By: Aiden McLean (reporter ‘21)
They say that hindsight’s 20/20, in that we will soon be seeing 2020 on fire in our rear view mirror. Unless you’ve been comatose since March, you know what this year was like. If you have indeed been comatose, let me tell you how this year was: it reeked! You did miss some pretty decent entertainment titles, though, and none of them were Marvel movies. Yeah, even during this chokehold of a year begrudgingly called 2020 we got some pretty good entertainment. Now, this year wasn’t groundbreaking in regard to entertainment—we have, arguably, had enough groundbreaking this year—but just good enough to keep us from going insane with boredom. So, I am going to review some of those titles in this article: like this year, there are going to be some good, some bad, and some a bit of both. If this year is going to be disorderly, WHY CAN’T I? I will be using an updated version of my rating system so that you can more easily see how much time I recommend you spend watching these pieces. Here are some of this year’s noteworthy titles that I hope you enjoy—I just can’t wait to forget, even for a moment, what happened this year.
My Rating System: X/10 description (Example)
1/10: so bad it physically hurt! (e.g. The Cat in the Hat ); 2/10: could not stand it (e.g. The Emoji Movie); 3/10: just plain bad (e.g. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones); 4/10: boring or didn’t like it (e.g. 1984); 5/10: meh (e.g. Star Wars: The Last Jedi); 6/10: passable (e.g. Venom); 7/10: found it okay (e.g. Monsters University); 8/10: enjoyable (e.g. Jurassic World); 9/10: great work (e.g. The Dark Knight); 10/10: went above and beyond expectations (e.g. The Lego Movie).
The Social Dilemma:
Ugh! I thought I said I wanted to escape 2020, not be reimbursed! I now have to fear that both social media and a virus are trying to plague us! Forgive my hyperbole, but this documentary doesn’t get any lighter. This is an especially good documentary by Netflix, and it sadly shows how much more divided we have become in America. I love movies and stories that are blunt with their message and are brave enough to offer a different and complicated idea: this movie does that. It doesn’t hold the hand of the viewer, nor does it pull its punches on the dangers and reality of social media in our life. The documentary is wonderfully done by using fictional characters and visuals to show the points that it is making. It shows a point of view that is often overlooked, that of the developers of these internet programs. Not the opinions of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, but from the little people who are below them. The ones who came up with the ideas and algorithms behind the programs like Facebook and Youtube. These developers show their disappointment and regret in making something that is hurting people when it was originally intended for convenience. I love how dark this movie is and how technology isn’t just manipulating our minds, but is nearly controlling them. It doesn’t solely blame social media for the great division occurring in our world, however, as it also attributes some faults to us humans. We are the ones who use social media and we are the ones who choose who we listen to and who we ignore. This movie doesn’t place blame on one side as both sides are at fault and both need to change immediately. Toward the end of the movie, it becomes so depressing that it feels like you’re being sucked into a black hole with no escape because of how direct the movie can be in showing the truth and offering no answers—it does suggest solutions, though. It was people who created these programs and it must be people who change it. We can make a difference now, and it all starts with a smile and a hello. I don’t have much more to say, other than that this is a fabulous movie that more people need to see. I give the Social Dilemma a solid 9/10.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve had a little more time on my hands and I’ve filled it by playing more video games. 2020 has been a decent year for video games with new titles like Doom Eternal and Fall Guys, old series returning to life like Animal Crossing and The Last of Us, and the sudden groundswell of excitement surrounding Among Us (it’s been out since 2018, and we're just late for the party).
The one game I remember most predominantly from this year, if I had to name one, was Team CSGOverwatch. I mean, Valorant by Riot Games, the producers of League of Legends and… anything else? I remember seeing the trailers and being thrilled for the game to be released. It looked like a first-person shooter (FPS) game mixed with an anime. It advertised different playable characters each with eye catching abilities, as well as quick and skillful action, and it was free to play! It seemed like an ideal game for us casual gamers who don’t want to buy Overwatch. I finally downloaded Valorant and saw what it really was like. Valorant doesn’t do anything terribly, besides its ridiculous prices for in-game cosmetic items, but it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well either. The nickname I gave Valorant earlier isn’t as much of a joke as one would think, because Valorant is literally a combination of Team Fortress 2 (TF2), Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), and Overwatch, all in one with a sort of comic book look. Valorant appears to be trying to be the most popular casual FPS game ever by combining as many elements from other popular games as possible. The balanced and team-based gameplay mixed with a cartoony artstyle like in TF2, the over the top abilities and wide character roster of Overwatch, and the slow and precise gunplay and competitive edge from CSGO. It takes all of these good elements from these games and combines them without understanding why these games are popular: because they have character. What I am trying to say is that Valorant doesn’t feel original. It doesn’t have enough originality or identity to allow these good characteristics from other games to flourish.
Everything that is original to the game is forgettable. The range of abilities the agents have isn’t all that much, and most abilities are too taxing or difficult to use effectively so I rarely use them. The characters were beyond forgettable with no interesting personalities among them. Even without the abilities, the game is restrictive. Because all of the agents have access to the same weapons, so there is little variation of playing styles, making it hard to personalize a preferred form of gameplay or to even get better at the game. The only way to be good at Valorant is to already be good at playing it. Similar games to Valorant like TF2 and Overwatch also require skillful play but they have alternative characters and sub-classes to add more variety to the gameplay, there are multiple ways to play each of the TF2 characters but really only one way to play a Valorant player with maybe a little deviation here and there between each agent. To tighten the restriction even further, the game has only two game modes which are almost exactly the same: one is just a little shorter. There are also no respawns, so matches become incredibly boring as people leave, or extremely annoying when you actually play when it's you and like one other person against four other players. Matches could go for almost half an hour to a full hour. With how long matches can be, and with how high of a skill floor there is, it’s clear that Riot wanted this game to be an esport for competitions. The only problem is that games need a community before becoming esports, something to draw players in, and this game doesn’t allow for a community to blossom.
