Rise of the Tomb Raider is a marvelous game as it is an adventure of exploring.However as a story it isn’t that great, not because it isn’t told in a marvelous way, in fact it is, but because the final doesn’t follow from what went before. We never see Lara ponder her actions which then finally leads to her decision at the end. Instead her whole attitude remains more or less the same until the end and then she suddenly has a change of heart.And then at the end she changes it again, because we have to have a sequel.
Lets give a short breakdown of the process.
This shot at the end of the game might as well be put at the beginning of it because it is finding secrets that drives the story although Lara’s first motivation is to vindicate her father’s reputation and to change the world. Note these two: her father’s reputation and changing the world.
No wonder that father Croft was made into a laughing stock: he was because he apparently wanted to put forth his unscientific ideas in the scientific world and this of course wasn’t appreciated. What was he expecting?
So Lara sets out not only to restore her fathers reputation, but to find live eternal which could benefit the whole of humanity. A noble cause if there was any. And it doesn’t take Lara that long to find important leads.
So we need to make it difficult for her to find it. Hence we have some competitors making a run for the same artifact: Konstantin and Ana and their might army of goons. But they aren’t just obstacles to navigate. They have to make her think, but do they?
Killing and more killing.
And another army also stands in the way.
It all ends eventually.
After much killing and destruction the final confrontation is between Ana and Lara and it is the focal point in the story.
But Lara comes to this conclusion.
And Jacob barges in to add his two cents:
And then Lara makes a decision
And the game finishes with this:
Thus Lara reaches a conclusion based on nothing as it doesn’t get shown in the story. We never see her considering that finding the divine source might be a bad idea or is not meant to be found. Instead she hammers on having to find it. In fact she is so adamant that at times I wondered why Jacob and his people help her at all considering that they are there to protect it and do not agree with her. At the end Jacob says that he allowed her to find it cause he knew she would destroy it. Which is a hell of a leap and seems forced. The writers of the story probably realized that there is no reason for Jacob and his people to help her, even if she is an ally against the bad people.
And then when Lara finds it, she suddenly, for no reason at all, decides that it wasn’t meant for humanity. Lara being the judge and jury of humanity: you can have it when I think you are meant to have it otherwise I destroy it.
But at this point we could still fly with it, but how does the story end? Lara comes to the conclusion that: there are secrets out there that can change the world(and she has to find them.) If at this point someone would put forth the idea that Lara is there to destroy those secrets because they change the world than I would believe it. Lara as a force of destiny destroying secrets not meant to to be known.
So at the end we are back were we started and Lara has gone full circle: she hasn’t changed a bit. The only thing she learned is how to kill things.. I am sure that in the next installment of the game we have to learn it all over again. And what about Lara: she probably starts out like this again:
It is strange to see the way the story is actually written as there could have been many other reasons to destroy it. For one: it seems, but is never made clear, that the kind of life that it grants isn’t a pleasant one. Perhaps that could have been a trade of: eternal life without joy. Or even: eternal life, but unpleasant. Or even: an unpleasant eternal life without a choice.
Another option would have been that Lara had to destroy it to stop that deathless army, surrounded as she was at that moment, or/and from preventing it to be controlled by others. In other words her reasoning would be in favor of humanity because it is ultimately a danger to them.
This could have been made clear in the narrative, but that is never done.
With this the game still remains a nice game, but as a story is weak and considering Lara has to Rise it is at odd with it’s title. Nothing has occurred to her personaly and she hasn’t risen. If instead the story had ended with: there are secrets out there not meant for mankind, then she would have changed. But now nothing has happened as at the end she just changes back to finding secrets. Which is what she started out with.
I really like the rebooted Lara Croft character as she is far more a ‘person’ than any of the previous versions of her. The Lara Croft of this series is even a more likable character than the one from the movies, which was more a feminized James Bond type than a female version of Indiana Jones.
