Friday, 11 May 2007

F:AT Exclusive! CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB doesn't suck!


I love horror. I eat, drink, and breathe horror. I have ever since my mom got me this _Encyclopedia of Horror_ book when I was like 6 years old and from the Peter Cushing introduction to the red-tinted black and white film stills throughout, I absolutely cherished that book. But even at that early age, I knew that the Mummy sucked. In whatever incarnation, the Mummy has always been a spookshow second-stringer, classic B-team material to the A-listers Dracula and Frankenstein that made me think more of the horrors of a nursing home than that found in crumbling gothic castles. Don’t get me wrong- I love Karloff as THE MUMMY and Karl Freund’s direction in that picture is second only to James Whale’s in the Universal canon and there’s plenty of merit in Hammer’s Technicolor version of the story even if it seems awful anemic compared to the previous issues of HORROR OF DRACULA and TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN. And the less said about those god awful Brendan Fraser big-screen video games the better.

So it stands to follow that if the UK’s greatest film production studio can’t make the Mummy awesome, then neither can its greatest game publisher- even in league with FURY OF DRACULA designer Stephen Hand. Of course, the game in question is the much-maligned CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, largely regarded as the red-headed stepchild of the GW boardgame family. I finally got to try the game out for myself to see if the reports of its horribleness were grounded in truth and I have to say that all the negativity this game receives is somewhat misguided. Come to find out, the Mummy isn’t lame, he’s just terribly misunderstood.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that the game is awesome and a forgotten classic because it isn’t. But what I will tell you is that the game isn’t nearly as bad as most of the online reports and reviews would have you believe and it seems to me that there’s a pretty severe misinterpretation as to what this game really is and what it isn’t. Fundamentally, CURSE is an odd hybrid of a very light TALISMAN-style adventure coupled with a simple take-that card game but it’s not a horror epic like FURY and it’s definitely not anything approaching a serious adventure game. Nor is it a game of high strategy and sophisticated, “clever” mechanics. It’s easy to have high expectations given the promise of the theme and its pedigree but with a reasonable understanding that CURSE is simply a just-for-fun card game with a board movement element (taking place on a fantastic, 3D tri-level pyramid) you’ll likely find more to enjoy than you might have anticipated.

The object of the game is to be the first player to ascend to the Chamber of Osiris at the top of the pyramid and find some immortality-granting elixir. Classic Mummy stuff. On the way, explorers will have to contend with the titular Mummy, guest appearances by the Egyptian pantheon, traps, getting lost, and a monocled German with a penchant for torture called Otto. Explorers have four lives and a battery of skills (tested with a low-roll d12 or added to combat rolls) and there is a simple economic system based on the collection of tana leaves- a very nice thematic touch.

At the beginning of each round, players bid- yes, bid- a number of tana leaves for the right to control the lumbering mummy for the turn, getting to move him one space if they win the bid. The mummy causes loss of a life or a “discovery”, which is the game’s way of saying “treasure”. A player’s turn consists of playing a movement card which features one or more directions to move or even a set of stairs to move up or down a level. The pyramid floors have spaces with numbers ranging from 1-3 which indicate how many encounter cards can be played there. Encounter cards represent hazards, creatures, and discoveries. A player can also choose to forsake movement in favor of discarding cards to redraw for a better hand and there is the added benefit that discarded cards pay out in tana leaves.

Here’s where it gets a little funky and this is where I think the game loses a lot of people. After you move, each player gets an opportunity to play another movement card on you, so if you’re sitting on a prime 3 space (which guarantees you’ll get a discovery as long as you can weather the encounters) the other players will likely conspire to move you to a less desirable 1 or 2 space where you’ll almost certainly be on the receiving end of hazards and creatures and you’ll reach the encounter limit before you can play a discovery card. So you can, in a 4 player game, wind up three spaces away from where you intended. There’s even a dead-end card that makes you lose a turn. So planning strategies based on movement is right out. Once movement is settled, the other players get to play harmful encounters out of their hands on you that you’ll have to contend with by fighting (which means you can go mano-a-scorpion with strength rolls, trying to outwit the baddie with a cunning roll, or retreating with a speed roll) or passing one or more skill tests. Hopefully, at the end of all that you’ll have a discovery card that will give you a helpful piece of equipment or even the Key of Osiris, which grants you access to the chamber at the top.

