sentence. Thus, we moved to a system of numerical basis. We would rate out of five stars or ten points. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

Yet most video games cost more money (at least the console or PC versions) than your standard book or movie ticket. They’re pricey purchases by comparison. The counterpoint might be that video games offer longer experiences by default than a movie or book but a game is still a hard purchase for someone whose entertainment budget might just be a hundred dollars a month, for example. We’ve slightly moved away from this with things like Steam, the indie market and free-to-play games but your standard AAA title will still set you back a pretty penny.

This had the unintended side-effect of skewing the game’s review weight. When we think about games, our views on what a ten-out-of-ten game is versus a seven-out-of-ten game are further apart than the T-rex and the stegosaurus. A perfect game that cannot be missed versus a meh experience that might be worth a rental at best. In truth, this is a growing problem with metacritic sites as well.

Take, for example, Rotten Tomatoes. An aggregation of all reviews might sound good on paper but the line gets blurred when you consider not all movies fall under “flawless masterpiece” or “garbage we filmed for two hours”. Media that lands in the middle suffers the most because of this; a five-out-of-ten film or game can have redeeming qualities about it but we are too quick to dismiss it as not worth the time. Likewise, we praise things that hit the higher echelon of gaming too highly. That eight-star game might be decent but those glaring flaws ARE glaring flaws.

But how we respond to reviews also dictates an immense amount of what we consider a good or bad score. Jim Sterling recently gave the new Legend of Zelda the score you see at the top. By all means, not a terrible score, but the fact that it was not a perfect was seen as a besmirching of the series. People thought he was viciously attacking the franchise and spitting on what they thought a perfect game was…for an “It’s pretty good” review. It goes back to the point that we’ve skewed the review system too much.

So what can be done about this review system? Using my own experiences, Fortis Core uses a different brand of scoring; rather than stars or numbers, its recommended in the form of a “yes/no/maybe” system. It’s not perfect but it does encourage reading deeper when you get to the “recommend with exception” rule. The flaw there is that you might be pigeonholing games even deeper. I’d rather recommend/not recommend a game though. Giving it an arbitrary score might actually hurt a game I genuinely enjoyed.

Review culture has become too caught up in TL;DRs. We focus too much on the end result and not on the nuances. While it is understandable due to how reviewers often have to try a lot of games over a year with only a few hours for each, this style of reviewing has polluted the idea of the review. Good games are slipping through the cracks into the trash because the crack has widened. While I wish that we could take a step back and earnestly give each game the time and review it deserved, we live in a world that is increasingly concerned about the “now”, not the “later”. If you take one thing away from this; Don’t let flaws dissuade you. That seven-out-of-ten game might be perfect for you.

Power Rangers Movie Review

I know what you’re thinking: What, this isn’t a game! Why are you reviewing movies now? I’m making a special exception for Power Rangers because I grew up with the series and it was a defining point in how I approached a lot of media. It’s also where I still draw inspiration from. With that said, there will be some spoilers (with warning) near the end of the review.

As a whole, Power Rangers is a feel good movie. I left the theater happy. I enjoyed the time I spent on the movie and overall I felt it was a serviceable origin story. That shouldn’t be a spoiler, by the by. Power Rangers is the introduction to Angel Grove and the rangers. That said, there are some glaring flaws that I’ll go over but first would be what I liked…and there is a fair bit to like.

What’s Great: Actors, Action and Acts One and Three

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From left to right: RJ Cyler (Billy), Naomi Scott (Kimberly), Ludi Lin (Zack), Becky G. (Trini) and Dacre Montgomery (Jason)

Perhaps the greatest praise I have for the movie is that all the actors were quite enjoyable. One of the biggest fears in making a movie like this is that even if the story is great, the actors might not be. Thankfully, everyone is enjoyable to watch from veterans to newcomers. If I had to pick out a single MVP, however, that would go to RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston. RJ brings life to this character and makes him the heart of this movie, creating someone we’re genuinely invested in seeing and someone who the viewer adores. Even characters who don’t get enough screen time in my opinion like Zack (Ludi Lin) or Trini (Becky G.) do their part to give depth to their character. I doubt I even need to praise Bryan Cranston (Zordon), Elizabeth Banks (Rita Repulsa) or Bill Hader (Alpha 5) for having great performances….even if one is a wall.

Another great part of the movie was the action. One of the biggest flaws with modern cinematic action is that it’s often messy and hard to watch. Thanks to the suit colors and the action mostly taking place in daylight, there was rarely a part where I was confused as to who was hitting what. The zord fights as well were a joy to watch, bringing large-scale battles but not-so-hectic fighting that I could be absorbed in the sheer size of the brawl. The weird designs (“Alien Dinosaurs” as the director puts it) are also not so problematic when you can’t really tell that the mastadon has six legs.