I would like to explore this some more, especially as this development also marks a gradual change in the gaming industry in that becomes increasingly more possible to tell a proper story within a game, as the Walking Dead has already shown and, I will refer to it, is shown in Resident Evil: Revelations 2. I welcome this, not specifically because this is what I think what games ought to be, but in that it allows for more and varied ways to narrate a story and giving a game more depth.
But it is also fascinating as it also might introduce us to a virtual world in which people can be what they like to be, instead of being what they are. A concept not everyone will be happy with as it, for instance, recalls the matrix where people live in a virtual world controlled by machines to the advantage of the machines. Instead one can imagine that people might actually voluntarily enter the matrix because it allows them to be what they want to be and to overcome their own limitations.
Story telling isn’t dependent on improved animation techniques, but it helps a lot. Rise of the tomb raider, excellently voiced, makes good use of Lara’s expressions to make realistic her personality.
Lara has many expression to make her alive. Note however that the same expression can be used to mean something different depending on the setting. Frowning for instance can mean anger, fear, attention, tension and anguish. Lara’s mouth is another way of making her feelings expressive. The third part is her eyes, wide, open, squinting, closed. Add animations to it and our association. I show the cast of the most important characters below and give an impression of their looks. The characters, although important to the story are, with the exception of possible Jonah and Ana(we come to that later) unimportant really to the development of Lara. Not even Jacob.
In the above screenshot Lara talks to Jonah. Her almost childish enthusiasm, young appearance and brown hair with brown eyes invokes the spirit of a child. What presents will I get?
Lara being duped by her driver. Notice her facial expression and that of the traitorous driver. She frowns at him(low eyebrows, squeezed in the center).He has sold her out and he is ashamed so he looks away from her. Duping Lara is not going to turn out well for him.
Lara tells Jonah to kill the main bad guy, he doesn’t so he gets it. Note Lara’s expression.
Lara’s companion is Jonah. We suspect he has a crush on her, he is devoted to her and smiles the whole time in her presence. Just like a puppy.
Jacob is one of the other important characters. If you don’t get who he is early into the game you haven’t been paying attention. He might have been a love interest, but this is a PG rated game and we want to keep her for ourselves, don’t we? Also his resemblance to a key figure in a certain dominant faith in the western part of the world is probably not coincidental. Pay attention please.
Jacob is important for the story and the background but actually not a very important part of the story. This story is mostly centered around Lara.
Konstantin is the bad guy so he has to be a maniac. And that means a religious nut and selfish cold killer. Oh he has a good side too: he loves his sister Ana.
Sofia is daughter of Jacob. She is Irish a descendant from the people that fled from Byzantium to the Siberian Wilderness.
On my work we suddenly got a sign at the entry that camera’s were about watching the premises. Inside another sigh had been added stating that all the items were marked, either visible an invisible. The we got a notice that company resources were only meant for the use of company purposes. So I made this sign as these warnings reminded me of the enemy listens. The enemy being you.. or them.
Edited version: 28-2-2016: cleaned up some text, added more.
Flow of the game
Do resources respawn?
Can I go back to an area I already visited before to explore more?
Are there enough Byzantine coins in the game?
Do I need to buy equipment?
Do you have any thoughts on the weapons?
How about skills?
Your thoughts on equipment?
Things to watch out for while underway
You thoughts on gear?
Are optional tombs profitable?
Pointers on combat and enemies
Places to stock up
Intro Rise of the Tomb raider is the second installment of the reboot of the Lara Croft series. It is a neat game that impresses by visuals and most of all, by Lara Croft herself. When I played Rise of the Tomb Raider I had questions and many of these were answered on the internet when I went looking for them(and some where not), but often I had to sit through lengthy YouTube movies or walk-troughs before I got the answer I was looking for. Some of these questions were so basic that I was amazed that answers were so hard to find. But perhaps this is just my ineptitude.
So I figured I make a kind of quick guide, say a kind of Q&A in which I answer my own questions and hope that this will help you to answer yours.