As the internet board gaming cognoscenti have presumed, there does appear to be a complete lack of control in the game and that is a criticism that isn’t without merit since other players, particularly in a full-table game, will get to move you more than you can move yourself. I don’t think this odd mechanic is without a thematic basis since it is intended to represent the fact that the explorers are wandering around, completely lost in a very ancient and very dark tomb. There is equipment, such as a map, that lets a player reject movement cards played on them and as long as you make a bee-line for the top from the very beginning rather than loitering around then it at least feels like you can guide your explorer if not completely control where he goes. Part of the fun is the nastiness inherent in denying your fellow players the satisfaction of imposing his will on where he winds up going. It’s not totally random- you are still making decisions throughout the game. A good comparison would be DUNGEONQUEST although player interaction (and interference) is much higher in CURSE.

What emerges from all this is something that more closely resembles a take-that card game than a board-based adventure game. Between the mummy and cardplay, expect players to pound on each other mercilessly and with impunity and throw any notion of developing an elaborate long-term strategy out the window. It just isn’t the kind of game you play to win, and it isn’t the kind of game you play to demonstrate your outrageously superior intellect to your friends. You play through it, and if you win you say “yay” and have a good laugh. There’s plenty of atmosphere and of course the flavor text is great despite a couple of egregious errors in the card descriptions that common sense can easily correct. The possibility for some fun metagame rivalry, negotiation, and nastiness brings a lot of fun to the table so it is definitely something that you’ve got to play in the right spirit and with the right people.

Where it all gets pretty close to going horribly wrong is that by its nature it is the kind of game where other players can play expressly to prohibit a player from winning and it also can hinge on drawing the right cards- if you’re on level two with a key but can’t get a stairs card, you’re screwed. You’re double screwed if every other player has one and they decide to move you down to the first floor. There are some things to mitigate this (including a couple of nifty card effects like switching locations with other explorers and the ability to redraw a new hand every turn if need dictates it) but the net effect is that the game can go on much longer than it ought to and it becomes a matter of hoping to squeak by the other players to secure the win. There’s also increased danger as you ascend since the levels are smaller and it’s easier for the mummy to get around to do whatever it is mummies to make you lose a life. At 45-60 minutes, the game feels just right for the level of depth and style. At 90-120 minutes, it feels like the game has outstripped its potential as frustration and repetition sets in. It isn’t hard to correct this problem by simply playing through the deck twice with everyone losing a la DUNGEONQUEST or agreeing to play to a set time limit. Note too that this is a player elimination game so if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the pyramid.

CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB isn’t a "great" game by any stretch of the word since it can't seem to wrap itself up in a timely fashion, and it certainly doesn’t stand up to the genius of FURY OF DRACULA and it definitely feels like a second-rate GW title but I still enjoyed the game and I think there’s plenty of fun to be had with it. I’m the sort of person that gets a lot more satisfaction from ordering a mummy to strangle some guy than, well, pretty much anything that’s ever happened in a Wolfgang Kramer game and I can’t help but like the game regardless of its fumbles. Of course, anyone who follows the horror genre in games knows that’s really the curse, that horror games are more prone to failure than any other theme. At the end of this long, Egyptian day I believe that fans of DUNGEONQUEST and take-that style games will likely get more mileage out of the game then some of the more “serious” board gamers out there seem to have.

But I still think the Mummy sucks.

41 comments:

robartin said...

OK, I guess I'm going to have to try the damn game now.

Jack Hill said...

And why the lack of love for the Brenden Frasier movies?

Once you accept that they aren't horror, and they totally trash the Universal monsters thing, they are a lot of fun. Kind of a cheesy over-the-top Indiana Jones rip off.

But they are actually funny, and Brenden's character occasionally approaches near to the brilliance of our beloved Jack Burton.

As to Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, It really is more like a backward cousin of Dungeonquest. Our second game hit the 2 hour limit before we called it and voted never to play it again.

The really big flaw is the the events in Mummy are far fewer in number. In Dungeonquest, you use perhaps 1/3 of the cards in each game, while Mummy burns its cards handling the movement and tanna leaves thing. That means you'll cycle through the various events at least once, and more likely a couple of times each game.

Mike said...

