Thursday, October 17, 2013

BT fan art

Johnny finally caves in to peer pressure.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Characters with Character: Celes Chere

In Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, there’s a character named Lightning who must be a really big deal because the next game in the series proudly proclaims that “LIGHTNING RETURNS.”  She’s someone who was in a position of authority, but due to a cruel turn of fate she became a rebel.  Her path was clear at first the moment she was on the run, for she desired both revenge and a way to change everyone’s lives for the better.  But after a while, she began to rethink her motives and tentatively moved forward with different goals in mind.  In the end, though, she followed the path of the rebel all the way, for good and for ill.

If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because you are a big Final Fantasy fan like me who remembers the character who’s named in the title of this very article.  Celes Chere, from Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III on the SNES), is undoubtedly one of the most memorable characters in any Final Fantasy game despite the fact that she has no tail or fluffy ears or a sword the size of a ship mast.  (This might beg the question: If you can make a deep character who looks like an ordinary human being, why have characters with fluffy ears and tails at all?  But that’s an argument for another place.)

Celes is a general of the Gestahl Empire who is charged with leading her unit in the conquest of the northern continent.  One might not be able to guess she’s a general, however, just by looking at her.  Honestly, she appears like a model on the cover of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, not a battle-hardened individual who’s responsible for making life-and-death decisions.  It’s undoubtedly a subtle bit of fan service, but what the hey?  If you can’t put a pretty woman in a grisly place of authority, then what CAN you do?

Ironically, in spite of her power, the player first sees her in a prison cell.  She had discovered that the insidious Kefka--a commander in another unit--planned to poison the people of Doma, thereby ending the siege there.  She attempted to give an order for him to cease and desist the poisoning, but when some of her men found out, they placed her under arrest, thereby giving Kefka free reign to do whatever he damn well pleased.

(On a side note, I can only assume the soldiers who arrested her were moles loyal to Kefka.  If they were not, then two questions arise: If the soldiers have no loyalty other than to Celes, then why would they care whether she gives a cease-and-desist order or not?  Also, Celes is a general and Kefka is not; if she wanted to give him an order, it would be her right to do so.  So why would her own men have a problem with that?)

She’s rescued by Locke, a thief--er, TREASURE HUNTER (he's a bit touchy about what people call him)--who is a member of the local resistance movement.  For a good while afterwards, she cooperates with the rebels, giving them information and even fighting with them.  She also tells her history with the Empire, which is a simple albeit a little disturbing: When she was a baby, she was infused with magic powers, and so the Emperor granted her a place of power and privilege.  Assumingly, she worked hard in the military and earned her general’s stars by using her ice magic to freeze the noses off of her opponents.  She may have had a problem with the invasion, but she might not have been very vocal about it.  She’s a cunning strategist who’s seen a number of victories, yet she does not condone the slaying of civilians.

Over time it becomes clear there’s a budding romance between her and Locke.  The storytellers had a variety of methods at their disposal to bring these two kids together, such as a candlelit dinner, accidentally sharing a noodle, talking about how they don’t like sand and only like soft things … you know, silly stuff.  But apparently mundane things like those aren’t enough for the grandiose kind of storytelling found in Final Fantasy games, so the writers settled for nothing less than the ultimate expression of love in the world of entertainment: An opera.

Of course, the lovebirds don’t just SEE an opera; they PARTICIPATE in one in a rather convoluted plot setup.  A man named Setzer is the owner of the world’s only airship, which the rebels want to use to quickly reach the southern continent.  Setzer has threatened to kidnap the star of an opera, so in order to get his attention, Celes has volunteered (unwillingly, at that) to pose as the star and get kidnapped by Setzer.  Next thing you know, Locke is blushing at the sight of Celes in a lovely gown and Celes is about to go onstage to sing her heart out.