Before I start I need to tell you some things, such as that this post is aimed at the (experienced) casual player. The casual player is someone who will play through the main story line, with some digressions, can handle a weapon, but isn’t a pro( a pro is someone who can pull off head shots while jumping about) , and will not aim at a 100% completion of the game, although he or she might. The casual player isn’t someone who will power build, but might welcome some pointers on what to do and not to do and who will probably play the game on a standard level, in this game called tomb raider.
Also I will tell you that I think this game is well done. It smartly combines a well told story with with an open world to explore. It makes possible to follow your own way, either by following the main story only or by exploring the world. How well this is done is for instance by the fact that almost all dungeons are optional. Yet each come with a reward. A reward not necessary for the main story line, but something that makes things easier, specifically for exploring the world.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of this game is Lara herself. The animations are so well done that is feels like a movie. And the game smartly ties her in with a few persons, like Jonah, Ana, Sofia and Jacob, thus making her more convincing.
I also would have applaud the makers of the game for listening to the players by elimination all Quick Time Events. Yes, they got rid of these pains: the ones where you have to smash an arbitrary set of buttons. Well.. almost. Two are still in there. One early into the game and another at the end. I can hear them laughing. And it is forgiven because it is funny.
Flow of the game
The game changes during progression. So when you return to an area you will notice it has changed. An example is the first play area, the Siberian wilderness, which will change overtime as day turns into night and the otherwise peaceful area gets more dangerous because after a while enemies will make an appearance.
Do resources respawn?
Yes they do, but this is dependent on the progress of the game. Initially the respawn is very slow and you will feel the lack of resources as make your first few arrows and first few kills. Which is a good thing as it make the tension all the greater the rewards all the bigger. When the game progresses you will find that eventually that you have more than enough resources to do most of the things and when you lack them, you can always get more.
Can I go back to an area I already visited before to explore more?
All areas that are important will remain accessible throughout the game. In fact this is almost required as some places will only become available after you have gotten special gear such as the explosive arrows and some things you can only get after you read a monolith, which is dependent on your language skill, or when you find a map or a satchel. In other words: don’t worry about having skipped something, you can always return later.
Are there enough Byzantine coins in the game?
Byzantine coins are used to buy equipment at the supply shack. There are more than enough coins in the game to buy everything. I ended with 138 coins more than I needed after I had bought everything in the shack. However, these coins have to be found and to find all the coins you have to explore the world far and wide and areas, hence coin stacks, open up only gradually during the game.
I did a second run through the game on the hardest mode survivor, skipping a lot of areas and only picking coins that were withing easy reach. It allowed me to buy the grenade launcher (120 coins) and some the pistol silencer(25). I had about 80 spare after that. So you follow only the main story line, be prepared to have far less. But read on for more advise about equipment.
Do I need to buy equipment? The answer is no. None of the equipment you can buy at the supply shack is essential for the game although it makes life easier. The more you buy, the easier things get, but only marginally so for each piece of equipment, so don’t expect anything shocking. In fact buying things partly means you to get some things earlier in the game. An example is the shotgun. I ended the game with the full auto shotgun that I found, because I preferred that one above the one I bought. The most important reason was rate of fire and reload time.
Here are my observations:
A laser sight is pretty superfluous if you are a decent shot as you already get a reticle. There is no sniper sight in the game. People seem to recommend this, I don’t see why.
I find the pistol class the weakest in the game, especially on survivor mode, and rarely use one. So why waste money buying a silencer for it? You bow is silent and a much a better weapon. And for speedy damage the silence assault rifle or smg works much better.
Unless you want a shotgun early into the game the combat gun seems mostly pointless at isn’t much of an improvement on the full auto shotgun. Also the basic pump action shotgun, which is story given, is a decent weapon when you upgrade it.
This is a slightly improved version on the SMG. Again it is only a slight improvement.
I prefer this one as it allows your rifle to lob grenades. While your bow will be able to do the same eventually, this is in addition too it. You get it earlier in the game and this will help you with a certain threat in the story line. Overal I find grenades in this game under powered. Lobbing one among a group doesn’t what you expected. You need to actually target an enemy and then it will take usually only that one out. Exploding barrels don’t require a grenade.