I agree with Jack, don't 'dis the 2 Mummy movies. What are you, some kind of Eurofilmsnoot? They were great "popcorn" action flicks (I've blotted out the cheesy CGI-Rock-scorpion-thing from my memory so everything is just fine) and never meant to be true horror films.

Michael Barnes said...

Let me tell you why I don't like the Stephen Sommers MUMMY pictures (and the truly abominable VAN HELSING for that matter)...they're all gloss and sheen, completely engineered to be "rollercoaster" rides without a lick of soul, heart, or unironic wit. Contrast to the INDIANA JONES pictures, which have plenty of heart and soul as well as genuine humour instead of a self-aware "well, this movie is crap so let's play it for laughs" sense of comedy. There's no atmosphere, the effects are so mechanical and computer-perfect that nothing in the film seems real or threatening, and the "adventure" elements come across as bumbling rather than actual heroism, and frankly if I want to watch something "cheesy" I'd much rather watch a made-on-a-dime Turkish superhero movie than the multimillion dollar product of board meetings and studio notes.

To compare BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA to THE MUMMY films points out a lot of the problem...Carpenter's got a lot of heart and I believe he really cares (or cared) about what he was doing and the film comes across as effortless...that's what separates a real "cult" movie from something that's trying to be one.

Mike said...

I think you're looking back at the past with "rose-colored" glasses. Raiders was most defnitely a corporate creation: the big guns (i.e. Spielberg and Lucas) were brought in to make it and the special effects were top notch for it's day. I don't see how that's very much different than how the Mummy was put together other than the fact that Brendan Fraser is no Harrison Ford (although Arnold Vosloo was excellent as the Mummy). If you don't think that Lucas and Spielberg would have used CGI-effects on Raiders if they could have just watch Epsiode 1 (*shudder*) or the Anniversary Edition of Close Encounters. And no I'm not saying the Mummy is as good as Raiders (Raiders was magical but look at "Temple of Doom", that sucked) but the movie is a fun roller-coaster ride even if that was all it was designed to be. I think you're giving it the Mummy the short end of the stick just because it's newer, came out of Hollywood, and had a big budget.

Furthermore don't go lumping Van Helsing into this because that movie was made from the ground up with the intention to spawn a franchise and to re-invorgorate the license Universal has on all of the classic monsters. Those are not good reasons to make a movie and as a result the movie appropirately tanked.

I also like Big Trouble in Little China but come 'on the movie is bad. It has plot holes, continuity issues, and comes off as a "hack" low-budget production. The movie only works because of Kurt Russell's lines, the big fight at the end, and James Hong, everyone's favorite stereotyped Chinese man.

Ken B. said...

I just want to add that "Temple of Doom" does NOT suck. So...uh...nyah.

Jack Hill said...

I will wholeheartedly agree that Van Helsing was crap. But it was crap because it was played entirely too seriously.

In a lot of ways, the Mummy movies harkens back to the 60's caper movies. A lot of travelling, sets spectacle, different characters, and an overall light tone.

Around the World in 80 Days is a more similar movie--and quite good in its own right (I'm not sure it is Oscar-Best Picture good.)

Part of my enthusiasm is the Stephen Sommers is such a geek. He got away with filling an entire jungle with Amazing Zuni Fetish Dolls.

The CGI is of course pretty bad. The best bits are the characters, sets, and silliness--that's why the larger budget sequel, and the Scorpion King and Van Helsing got progressively worse. The first Mummy movie and Dead Rising are very good. Both of those have decent comic actors in the lead, and that's one of the reasons they work.)

Michael Barnes said...

I never said the INDY films weren't corporate creations- but that being said, even just 20 years ago Hollywood wasn't nearly as cynical and market-driven as it is now. THE MUMMY films were _made_ to be hits, RAIDERS took a lot of chances just like STAR WARS did before it.

I don't doubt Lucasberg wouldn't have used CGI effects, but there's a whole different issue at work there...we're talking about historical context, and the use of CGI opens up a WHOLE new debate over using practical, physically real effects versus digital ones and that debate didn't really exist then. Personally, I'm thankful that those movies came out when they did because frankly they'd probably be less 'real' than they are having been made before CGI took over everything.

Sorry, I'm an oldtimer in that respect.

