Monthly Archives: September 2011

New Spider-Man – Same Cultural Stereotypes

I just read Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man issue #2, and I am pleased to say that so far Miles Morales appears to be a normal, level-headed kid living in post-Ultimatum Wave New York. He gets powers, he stumbles into figuring them out, and he worries about being a mutant because they get sent to concentration camps. He goes straight to his friend to confide his secret and figure out what to do. Fortunately, his friend assures him that he is no mutant. No, he may be Spider-Man. (An ultimate, all-new Spider-Man, for those of you who need a reminder.) Read the rest of this entry

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Muramasa: The Demon Blade

The push for photo realism in games has really drawn attention away from games with great sprite art. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a title that got completely lost in the American market, in part because of it’s being a sprite-based side-scrolling action game and in part due to its being released on the Wii. In fact, I remember being interested in the title before it was released here and then totally forgot about it until a friend brought it to my attention again. I’m glad he did because the game really hit me on an aesthetic level and brought me into the world of magical ancient Japan. Read the rest of this entry

Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle

Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle.

Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.

Regulars here know my thoughts on games – at the core of the best games are puzzles. Gamers are puzzle solvers. The described ability of gamers in the article was absolutely no surprise. The skill is honed by playing games, and all we have to do is figure out how to properly channel it. I’ve mentioned here that I wish games were used to teach pro-social lessons to children, but I have no problem with pro-science and pro-health games popping up.

Torchwood: Miracle Day

It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.

There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.

But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.

Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.

But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.

I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.

So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.