As you’ve likely gathered, the first part (which plays like Breakfast Club meets Spiderman) of the movie is wonderful at introducing us to characters and making us see them at their low points. It makes the third act (which is the big budget battle you’d expect) all the more enjoyable when we see how far the heroes have come.

What’s Not Great: Tone and Twos

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Everything young-me wanted…barring some caveats.

As you just heard me praise the first and third act, you’re probably wondering “What about the second?”. Unfortunately, the second act is a nosedive into boredom. Not much of note happens and it’s quite the long section of the movie, at least mentally. We see some aspects of the rangers coming together and Rita growing stronger but nothing holds weight. It’s slow, it’s boring. Sure, it makes the third act all the more welcome, yet it doesn’t excuse the build up. The last thing a movie like this should do is bore you.

Along with this, the movie suffers some tonal inconsistency. I didn’t laugh all that much (but your humor may vary) and occasionally the jokes would come out of left field. It’s hard to chuckle at a particularly funny joke when our heroes are suddenly in life-or-death situations. It didn’t happen ALL the time but when it happened, it felt pretty damn bad. Perhaps in the future the second act can be improved when we don’t have to focus so much on the coming together aspect but that’s for spoiler territory. Hell, cut the second part of the movie out and extend the first-and-third acts to fill it. Perfection.

On the whole, Power Rangers was a good movie. Is it unskippable? No. Is it unwatchable? No. A movie like this is where metacritic and aggregation sites fail because it’s not AWFUL but it’s not the second coming of cinema. If you like the power ranger/super sentai series, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t, you might enjoy it once but I’d wait for a home release. Overall, it’s a good first movie…let’s just hope something comes from it.

VERDICT
Worth a watch but nothing revolutionary.
Would recommend in theaters for fans. DVD for non-fans.

Spoiler City

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LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK!

EVERYTHING BELOW THIS IS SPOILERS. MOSTLY MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS AND CRITICISMS.

 

 

 

Elaborating on the second act: There are no morphed or team fights until the very end. It’s also the weirdest, “rushed” part of the movie with Zack and Jason getting into a fight only for it to never be referenced or even talked about ever again. I understand that build-up needs to happen but even Ironman, one of the hallmarks of the hero genre, had scenes with him as Ironman before the finale. Had the rangers had scenes where they were not fighting as a group but still in costume, the second act could have been more lively.

Zack and Trini get the least screen time with their problems, albeit they’re fleshed out to a satisfactory degree. I did wish that we could have seen something deeper, especially with Trini being sexuality-questioning and how Zack’s living in squalor and taking care of his mother. It might be good for future storylines but hey, who knows. Billy’s autism is also pretty realistic; He’s not having fits and he’s not an obvious token. He just doesn’t get sarcasm or humor. In terms of how you could handle autism, this is definitely not a bad way to do it. Jason and Kimberly’s kiss got cut. Guess there was enough backlash to warrant that.

While I like the suits, I would have loved to see more of the weapons. Jason gets his power sword but nobody else gets anything. No power axe, no power lances, nothing. Maybe in the next movie we’ll have a scene where their weapons combine into a giant cannon. Feels like you could have had the second act fights mostly be martial arts and build up act three to using their powerful weapons all together.

I’m also not totally sold on the megazord design. We don’t even really see it combine; The rangers are just shoved into a pit and suddenly it’s formed. I hope in a future movie, the megazord is broken/destroyed and they have to remake it in a style more befitting the original megazord. Although, out of all the designs, the megazord was the only design I really had problems with. I could even understand Goldar’s design as a mass of gold made from Rita’s powers.

The original theme from the 1995 movie is used once. Personally, while I would have liked more of it, they used it at the perfect time as the zords charge toward Angel Grove. If I had to put it at ANY other time? I’d have added it when the megazord was formed to really drive home that “This is when we come together and kick ass” part. If I had to be earnest, I’d rather have the theme used all the time or once/twice in a really befitting situation. Consider this me being content.

Krispy Kream’s product placement was hilarious as the place where the zeo crystal rests (Yes as in PR: Zeo). The problem was the tone 180’s all of a sudden with Billy’s death at the hands of Rita. Good god, way to utterly swing something at a breakneck pace. It’s funny, sure, but damn if it doesn’t come at a time that really screws with the movie tone as I referenced above.

As you might have guessed, cinematic universes are all the rage and Power Rangers is no exception. The mid-credits end (as well as the beginning with Rita) shows us that the Green Ranger is on the horizon with Tommy Oliver in detention. It also explains his gold chestplate, as Rita’s power seems to be gold manipulation. Considering Saban has a SIX (!!!) movie storyline, I’m very surprised that they’re going so deep after just one movie.I’m also curious if we’ll get suit/costume changes befitting seasons, where rangers get outfits in the style of Power Rangers Zeo or In Space.

No Bulk and Skull. Movie. FIX THIS.