Those of you who have nostalgia goggles on, please take them off.  I’ll wait.  Okay, now please understand that this setup has the potential of being incredibly absurd.  Having the general of an imperial army, who had undoubtedly ordered men to fight and die for the sake of expansion, sing in an opera in order to be kidnapped by some swinging bachelor could make Final Fantasy VI the butt of jokes for years to come.  One can easily imagine TheSpoonyOne putting himself in a cheap gown and throwing roses while singing badly to show how ridiculous it is.

But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work, thanks in no small part to the moving score done by Final Fantasy veteran composer Nobuo Uematsu.  If the words alone don’t touch your heart, then the stirring tune done by 16-bit harps and violins surely will.  If Christopher Reeve could make you believe a man can fly, then Celes Chere can surely make you believe a Victoria’s Secret model in army boots can sing opera.  (This author can easily imagine that Celes was a woman of culture while growing up in the Empire, and she secretly harbored an appreciation of the fine arts.)





After infiltrating the Empire’s capital in search of the Espers held captive there (it’s a long story), it might seem obvious where Celes’ loyalty lies.  With the rebels, of course.  But then Kefka appears and makes it seem that Celes had been leading the rebels into an ambush in the middle of a factory.  Locke is quick to believe him, only to feel ashamed once Celes saves the rebels with her magic.  In using her magic, she got separated from her friends, and one can assume she was captured by Kefka and his men.

Later still, after an event that devastated the Imperial capital, Emperor Gestahl humbly asks the rebels for their help in attaining peace with the mighty Espers.  Gestahl’s representative in the matter is none other than Celes, assuming her role as a general again.  It shouldn’t be surprising to see her like this: She may have been imprisoned again after her confrontation with Kefka, but she’s the perfect candidate given her relationship with the rebels.  One can’t help but think, however, in what was going on in her head.  Did she take back the general’s stars because deep down she’s still a loyal Imperial citizen?  Or was it only a temporary measure--a way of seeing things through until peace was achieved, after which time she’d shove her general’s stars down the Emperor’s throat and go back to singing opera?

Cunning AND beautiful.  I think I’m in love.  Oh, I should delete that … but I won’t.

Anyway, up to this point Celes has done nothing but follow her conscience.  Sure, if she hadn’t gotten arrested by her own men she might never have joined the resistance and fought the Empire tooth and nail, but given the circumstances she can clearly tell the difference between right and wrong.

That changes literally in a heartbeat on the Floating Continent.  It turns out the Emperor didn’t want peace with the Espers after all; he merely wanted to draw them out and take their power for his own.  Once achieving this, he uses the power to raise a good portion of his Empire into the sky, thereby creating the Floating Continent.  Our intrepid heroes land on the continent in order to grab Gestahl’s perfectly-coifed beard and land some knuckles square on his kisser.  If the player didn’t include Celes in his/her landing party, Celes will appear and insist on being among the ranks.  Once our heroes meet Gestahl (who’s joined by Kefka), three of the heroes each get detained in some magic-ball-thing.  Celes is left free so the Emperor can make her an offer she can’t refuse: Slay her companions and Gestahl will spare her life.  On top of that, once the Emperor gains unimaginable power through the magic of three statues (again, it’s a long story), Celes will have the privilege--no, the honor!--of bearing Kefka’s children.  You see, the Emperor plans on cleansing the entire world of people and restarting humanity by, well … retelling the story of Adam and Eve.

The player knows what Celes’ response will be, right?  After fighting and working with the rebels for so long, she would never betray them by taking Gestahl’s offer, right?  Surely she can see just how batshit insane both Gestahl and Kefka are … RIGHT?

Well, Kefka gives her a knife, and then she turns and raises the knife against her companions.

Holy crap!  If this isn’t an unexpected turn of events, I don’t know what is!  Just when you think you know someone … she ends up selling all your stuff and running off with some other guy.  Or is that just me?  Whatever.

Even if it’s just for one moment within the space of a breath, Celes actually appears to consider taking the Emperor’s offer.  She and Kefka would land on a desolate world, take up fig leaves for clothing, and spend some “quality time” together while Kefka laughs like the homicidal maniac he is.  Fortunately Celes comes to her senses, realizing that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Plus she probably still wants to sing opera.  She rams the knife where the sun don’t shine on Kefka and immediately gets detained within her own magic-ball-thing.