The refinement tool
This one is needed to unlock 4th level upgrades for all your weapons. While that makes it a worthwhile thing to buy, it is also the most expensive in the game. The upgrades aren’t very spectacular and require a lot of salvaging and hunting to upgrade the things so it has its drawbacks. Probably for someone who just wants to follow the main story this might be too expensive and too much salvaging effort
Combat gear: nothing useful here. It just looks cool.
My views is that the only worthwhile buys in the game are the grenade launcher and the refinement tool unless you are a shotgun buff. If you like shotguns then buy it so you don’t have to wait until you get one later.
Do you have any thoughts on the weapons?
The game has five weapon types. Bows, pistols,rifles, shotguns and the climbing-axe..
Five weapons are a given as part of the story-line. The climbing-axe you get from the start and is the only weapon of its type. The makehift longbow you get when the game really starts in the Siberian Wilderness and will be replaced by the recurve bow. The revolver, the assault rifle and the pump-action shotgun you get as part of the storyline. The other weapons you need to find/
This finding is done by finding strong boxes that will give you 1 out of 4 parts of a specific gun. I have seen sites telling you where to get what part, but when I redid the game, I found that this didn’t fit. Either the parts are more or less random or dependent on your difficulty setting. As an example: on tomb-raider level I managed to get the bolt rifle early into the game while in survivor mode I got the required part much later into the game.
My experience is that the bow is the one that gets the most benefits in the game and gives you the most varied options, from a fast weak shooter to a very powerful slow one. Eventually you can use it to launch fire arrows, explosive arrows and poison cloud arrows and even those can be upgraded. The disadvantages of the bow are that you need to draw it, that the arrow needs to travel the distance and that is doesn’t have upclose stopping power. This sounds like it’s the worst of the weapons, but it isn’t. In fact it is probably one of the best weapons in the game and I wager you can win most battles with it.
It just depends on how you use it. You find different types of bows during the game.Specifically I found the poison cloud to be the most deadly in the game. When you aim it right and have the cloud upgrade you can take out groups of enemies in one go and they count as stealthy so they give extra points.
My favorite bow is the compound bow, which does a lot of damage per shot, but at a low rate of fire. I like my arrows to score hard when they hit.
Personally I found the pistol type the most useless and I used it mostly as a stopgap until I got a decent rifle. You might consider to equip it with a silencer that can be bought from the supply shack for a small amount to extend its usefulness. As remarked above, why spent money to silence a weapon that you rarely use? After I got a decent rifle I hardly used it, especially after you get a silencer for the rifle.
The rifle is a category that holds the SMG, a weapon that compensates weak damage with a high rate of fire, the Assault Rifle, more damage, less rate of fire, which you get as part of the story line. I prefer the Assault Gun to the SMG because it deals out more damage at a lower rate of fire, thus saving you bullets. The bolt action rifle is in a class of it’s own, coupled with the silencer it is an awesome weapon to kill animals and small groups of enemies, but is too slow in full scale battles and if you like single shotting people you might as well use the bow.
Shotguns are awesome because nothing satisfies more than seeing the charge of a fully armored warrior stopped in his tracks by a shotgun blow or two. It is an mightily effective weapon up to about 10 meter(30 feet). It couples a lot of damage in a short amount of time, but only in close quarters. Hence it is the weapon of choice for any enemy trying to close combat you. It’s main drawback is the lack of enough shells to win every battle with it.
If you don’t want to spend time and resources on upgrading all the weapons then you probably need to concentrate on two, one if which is the bow and the other I would suggest to be either a rifle, which you then probably need to buy the grenade launcher for, or the shotgun, in which case you might consider buying it early on.
My preferred weapon on the hardest level is combining a bow with a shotgun. The bow for distant work and taking out groups of enemies with poison cloud and the shotgun for anyone trying to come close.