But you know, I do like a lot of big, bazillion dollar Hollywood projects and you've just got to look as far as LORD OF THE RINGS to see something made with heart, passion, and creativity without a cold, manufactured feeling like THE MUMMY.

True, VAN HELSING was a cash-in on Universal's monster properties but at the same time it was the success of THE MUMMY that got us that and kept Stephen Sommers employed for another year or so.

BIG TROUBLE isn't "bad" at all- you don't watch a movie called BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA for a watertight plot and subtle, sophisticated portrayal of Chinese culture. It's like these guys that went into ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR and complained about characterization and continuity. I went in, saw a Predator choking an Alien, and realized I got exactly what I paid for.

Michael Barnes said...

He got away with filling an entire jungle with Amazing Zuni Fetish Dolls.

Good god man, next thing you know we'll have our first Karen Black reference here at F:AT. Whoops.

Franklin, I'm with you- TEMPLE OF DOOM doesn't suck. It's just not the groundbreaking instant classic that RAIDERS was...it actually is closer to the tone and feeling of its source material in a lot of ways and I think it's completely satisfying. Don't base your opinion on the film solely on Willy's shrieking and its admittedly disappointing lack of Nazis.

Ken B. said...

NO TIME FOR LOVE, DR. JONES~!

hughthehand said...

Hmmmm...nice little mini article in the discussion from Michael as well. The Mummy, while entertaining, is nothing to the Indiana Jones movies, and to even compare them is a joke. While I enjoyed The Mummy, I have no motivation to watch it again. Whereas I will watch Raiders of the Lost Ark at any given time.

Anyway, nice article Michael. I like how you list some good points, what you think people's problems with the game are, and why it isn't as awful as it is rated...yet it is still not a great game.

I personally don't give a rats ass about most of the games you guys talk about here, but the writing is very good.

Well written, and thanks for keepin me comin' back sir!

ubarose said...

The difference between art and product is that art is created by a person who has something to communicate, an succeeds.

INDIANA JONES is about good and evil, heroism, vanity and honor.

The MUMMY movies are just a product to be consumed and forgotten.

Plus, Brenden Frasier has about as much sex appeal as the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Michael Barnes said...

Well, in the gaming community that's pretty damn sexy...the women want to be with him and the men want to eat him.

Mike said...

you've just got to look as far as LORD OF THE RINGS to see something made with heart, passion, and creativity

Well duhh... seriously, good point. The Mummy does not have the passion of LoTR. On the other hand King Kong was awful despite the heart that Jackson put into it so I'm not sure that heart and passion are everything.

I'm with you- TEMPLE OF DOOM doesn't suck.

Two words: Short Round.

Not to mention that Temple of Doom single-handedly set back the assimilation of Indian food into American culture by at least 15 years. I myself wouldn't even walk into an Indian resuarant until I was a senior in college and made some Indian friends who assured me that Indians did not eat snakes or eyeballs.

Plus, Brenden Frasier has about as much sex appeal as the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Them's fightin' words in my house and my wife fights dirty.


Incidently, the game review was well done, it defnintitley sounds like something worth trying.

StephenAvery said...

I desperately want to love this game. In fact, I do love it even though there are problems that make the game less than fun. Mostly, its becuase it takes so long for something to happen with all the random movement. Also, the mummy is not much of a threat because of its incredibly slow movement.

However, there is a great game here and with a few house rules this game could rock!
I've posted some quick fix rules on the geek but after some playtesting they're still not right.
Oh Well, Back to the drawing board.

Mr Skeletor said...

If anyone wants to know why this site shouldn't be reviewing movies, just take a look at this thread. Bloody hell Barnes talk about towing the geek line.
The mummy films were great, and the best pulp adventure films since the indys.
I mean what the hell does this even mean:
"they're all gloss and sheen, completely engineered to be "rollercoaster" rides without a lick of soul, heart, or unironic wit."
Throw in an "elegant" and it sounds like a eurogame wank review.
They were made to be hits? No shit, what big film isn't, INCLUDING Raiders?
Then to top it all off we get the typical CGI bitching, which is concluded with a comparison to Lord of The Rings, one of the most CGI heavy trilogies of all time. What the hell?
BTW, I'll put my $10 F:AT bucks that Indy 4 will be stuffed to the brim with CGI.
You disapoint me Barnes.