So what just happened?  Why did Celes even consider betraying her friends?  Hell, just think of the storytellers: Why did they believe someone like her would do such a thing?

Perhaps it’s because, despite having a conscience, Celes is still a product of her homeland, the Gestahl Empire.  She was raised since childhood to be an obedient Imperial citizen, conditioned into believing that the will of the Emperor was for the good of all.  When the Emperor deceived the rebels and showed his true colors, deep down Celes still believed he was a noble man who would listen to reason.  Indeed, she joined the rebels on the Floating Continent not to fight Gestahl with reckless abandon, but to plead him into stopping his mad quest for power.

Ultimately, the story of Celes is about the battle between one’s patriotism and conscience.  The country one is born into is a major influence on that person’s life, for it can shape that person’s beliefs and ideals.  A country is run not only by its economy but the hearts and minds of its people, both the leaders and the commoners.  A child may believe that he or she has no choice but to take the country’s beliefs to heart as well, since the child is utterly dependent on his or her homeland.  But every so often, the deeds of a country can run against a citizen’s personal beliefs, and the citizen may feel that he or she must do something about it or else lose a sense of identity and pride.

Take Benjamin Franklin, for example.  He was a self-made man who didn’t always run with the popular crowd (especially when it came to organized religion), yet he was a relatively obedient citizen of the British Empire.  When tensions arose between the colonies and Great Britain due to the Stamp Act, Franklin took ship to England to plead for the Stamp Act to be repealed rather than raise hell in events like the Boston Tea Party.  When the prospect of war loomed, he went to England again to plead the king to give in to the colonists’ demands.  He was a Loyalist up to a point, a devoted follower of the Crown, and siding with the American Revolutionists was probably an uncomfortable decision for him.  Celes could surely relate.

Another example is Robert E. Lee, a general just like Celes, only without breasts.  (Sorry, that just slipped out.)  Lee was once a proud leader of the U.S. Army.  Then, when war broke between the North and South, he had to make a simple but painful decision: Either side with the U.S. or with his home state of Virginia.  He ended up siding with Virginia, giving the newly-founded Confederate States a great asset in the war.  I’m not sure what Lee thought of the slavery issue, but I know for certain that his conscience would not allow him to do battle against his family and neighbors.

I could go on to mention that after the apocalypse happens in Final Fantasy VI, Celes wakes up from a long slumber on a solitary island, where she believes she might be the last woman alive on earth (oops, I just did), but I think you get the point.  Among the game’s cast of over a dozen playable characters, Celes manages to stand out.  Her problem with finding her rightful place in the war is relatable to many people, even if one has never fought in a war like she has.

I must admit, I think I had the wrong impression of her as I played this game numerous times as a teenager.  Her big, innocent-looking eyes made me think she sounded something like a valley girl--not necessarily with the typical air-headed accent, but with the extremely high squeaky voice that can make dogs howl at the moon.  But recently I began to see her in a different light.  She’s a general, for crying out loud; she’s someone who plans out battle strategies and executes prisoners of war to make examples of them, not a hipster who shakes pom-poms and gags herself with a spoon!

Therefore in my most recent playthroughs of the game, I imagined Celes speaking with a bit of a deeper voice and with an air of cool confidence.  Those big blue eyes would fool me no longer; Victoria’s Secret model or not, she’s a steel magnolia who can adapt to any situation, no matter how difficult that situation may be.

You know, just like a certain pink-haired vixen who runs around with a gunblade.

[This is the part, dear reader, where you play “Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)” by The Spice Girls.  If you have it.  If not then play “Cold Hard Bitch” by Jet.]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Amazing?

Good-bye, Tobey Macguire ... hello human basketball!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somone should make a Zelda movie ... NOT!



This blog has been brought to you by Mr. Slate's glasses. Seriously.