The ice axe is an awesome weapon if you upgrade it and sink points in close combat. Lara can eventually kill even fully armored enemies with just the axe, if you know how to counter and hit at the right time. The disadvantage of the ice axe is that it comes with a finisher animation that might look cool but isn’t really handy when fighting multiple enemies.
How about skills?
Lara has no less than 54 skills to choose from. That sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Actually almost all skills only marginally improve her performance. This is well considered as no skill will suddenly make her superhuman, but a series of successive skills will. There are many opinions about skills on the internet, but for a normal person most of the skills will not be very useful.
Also, even with a casual attitude you will be able get at least half of all the available skills so don’t worry about it.
Some skill you certainly should consider to take are: Avid Learner: gets you extra experience when reading things. Lightfoot: falling distances are greatly increased: saves the annoyance of reloading. Arrow Retrieval: get arrows back from you victims. Naturalist: allows you get more natural resources. Survivalist: even more important than Naturalist as non natural resources are harder to find. Thick-Skinned & Heart of Stone & Iron Hide makes you less vulnerable to gunfire, fire, explosions and melee attacks. Some people do not see the point of this, but it helps when you are being swarmed by enemies. Breath Control & Nerves of Steel: allows you to have a more steady aim with the bow. Crafting Mastery: allows for larger ammo and resource pouches and increases ammo created. Death Cloud Arrows: increases the poison cloud effect. A certain way to wipe out large groups of enemies and animals. Also buy the upgrade: Grenadier: when you buy the grenade launcher, you have to get this one too otherwise you have to find grenades. Scavenger: this isn’t of much use on normal level, but on survivor level might be.
Dubious skills(in my opinion)
Any skill enhancing close combat such as dodge counter, deadly force and dodge kill.You don’t want the waste points on this unless you are going for close combat or have points to burn. These are pro skills, who can use them effectively because you need to be a pro to pull these dodge counters off in a full scale battle. Incidendary Bombs & Demolitions Expert. This sounds really cool until you realize that you can create bombs from the start without it and this skill just adds to it to allow you to make bombs from fuel cans and phones and gain extra expertise when you use them to kill people. If you are lucky you might even do it once a battle. Far better is using the phone to toss it someplace which will attract all enemy soldiers and the poison cloud them. This counts as a stealth attack and earns you the same amount of experience without buying the skill and spending precious resources. Even more: the fuel can will explode anyway when you shoot it. Animal Instincts and Master of the Land: unless you really need to serious help to find wildlife to hunt you really don’t need this one. Mostly you will know where they are, even if you need to die for it once:P Hollow Points and Dragonfire shells. Hollow points are a special bullet that can be added to the pistol. I used them a few times, but didn’t find them worth the trouble.
Cluster bomb arrows An upgrade of your explosive arrows that is as underwhelming as the explosive arrows. It looks and sounds impressive and seems ideal for crowd control but doesn’t seem to do anything at all but to the one you aim the arrow at. Most of the time the addition explosions miss. The poison cloud arrow is much better and even the napalm arrows make your enemies flap about this forgetting to fire at you.
Update: later in the game they do get effective just like the dragonshell shells.
Dragonfire shells Originally I found that these didn’t improve my shotgun as it looked like armored enemies seemed not to stagger when shot by these but did with the normal shells. However on a second play through later in the game, they apparently do. So I revised my review accordingly. It might be that enemies crouching behing their shield don’t stagger at all.
Your thoughts on equipment?
Equipment can be very helpful and you need to spend resources on. I personally priotorize the satchel and the rucksack as it allows you to carry more resources which you will need for upgrades and creating ammo, bombs and the like. A small and large oil sack might also be interesting.
Things to watch out for while underway Danger!
Whenever Lara is closing with hostiles, her stance changes to a crouch and the music changes to an alarming drum. You know that enemies are near. Unfortunately for the more experienced player who doesn’t need or want those warning signs. It can’t be switched off.
Glow on the ground usually indicates a survival cache. Get it.
Your thoughts on gear?