Jack Hill said...

Mr, Skeletor. Thanks for backing me up on the Mummy movies. You did like the He-Man movie as well, right?

Your comments about CGI seem odd. There is good CGI, and bad CGI. Stephen Sommers movies have never had very good CGI. There is pretty stuff, but it is just so obvious that it came out of a computer.

Lord of the Rings hides its CGI mostly very well (it shows up in some of those battle scenes.) The set and costume design is so good, and the locations are so fantastic in themselves, that the CGI doesn't stand out.

Same goes for Amilie. It is another massively digitally reworked movie Hard to tell by watching it, save for a couple of obvious scenes.

Horror has been particularly affected by the CGI trend. CGI things just don't look scary. CGI gore looks...wrong. Old fashioned H.G. Lewis bits from the butcher and pigs blood are vastly more...visceral. And shadily lit bit of latex and cloth are far spookier.

Mr Skeletor said...

Mr, Skeletor. Thanks for backing me up on the Mummy movies. You did like the He-Man movie as well, right?

It's good for a stupid movie.

Julian said...

I'm with Barnes on the whole CGI thing. Filmmakers have forgotten that just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should do something. After a lot of new movies I walk away dissatisfied, but with a strong urge to play a video game. If I want to see something that is all computer animated with no plot, dialogue or character, I'd rather be the one controlling the guy and pulling the trigger. A lot of the animation is senseless. I don't care how well you CGI a clone trooper it doesn't look as real as dressing a guy up like a storm trooper and having him run around.

I just finished rewatching Mad Max, and its so refreshing instead of watching computer animated crashes, watching people crash real cars and drive real bikes off bridges. There's nothing better than watching a motorbike crash into a guys head, and know that the stuntman muust have been in hospital for a week. That's entertainment.

Back to games. I haven't played Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, so I don't know if this applies, but it sounds like it might. One thing I think has been lost from gaming is chaos. I always enjoyed chaotic games, as long as you got to respond to the chaos. Now most gaming seems to emphasize long term strategy. We're in danger of losing games which aren't about long term strategy, but which are all about reacting to unpredictable events, and maybe dealing some out yourself. There's plenty of skill in those games (contrary to the myths of the euro crowd) if they're done well. But they test a different set of skills: crisis management, and crisis infliction. I'm starting to crave a new game where I just have to react to a bunch of inherently unpredictable events, and deal some out in return.

Joel said...

Curse of the Mummy's Tomb is a game that has a great board, and theme, and look. I really want to like the game. It does feel as though there have to be house rules out there that will make this game better.

However, one mechanic that helps is the ability to cycle through cards every round. In the game Mike mentions, I was the player who got stuck on the second level. I had a staircase card to get to the third level, but I couldn't draw a key card for the life of me. And everyone else already had them in front of their player mats. Not knowing how many of the keys there were in the draw deck, I just sat there exchanging cards every round for about half an hour. This portion of the game was not very fun for me. But I realize now that I should have been recycling all five of my cards instead of keeping the curse and the staircase card. Only recycling three every round, although it seemed like a good idea at the time, just made me not get the card I needed even slower. So, when you get stuck, draw a full hand of cards.

The other thing I'm not so sure about is the variable player powers. They seem very subtle and are almost so subtle that they don't have a significant impact on the game. Sure, I made sure to use the worst specific curses on the other players who were weakest in the quality the curse tested, but the variation didn't appear to make much of a difference to the overall game.

Now, on my second playing of Curse of the Mummy's tomb, I've still never finished a game. In fact, I'm thinking of starting a geeklist about "Games that I've never actually finished." It's not that it's too hard to achieve a victory, but once you tire of having all the other players push your character around, and then deal with all the curses they throw at you, after a while the game just feels too tedious to complete.

Ken B. said...

The thing about horror is that it's impossible to translate to a board game.

Take Horrorclix; they've made some pretty gruesome figures but you know what? It's a two-inch high piece of plastic. When the monsters kill their "victims" (aka little cardboard discs), you get to witness the HORROR of...removing the token from the board.

You have to introduce a visual media to a horror game for it to work. As silly as the game was, we used to play Nightmare in college with a bunch of friends and we'd turn the lights down and the volume up...those first few plays, yeah, the dude on TV could make you jump..."STOP!" he'd yell suddenly. But it still wasn't...scary per se, just..."jumpy". You know, like most modern horror movies. "Made you jump! Tee hee!"