Some hours after watching the Nostalgia Critic's review of the Flintstone's movie, I was thinking about it, and I was again struck by how large Mr. Slate's glasses were on the actor playing him. Those puppies could see the backside of the moon, plus fry ants by magnifying sunlight. I wondered why in the hell they were so big. The answer is obvious: They were meant to be an exaggerated size just like everything else in the movie. The movie's a live-action cartoon, after all (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

Still, those glasses seemed like overkill. The actor could have been given a pair of normal specs, and those specs wouldn't look entirely out of place. But no, the filmmakers wanted overkill. In fact, the whole movie's overkill, presenting an exaggerated cartoon world with flesh-and-blood actors. That's why I don't like the idea of live-action cartoons.

This thought led to a curious tangent: The Legend of Zelda movie ... oops, I mean the Legend of Zelda movie trailer, which was first posted on IGN.com. That thing's a hell of a piece of work. It may have actors who haven't been heard of, but the sets are nice and the CGI effects, while not entirely convincing, would meet Hollywood standards. The trailer looked very convincing, an authentic big-studio preview ... that is until you see the release date: April 1, 2009. April Fool's Day. The fact that the preview was released on April Fool's Day of 2008 was a pretty big clue that the trailer was, indeed, faker than my grandma's teeth. (Plus there was the fact that the IGN logo was included in the preview's credits.)

So the trailer looked good and it fooled plenty of people into thinking that Hollywood finally went ahead and made a flick based on the popular video game series. And I happen to be a fan of the games, having played nearly every one of them over the years, so I nearly shit myself. Still, seeing this trailer gave me a bad feeling. Hell, there were parts of it that made me cringe and shake my head. It still does. I realize that I didn't want to see a live-action Zelda movie, not because it will have poor production value, not because the acting will suck, not because Ganon looks like an Irish guy with an identity crisis. It's because the very look and feel of the Legend of Zelda franchise isn't proper for live action. The outfits on the trailer's actors look ridiculous, things that no live human being in the real world would want to wear. And the Master Sword looks like a Fisher-Price toy straight out of Toys R Us.

Heresy? Maybe it is. But hell, seeing a man run around in a floppy dunce cap and a green tunic just doesn't seem natural to me. I suppose it's the color that makes it appears ridiculous, making it appear as though Link wants to be a plant with chlorophyll for blood. And yet the outfits looks okay on an animated figure. Many animated figures have colorful outfits that appeal to the eye, and such outfits are often unusual and imaginative.

Here, I'll explain something. Link's outfit was originally made by a small development team at Nintendo back in the 1980s. They were making an adventure game, and in the beginning the hero's outfit was a blank slate. The designers decided to give him a tunic and floppy dunce cap, since they were medieval in nature. Then they had to choose a color. Brown or gray would be realistic, but those colors might be rather ugly (the overworld has plenty of brown in it, anyway). They chose green because it would make the character stand out, especially in the underground dungeons. Link would change his outfit's color with armor upgrades, but green would do for a start.
And the outfit and the color stuck, even into the days of the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii. And that's okay, since they appear just fine on an animated figure. An animated figure can wear damn near anything and somehow get away with it. Of course, if Link were to fight the hordes of evil in a white tutu with a pixie wand in hand, he'd never be taken seriously. Yet his medieval-style green tunic seems to work, coupled with Link's pointed nose and slightly-larger-than-life eyes. He's a cartoon character in a cartoon world that's plenty of fun to play in. (It's too bad that for a short time, Link had no pants on, making him look quite androgynous with his naughty bits hidden by an inch of hemline. What the hell was that cartoonist thinking?)

But seeing that same outfit on a live person just gives me shivers. It looks the best it can be, I suppose, especially since it's based on the Twilight Princess model with chain mail underneath the tunic (plus Link is wearing pants, thank God, it's about damn bloody time!). But chain mail or not, I cannot imagine a live hero wanting to go out and hand evil forces their asses on platters while wearing a getup like that. Link looks like a former bard who decided to hang up his lute and try out a life of adventure and danger without thinking, "Hey, maybe a helmet might prevent my head from being split like a melon, and some hard solid steel might keep a mace from rearranging my ribcage."