During the game you collect a lot of clothes. Almost all are just for changing Lara’s looks. However tow I deem to be special, which is the Sacra Umbra and the Siberian Ranger. These outfit increases your special ammo types for all weapons dramatically. The poison cloud arrows go from 3 to 7. Fire arrows go from 8 to 17. Grenade arrows go from 5 to 14. And so on.
The Sacra Umbra is a reward for finishing all 9 optional tombs, and this not only awards you all the extra skills that you get from these tombs, but also an extra amount of byzantine coins and the sacra umbra. But then: you need to finish all 9 tombs, talk to the lady below in the geothermal valley and cash it in with here.
I don’t know where I got the Siberian Ranger. When I found out I post it here.
Are optional tombs profitable?
Almost all of the optional tombs give you a skill as reward. None of these skills are earth shattering, but they might change your game play a little bit for the better. Some are easy to solve, others are harder. All optional tombs give you additional byzantine coins when you cash them in with the lady at the geothermal valley. If you cash them all in you get a great outfit: the sacra umbra.
Pointers on combat and enemies Lara will only encounter mundane enemies such as humans and animals. Early in the game humans are unarmored, as the game progresses people get to be more armored which prevents especially the bow from instant killing enemies with head shots as they start wearing helmets. Later on you run in full armored enemies which makes it more work to kill them, but then you also get better arrows to compensate.
All enemies, except one type, can be instantly killed with poison cloud arrows, so stock up on that. The only exception is a guy who wears a fully armored suit that has it’s own oxygen supply apparently. He also comes equipped with a flamethrower. And is impervious to arrows and bullets. Just so you know.
Combat Enemies almost all come in groups running from 3 to 6 individuals. In special cases it might be even more. Some battles feed more enemies into it as you kill them to keep the pressure on.
Enemies tactics follow a certain pattern. There are three types. There are the close combatants who will close with you. They might even shoot at you but their purpose is to kill you up close and personal. The second type is the one who hangs in the back and fires at you. Usually the first and the second are mixed.
The third type resembles type 2, but he doesn’t hang back but instead tries to flank you.
This is no sitting behind cover and taking out enemies game. From the start the enemy will throw grenades and molotov cocktails at you, flank you and send in close assaulter. It is also not much of a stealth game in my opinion as a lot of encounters shove you right in. Perhaps an expert at sneaking can do it stealthy, I found it isn’t easy or actually virtually impossible at times.
Hunting You hunt animals for their skin to upgrade your equipment and your weapons or just to gain experience or complete missions and challenges. Dear, razorbacks and the like will run away the moment they spot you and are often hard to find once they do.
Wolves, bears and tigers will attack you the moment you fire at them and non of them can be taken out with one shot(except for wolves later in the game). They close with you very fast and especially wolves are dangerous as they come in packs.
Wolves do not attack you directly but flank you.
A bear barrels into you and swipes at you with its paws. I wonder if anyone has every been able to kill it using the ice-axe.
Places to hunt
The Siberian Wilderness will have 1 to 3 dear often when you return. If you return too fast there might be non. The bear in the cave will re-spawn after a time and is probably the easiest bear to kill in the game, which doesn’t say a lot as even this one is extremely dangerous. The seem to be highly resistant to bullets as I tried to kill one with an assault gun and it took a lot of bullets. Thus poison cloud it and fire arrows at it.
Lucky you can get bear hides just by finding survival caches.There are also bunnies.. if you like to kill them.
The Soviet Installation has two places where wolves hang out. Both to either side of the saw mill in the middle. There is a kind of plain next to it with dear remains scattered about where often three wolves linger. You can poison cloud them from the saw mill. And climb up if you miss and they attack you. If you kill one wolf they also might bolt for a cave.
The other group of wolves are always two and they are in front of a cave across a bridge from the saw mill. When you shoot one, the other one runs away. If you approach they might attack you or run. Poison cloud might be an option.