I think that's why horror games don't usually work--you're trying to capture something that is impossible to illustrate in the board/card/miniature game format.

MWChapel said...

Let me tell you why I don't like the Stephen Sommers MUMMY pictures (and the truly abominable VAN HELSING for that matter)...they're all gloss and sheen, completely engineered to be "rollercoaster" rides without a lick of soul, heart, or unironic wit.

For a moment there I thought you were decribing Fantasy Flight Games.

:)

ubarose said...

...But it still wasn't...scary per se, just..."jumpy". You know, like most modern horror movies. "Made you jump! Tee hee!"

I think that's why horror games don't usually work--you're trying to capture something that is impossible to illustrate in the board/card/miniature game format.


Horror isn't about being scared. It is about being horrified when you realize that you find the monster attractive; realizing that you have compassion for the monster and even identify with it. It's the uneasy feeling of being simultaneously attracted and repulsed. This is why modern slasher/made you jump "horror" movies don't hold a candle to the classics.

Michael Barnes said...

Mike- the problem with KING KONG? Hubris. Plain and simple. Jackson was so assured of himself after pretty much doing the impossible (creating something that stands up to STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, etc. as generation-defining high water marks) that I'm sure he thought he could do anything. The other problem is that the original KONG was perfect to begin with and stands as one of the greatest films ever made. It didn't need to be messed with.

Mr. Skeletor- No shit, RAIDERS was made to be a hit...but it was also pretty risky stuff. Retro-1930s pulp/serial adventure wasn't exactly in vogue at the time. It also had a lot of heart largely derived from the creative team's passion for the sort of things that inspired it. With THE MUMMY, I get a sense that Sommers was trying to adhere to a "blockbuster" formula and apply everything else on top of it. All structure and no soul. Much like a Euro.


LOTR had more CGI likely than any other movie ever made but it was used in a capacity to enhance physically real things that existed on set- even Gollum has a real actor behind him. It also doesn't hurt that the CGI was used to show things that _are impossible_ to portray with practical effects. That's really where today's CGI artisans go really wrong, if you can do something in real life, then step the fuck away from the computer.

That's why BLADE RUNNER is so real to me- everything in that movie really exists.

I'm going to work on a horror article so y'all pipe down and save that stuff for comments there.

BTW- CGI is the absolute worst thing that could have ever happened to horror filmmaking.

Muzza said...

BTW- CGI is the absolute worst thing that could have ever happened to horror filmmaking.

CGI is just the newest toy in the film-makers arsenal. It can cut a lot of corners but it can stifle creativity too. I work in the much more simple world of graphic design and even there we must be careful to avoid simply using the latest photoshop filter to create 'a look'.

The artists will learn to use tools like CGI and many of the 'technicians' at the controls today will be looking for work elsewhere. 'Amelie' is a good example of an artistic use of CGI (respect to Jack for mentioning this great film).

I never took it seriously but I loved the Mummy films. It's fluff, but entertaining fluff. I am also a fan of Brendan Fraser . I appreciate an actor who can play a heroic character AND have good comic timing AND doesn't take himself too seriously AND can even act (Gods and Monsters). Such actors are rare.

Horror is a difficult emotion to engender in a game I think. The closest I've come is in 'Betrayal in the House on the Hill' but that was really just keying into that 'Hammer House Of Horror' vibe due to being a similar scenario. I much prefer games like 'Fury' and 'Arkham', although they are not horrific, just fun.

Mike said...

CGI is double-edged sword but I would hardly call it the worst thing to happen to movies that title should be reserved for Chris Tucker.

Besides the obvious enhancement to the battles and Gollum in LoTR there are other movies that benefit. Without CGI-effects, the current slew of Marvel movies would look hopelessly cheesy. Can you imagine how web-slinging in Spider-man would look with standard effects? You don't have to imagine if you ever saw that Spider-man live-action TV show. Of course when wielded unproperly, CGI results in movies like "The Hulk".

CGI-effects made Episodes I & II watchable (despite the "NOOOOOOOO" I thought EP3 was pretty good as a set-up for the real Trilogy). Yoda vs. Dooku is a unforgettable scene despite the rest of the drek.