The game was restrictive not only in game play but also in its movement, as it would take me forever just to make a ninety-degree turn, making me feel like I was carrying two bags of concrete on my arms. Valorant is also such a powerful and hefty game that if I played too long or with too many people, my game and computer would start lagging and even freezing with no way to fix it. The game came already set at the lowest settings of adjustment for the graphics so there was nothing to trim off. The best way for me to play was to rarely turn and to turtle in one position, and hope that someone would pass me before shooting me. I was also not the only one who experienced technical problems with valorant. Some computers after a while would start to regard Valorant as a virus or piece of malware, and it caused people’s PCs to overheat to the point where some people have joked about baking cookies on their computers. After a while, even my own computer stopped allowing me to even open the game. Maybe some of my issues were because of how old my computer was, but even after getting a newer, more powerful computer to play on, there isn’t enough in this game for me to want to redownload it. I had a decent, albeit frustrating, experience for the first few hours of playing Valorant. I like that it’s free to play, and I can see that it has some potential with the ideas it has combined. As is, there isn’t enough here for me to recommend it over other, better games. If you want the realistic and skillful gunplay, go play CSGO; if you want over the top character abilities and a wide roster, play Overwatch; and, if balanced, team-based gameplay with plenty of characters is what you need, TF2 has been free for years. You don’t lose anything by playing Valorant, but you don’t gain anything either. I give this a 6/10: it’s not terrible, but there isn’t enough for me to be invested yet.
So many people were looking forward to this movie when it was announced, but I wasn’t holding my breath. I haven’t been invested, let alone interested, in Disney’s latest craze of making live action versions of their animated classics. The best I can call these “remakes” are cosplay: they resemble the stories they are supposed to tell, but they don’t tell them well and miss many of the deeper themes and symbols that the animated movies had. So, when people said they were excited for this movie, I rolled my eyes because I didn’t think that Mulan was going to be good. Then the movie came out, and critics and audiences alike lambasted it without remorse. So I decided, “What the heck? Let’s see just how bad this movie really is.” I went in expecting myself to leave furious and cursing this movie, but instead I actually enjoyed myself—not because Mulan’s good, but because it was such a terrible movie. This movie deserves every bit of criticism and teasing that it gets. The whole time my family and I were watching it we were making fun of it: the lame story and messages, the stupid characters, and the action that was too stupid even for my taste (and I love stupid action where characters can do several backflips, run up walls, or move faster than the eye can see). This movie is like that kid who says, “My mommy thinks I’m tough and cool!” It tries so hard and yet comes off as shallow and trite.
However, not everything in this movie is total garbage. The cinematography is beautiful, as some of the shots of the landscaping are so gorgeous I would expect them to be in a BBC Planet Earth Documentary or in a National Geographic magazine. The costumes are also decent—they don’t say much in terms of story or characters, but they look authentic. I was also okay with the removal of Mushu, the Cricket, and the songs. That’s what a remake should do: tell the same story in a different way, and if that requires the removal of the songs and comedy to focus more on being an action-adventure flick then I’m okay with that. Everything else on the other hand is awful. What makes this movie so frustrating is how hard it tries to make this version of Mulan a “perfect” feminist icon and failing so spectacularly when the animated version was already perfect. The message that this new Mulan is saying to girls is that if they want to be better, just wake up perfect. No need for development, struggle, personality, or even intelligence, just be perfect with no flaws or limitations. If those evil men try to keep you down then do what they can do, only better, and this is so stupid! The best way to show how this movie failed where the animated version succeeded is by comparing one key scene each of these movies had, which is when Mulan proves she belongs in the army. In the new version, Mulan has to carry two buckets of water up a mountain with her arms outstretched. It proves that she is strong but, otherwise, the scene is empty: she did what any other man could have done only she did it first. In the original movie, she had to climb a pole while carrying weights, one representing discipline and the other representing strength. For anyone else who tries to climb the pole, those weights would hold them down, but when Mulan is told to leave the army, she shows she belongs by applying those virtues by literally using them to climb the pole. Brain over brawn. The message of the original Mulan movie wasn’t just that girls can do anything a man can, it showed the flaws of a misogynistic society. Mulan may not be as physically strong as the other men in her unit, but she was still intelligent and driven and she showed what can be lost when more than half the population is ignored. Let’s look at another scene, the scene where Mulan saves the emperor. In the original, Mulan uses femine items like dresses, ribbons, and fans to deceive and combat the Huns, showing that women are different from men but they can still achieve success. In the new movie, she simply fights the villain with a sword using masculine techniques and practices. The new Mulan became a man, while the animated Mulan remained a woman and stayed proud of it.
Also the addition of the Phoenix, we lost the Cricket and Mushu for a kite! That didn’t even do anything except be a kite. I also can’t forgive Disney doing what it did for the production of this movie. Disney filmed scenes and landscapes mere miles from prison camps run by the Chinese Government. This movie is garbage and you should only watch it to see and laugh at how bad it is. I had as much fun with this movie as I would with a movie that was an 8/10just because of how bad it was, but my final verdict is that Mulan (2020) is a 3/10. This movie is terrible. If you want to relive the story and legend of Hua Mulan, then watch the original animated movie, and tell this one to pack up, go home, it’s through!