Geothermal valley has a few places that might be profitable. One is near the sea where razorbacks abide. They come in groups of three or even four. The won’t attack you if you shoot at them, which I found interesting as I thought that a razorback might charge you. There is a tiger in one edge of the map. When it is there it is up in a tree and you can shoot at it from the house near the river.. but it will come at you as even shooting with a gun won’t kill it. If you retreat into the house it will run away.
Places to stock up Some places re spawn resources at times. For ammunition I either visit the gulag once it is open. Usually there is a group of soldiers surrounded by ammo caches. The soldiers themselves give you addition resource to improve your equipment with. Another place is the Siberian Wilderness which is also a good hunting place. The Siberian Wilderness has usually 4 soldiers later in the game which re spawn most of the time.
I tried the remnant bazaar at times, but I found it yielded nothing as often as it did.
One of the charming aspects of the game is that it isn’t just about shooting stuff, but one of the fun part is the collection of items. Each ‘relic’ or document gives you some extra experience points, I just collected them because I found the stories behind them nice.
So I bore you with some fun examples in another post.
I would contend that almost any story is a voyage – often a mental one, if not always – and not seldom expressed in a physical one, where the protagonists move from one place to the next as a mirror to their mental journey in which they travel from one state to the other. Just some movies I can name are obvious ones like The Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan. There are less obvious ones like The Third man or the Edge of Tomorrow. And there are even reversed ones like were the main characters are in one place in the way of others travelling.
While the reason for the journey is actually not the most important part of the journey, it is important enough as it can even have a profound influence due to the state of mind a person is in when the journey starts. Colombiana is a movie where the main protagonist Cataleya is confronted by the violent deaths of her parents. Her state of being is one of assumed innocence: as a nine year old child she sits at the kitchen table of her home, dressed in a neath clean black and white school uniform as violence erupts around her. With a inward turned gaze in her big doe brown eyes she faces the main henchman, who walks up to her, sit downs and talks to her. It is almost a Tarantino moment.
Almost, as it isn’t. For Megaton shows himself to be the lesser of directors by ruining it. Had he started out with this moment it might have captured some of the tension and even made the next scene tolerable. The one in which the nine year old drives a knife through the bad guys hand into the table underneath, then runs through the house, jumps through a small window and descends several storeys while being chased by goons emptying their guns at her.
What young kid could keep her wits to pull off well considered actions after having experienced the mental shock of her parents deaths, those that triggers her screams for revenge? Only a seriously mentally disturbed one can: a psychopath that has no feelings. So was this presumable innocent child, about to turn into a vengeful assassin, already a cold hearted murderer to start with? Was she already a natural born killer?
It would have worked if that had been born out in the next part of the movie. We fastforward fifteen years after Cataleya has found shelter with her uncle and demanded to be turned into an angel of death by him. Apparently he has not only the means to provide her with the necessary skills and equipment, but also the will, as is born out by the ludicrous scene in which he pulls out a gun and shoots at random people and cars on a crossing to make the point that anyone can shoot anyone at random, but you can’t get away with it. Which he proceeds to do next as he walks out while the police cars drive past. What message that conveys.
If the next part of the story would have told the journey of Cataleya’s demise as psychopath killer- but what psychopath would require the excuse for killing of deaths that occured 15 years ago- or ascension(or downfall) as a human being struggling to get away from her maimed past, it would have been a better movie. It reminds me of the movie Hannah, where Hannah is trained by her father to be that killer Cataleya’s is supposed to be, but while Hannah starts to change when confronted by the interaction with ‘normal’ humans, Cataleya doesn’t: she just has sex with them. For the four ‘intimate’ moments that she has with her lover has two with mainly sex in them. That is not character development, that is pandering to the male audience.