Michael Barnes said...

I didn't say CGI was the worst thing to happen to movies, but it is the worst thing to happen to horror movies. CGI takes the last vestige of reality away from horror and makes it completely unnatural. It doesn't matter how good CGI effects are, you are still subconsciously aware that it's not real and therefore any sense of threat or danger is gone. We've got horror filmmakers using CGI blood as "shorthand" to skip on doing practical effects...that's just a god damned shame.

CGI, when used judiciously, can be a great cinematic tool. If you read what I stated before, when CGI shows us things that are _impossible_ to portray otherwise it can be an amazing thing. AMELIE _is_ a good example- CGI is used to embellish and enrich the image but it never becomes the image.

The CGI Yoda is crap. The puppet had a million times more personality...when I was a kid I cried when Yoda died, but I would'nt have shed a tear for his digital doppleganger. For lack of a better term, the puppet had a lot more "movie magic" to it, when I see CGI Yoda I just think about some hard drive somewhere where all his textures and animations are stored. It's like someone said about the Clone Troopers...think about seeing 20 Stormtroopers (men in costumes) and seeing how Lucas couldn't even bother to dress 3 guys up in Clone Trooper outfits since he leaned so heavily on the computer.

The fight with Dooku was stupid and made me laugh, there was absolutely no sense of credibilty or excitement whatsoever...all this build up to see Yoda fight and it winds up looking like a Gamecube game run amuck. The little character bits he did, like pulling his robe aside or force-throwing the block were MUCH cooler than that debacle.

Mr Skeletor said...

Did you cry when Mr Hooper died as well?

Mike said...

I didn't say CGI was the worst thing to happen to movies, but it is the worst thing to happen to horror movies.

Oh, HORROR movies, well... yeah... I guess I'm not a big CGI fan for that stuff either. I'll take Tom Savini's mastery of fake blood and gore anyday over virtual blood and decapitations. You know, I was watching a low-buget horror flick and they CGI'd a campfire.. a frickin campfire!


The little character bits he did, like pulling his robe aside or force-throwing the block were MUCH cooler than that debacle

But all of that was part of the fight scene so you did like some of it.

Michael Barnes said...

See, that's the problem...CGI is just lazy. I've worked in no-budget productions and I understand how it makes a lot of things possible (like doing muzzle flashes for guns- something practically impossible for the garage filmmaker) but on a production where there's ample budget to LIGHT A GOD DAMNED FIRE, there's no excuse.

Say all you want about "cheesy" the model sets, tanks, and so forth look in a Toho-produced Godzilla film, but there's a lot of craftsmanship and talent that goes into building all that. Nowadays, those craftsmen are out of work because some guy with a decent Mac can whip up something for half the budget and half the time. BUT IT ISN'T REAL. It doesn't exist in real space and has no physical form.

You're right about that Yoda stuff...it's mostly the flipping and spinning that ruined it.

But come on...Yoda fighting DRACULA should have been much cooler than that.

Since when did F:AT become Ain't It Cool News?

Mr Skeletor said...

Yoda should not have fought with a light saber PERIOD. I don't care if it was done with CGI, puppets, or mutated midgets. It was a dumb move that diminished the character.

I'm still waiting for you to actually stick your neck out Barnes and support a movie that does not have geek cred.

Ken B. said...

FRIST

robartin said...

Yeah, I've got to admit, Barnes is a bit of a film-snoot. It has to feature some old crusty Victorian era British guys skulking around in capes to be good.

Personally I can enjoy Van Helsing in the same way that I can enjoy Monsters Menace America. How can you complain about a film in which a giant werewolf fights a giant vampire inside a burning castle? I mean come on Barnes, if it was Ray Harryhousen moving little clay figures around in stop motion you'd be all over it. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with a little cheese.

And don't get me started on the old Universal monster pics. Just because they're old and in black and white doesn't make them art. Dracula for example pretty much tosses the plot of the book out the window, being content to just give Bela Lugosi lame excuses to creep around the set and make goofy faces at the camera.

Fellonmyhead said...

Curse of the Mummy's Tomb sucks.

Michael Barnes said...

Ah, Fellonmyhead...master of rhetoric...he can convince you that the sky is orange and the grass is pink...

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