And it's not just Link's outfit that would make a live-action Zelda movie look ridiculous. Impa's outfit makes her look like a Power Ranger zord wannabe, and those spiky tattoos under her eyes don't make her look any more like a badass. And of course, not even a skilled makeup artist could make Ganon look like anything other than a brawler with a fetish for plastic surgery.

Like the Flintstones movie, a Zelda movie would be like a live-action cartoon complete with features that would not work. What works for animation does not necessarily work for live action. Exaggerated features and experimental color motifs are a staple for cartoons, but not in real life. Outfits that look slightly goofy are part of standard procedure in animated worlds, but not in the one where we live and breathe (except maybe on a catwalk in L.A., but those outfits were made mostly to grab newspaper headlines, anyway).
It might be hard to explain in words why Link's outfit doesn't work in real life, but trust me, there are few things more terrifying than seeing a cosplayer run up to me in that getup (not my picture, by the way). It'd be even more terrifying to see some guy run around onscreen looking like a bard but trying to be a macho man like Arnold Schwarzeneggar. It's bad enough just glancing at that fan-made flick on Youtube. The acting is terrible, the action is cheesy no matter how much ketchup gets splashed around, and Link's outfit looks like it was cut from the felt from a Las Vegas blackjack table (plus those white leg- and arm-coverings aren't doing the guy any favors). The actors hardly look like overpaid Hollywood yahoos, but that's okay - even said yahoos would appear like steroid-popping kids on Halloween.

Now an animated movie, that would be something to look forward to. Giving an animated Link dialogue for a change and seeing him sink his violet-colored broadsword into Ganon's forehead would be a real guilty pleasure. Better yet, if it was announced that such a movie would come from a studio like Warner Premiere, I and every other Nintendo fanboy would piss our pants long enough to refill all of Lake Mead (actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea).

IGN had made that fake movie trailer not just to screw around with us, but also to spark discussion over whether a Zelda movie should be made. You already know my stance on that topic, but will a Zelda movie ever be made? Chances on that are next to none. Ever since the clusterfuck that was the Super Mario Bros. Movie, Nintendo hasn't been handing out licenses to Hollywood. Hollywood people tend to view such licenses as permission to do crazyass things like giving Dennis Hopper yellow contact lenses and making him go gaga for monkeys, making Jason Statham a kung-fu flying farmer, turning M. Bison into Superman, and putting plenty of dry-humping and cheesy bloodletting in Bloodrayne. Nintendo learned this the hard way, so the company's been very protective of their characters and sending one reject letter after another to Hollywood's billion-dollar high-rises.

I don't care if they'd get Matt Damon as Link and Naomi Watts as Zelda. Would a Legend of Zelda movie look terrible? Does a bear crap in the woods?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Welcome, sit down, sit back, and don't mind my pet white tiger, Montecore

Hi. The name's Eyeshot (not my real name, and believe me, my mother's already given me hell for it). I've created his blogspace because I've become inspired. I see a cloud on the horizon, and it looks like a flower; I see a spitwad on the sidewalk, and it looks like a giraffe. Hell, I see some lady screaming at the top of her lungs cuz she won a jackpot at Crazy Pete's Lucky Slots Casino, and she looks and sounds like a loon in mating season.

In this period of inspiration (which my horoscope says comes when Mars and Saturn are in retrograde, whatever that means), I've decided to do the only thing I can do: Make crazyass videos and put them on the web! And not just any kind of video; they're review videos, where I review a movie, a TV show, a book ... anything that catches my fancy. So welcome to my world, where I give you invaluable insights into certain films that might come your way!

P.S. Montecore is the name of the tiger that bit Roy Horn in Las Vegas. As far as I know, he's still in Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden, just waiting to maul some kid who gets too close to the bars.