Megaton drops the ball twice. For without focusing on Cataleya as a person struggling with what she has become, he has to focus on the mayhem. But this is done is such a haphazard manner that the result is silly. In fact it commits the grievous sin of showing the director at work. For when Cataleya turns a corner and doesn’t run into a guard once or twice we might say that is sheer luck but if she does it all the time, including opening and closing grates just in time, fitting through ventilation shafts with ease and opening them without a hitch, this is the script being laid bare. That she can do the impossible is because the director wants her to, not because of luck or skill. And this makes a director a weak one. No good magician, and that is what a director is, shows how his tricks work: it takes the magic away.
Megaton develops nothing. Cataleya’s journey is rushed. Her targets are indistinct targets she and we could care less about, unlike the ones the Bride kills in Kill Bill, another avenging angel. And her skills are based on sheer luck, impossible powers and the stupidity of her opponents.
This movie has virtually nothing to show for it, except for one scene, the ones with the sharks, the acting of Saldana and James who do the best they can with a feeble script, and the song at the end: ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. But that masterpiece can’t save this movie: it only underscores how weak it actually is.
While Best of Enemies is a documentary it could have easily been turned into a movie as it views like a dramatic story that works towards a climax at the end of the ten head on collisions between the progressive liberal Gore Vidal and the (neo) conservative William F. Buckley. The exchanges are cloaked as debates with the intent to comment on the national conventions of both parties in 1968 prior to the elections, but are more like verbal brawls. They remind me of the Nixon vs Frost interview in the way it exposes the participants in full view of the television audience. But these are not interviews, commentaries , debates or exchange of ideas. These are dirty below the belt catfights of the most shameful kind.
The summit is reached when Vidal entices Buckley to fall into a trap and has him commit the worst of acts that ends all debates: to turn to threats of physical violence. It is the word cryptonazi that does the trick, foreshadowing the famous Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy in a way: any debate ends when Hitler or Nazis become an argument in the discussion. When Buckley recoils from his own rage Gore gives him a supreme smile so thick with glee that it even shames his supporters: he has gotten what he wanted, that is: to expose the ‘real’ Buckley that lurks under the charming veneer: a lout, a ruffian and a brute.
But at what price?
After Gore carried away the flag in triumph, his initial victory turns into Pyrrhic one and overtime becomes a sound defeat for the nation, so the documentary has it. For these representatives of two opposing political worlds are not without influence, Vidal being a famed writer, essayist and commentator and Buckley an important publicist and more or less one of the founders of the neo-conservative movement.
And their fight does not end with the last of the debates. Instead in extends up to the death of the two well into the 21st century. The distaste and hatred between the two men, is mirrored in the isolation of influential groups and do nothing to make that country more stable. It would go a bit too far to state that this debate is the root of all evil , but it shows for the public eye something that was already in the make: the rising antagonism between (neo)conservatives and progressives that hijacks a nation. As the documentary has it: coming into being are two worlds that hardly communicate(and hate each other).
It is hard to judge if the documentary is biased, but it states, and this is impression I got, that Vidal went into the debates with the sole intent to tear down Buckley and what he stands for. Buckley seems to have had less of a purpose, but he quickly geared up. Yet I got the impression that Buckley was the more honest person and more personally affected by the personal attack, than Vidal was. The latter struck me as a cold calculating bastard to be honest. But maybe this is because Buckley felt far more charming than Vidal was.
It is sad to know that one man can hate another so much, or hate what the other stands for so much, as to show that in the public eye.
And it is sad that to see how people lap this up.
And this is probably the weakest part of the documentary. It doesn’t tell us much about the fanning of the hatreds. It never tells us that nobody had the decency to tell them to stop or that ABC gloated of this abject drama because of the soaring numbers of viewers. The documentary basically forgets about those large masses who were drooling over this live soap, showing the downfall of television as a serious means to inform and educate a nation. For when ABC got the most viewers with their entertainment, the other networks, with their boring serious distant coverage of the conventions lost theirs. And they saw what was happening and adapted: everything would become entertainment.
The documentary is one of the best I have seen and therefore quite unsettling. It not only concentrates on the debates themselves but glances at what happened before and how Vidal and Buckley fared after and gives us an impression of the participants. I would certainly recommend it, even if it is not a pretty sight.