I like a good time travel show and have for years. I think it all started with reading The Other side of Time by Keith Laumer at an early age, and I still enjoy them. So it should be no surprise that I was drawn to Netflix’s new German time traveling mystery series, Dark. The show is now streaming on the entertainment website, ready for perusal if you have a Netflix membership. But is it worth your time to watch? Let’s take a look, hopefully without exposing any spoilers along the way.
To start with, if you like mystery shows, science fiction, or thrillers, it might be hard to NOT find something to like about Dark. The 10 episode first season spans everything from government conspiracies to science fiction, with some child abduction and adultery thrown in for good measure. The show moves between three different time periods, so it can be a little challenging to keep everything straight. At least that seems to be the case at first, but it all settles down an episode or so into the series.
There have been some comparisons to Netflix’s other streaming series, Stranger Things, no doubt due to the younger characters that make up a lot of the show. But make no mistake, Dark is the bolder, adult version of that kind of story. The tone is set from the start of the series, and it doesn’t let up throughout the duration. The well-crafted show presents some strong performances from the ensemble, and even the music score serves well to keep the tone on an edgy beat.
The show is in German, but by default English speaking listeners will get an English-dubbed version to watch. While we have extolled the virtues of dubbed shows before, it really is up to the end user to decide if they want the original subtitled version instead. If so, just switch the language over to German and select the English subtitles.
Is Dark worth your binging time? I do think so, and I am looking forward to hopefully season 2. Things can get confusing if you don’t pay attention and the final episode will leave you grasping at the conclusion. It’s definitely a thinking person’s series, but it does have you guessing along the way. It’s the kind of show that is satisfying when the pieces fall into place, even if you do have to figure out a few for yourself.
The latest Thor movie from Marvel, Thor Ragnarok, has been released to moviegoers, and it has been received with strong reviews and an even stronger attendance. The crowds seem to agree that this Thor is a hit, and it comes in at a point where a lot of entries in a movie series start to lose steam. But instead, it feels like Thor has been rejuvenated, and it has left me looking forward to seeing the next one. In fact, I believe that Thor Ragnarok is the best Thor movie to date, hands down. Here are 10 reasons why I think so (caution: spoiler alert).
1. Even though the story in Thor Ragnarok is of Epic proportions, it avoids the boilerplate epic movie format.
The plot in Thor Ragnarok is actually pretty heavy, with the potential destruction of Asgard and the known universe itself. But despite this massive threat (definitely up there with Lord Of The Rings), at no time does the movie feel like an epic story. No doubt there is a time and place for such an approach, but I suspect moviegoers are getting a little tired of the epic approach so often seen in other movies of this magnitude. I don’t think Ragnarok even had the serious epic heroic poses moments, and I didn’t miss them at all.
2. The Music.
I have to mention the music used in Thor Ragnarok. In particular, how cool was Led Zeppelin used in the fight scenes? I have never seen the Immigrant Song better used, and it rocked the place, setting the perfect mood.
It’s interesting to note the song Immigrant Song contains the words “Hammer of the Gods”. How much more perfect can it get than that for a Thor movie? Some things were just naturally predetermined to go together, obviously.
3. Thor appears vulnerable, making him more like the rest of us.
Sure, Thor is a god by definition, but in Ragnarok, he appears to be much more human. In fact, he is having a very rough day of it all. From having a haircut forced on him by a scary contraption to losing one of his eyes, Thor shows a vulnerability that most people would never associate with the God of Thunder. And that makes him more relatable to all of us.
But it’s not just physical vulnerabilities that are on display in Thor Ragnarok. We get to see Thor having his feelings hurt and his ambitions questioned. The soul-searching talk with the Hulk shows a softer side of the heroes without being overly wordy (thanks to the Hulk). Thor reaches out to the big green guy and shows real concern for Bruce Banner being trapped inside. But the movie gets the meaning across without resorting to a long, drawn-out emotional scene.
Early on Thor loses his prized possession, his hammer, and we find Thor talking wistfully about it later as he mentions how he used to twirl it and fly. Thor is hurting from his loss, and it shows.
4. The movie shows that even without his main weapon, his hammer, the Hero still wins the day.
In the past Thor movies, it seemed like the audience was always wondering as to how he was going to use his hammer next to save the day. And for good reason, since having that much power at your constant beckon call is a tool that you can’t easily ignore when telling the story.
But in Ragnarok, Thor’s hammer is removed at close to the start of the movie. From this point on the story is about Thor, not Thor and his hammer. Of course, I hope he gets it back in a later movie, but it was good to see that side of Thor without his always ready weapon.
5. The movie tone is much more approachable than previous Thor movies.
Thor Ragnarok manages to avoid the epic and serious tone of the previous Thor movies. Nowhere is this more noticeable than with how Thor himself is portrayed. Instead of being invited along for the ride of the movie, Ragnarok draws us in and lets us experience some of the emotions as Thor himself feels it. Being able to relate to the God of Thunder tears down that distance between the normal viewer and the hero, making it feel more intimate and approachable.
Of course, the lighthearted aspects of the movie doesn’t hurt in this regard. Being able to laugh at a situation instead of being consumed by it builds a trust between people, and it would seem that trust is in play between moviegoers and Thor as he works his way through the events of Ragnarok.
6. Minor characters have a well used and entertaining role.
Some of my favorite moments in Ragnarok weren’t even the main characters. The surfer rock dude is a great example of this, presenting comedic relief as it moves the story forward.
7. The movie shows the female warrior side of Asgard.
So far the Thor movies have done a good job of showing the warrior side of the gods from Asgard, as we have seen from Thor, his brother, and even Odin himself. But the women were shown to be more god-like and aloof.
Ragnarok changes that, and now we have female warriors from Asgard that are even more potent than their men counterparts. Obviously Thor’s sister Hela is a powerful force to contend with, and she proves to be more than a match for Thor as she crushes his beloved hammer and soundly beats him in battle.
But it’s not only the female gods that are powerful in Asgard. The Valkyries, the protective female warriors of old in Asgard, are brought to the light as very formidable beings to respect. Even Thor is shown to have respect and admiration for these elite warriors as he admits that he wanted to be one in his youth.
8. Thor Ragnarok plays to your intelligence, not just your adrenaline.
Let it be said that there is plenty of action in the movie, and as you would expect in a Marvel Hero movie there are plenty of fight scenes to entertain. But the story doesn’t keep beating you over the head with how important the events are that are unfolding. Sure, all of Asgard and even the known universe is at stake, but we still have time to explore Hulk’s softer side without losing sight of that fact. Ragnarok assumes that the viewer can properly keep things straight as it takes the moment to pause between action scenes.
9. The movie shows an almost human history of Asgard that previously we were not allowed to see.
In previous Thor movies, we were asked to accept at face value that Asgard existed and was in control of its fate. But in Ragnarok, we find out how Asgard came to power, and we were shown the price of that rise to power. There were many wars and deaths that were necessary to bring Asgard to its seat of power, and even Odin’s greatest weapon, Thor’s sister Hela, ended up being a victim of its rise.
Showing the history of Asgard and its very real, almost human cost makes the story more believable. I don’t think people, in general, have an understanding of eternity or the power of a God, but knowing that something exists thanks to a powerful struggle to get it there makes it more relatable and appreciated.
10. The actors play a natural part.
One thing that Thor Ragnarok manages to do is to match the characters to the actors playing the part. Nowhere is this more apparent than having Jeff Goldblum play a very, well, Goldblum character. The actor plays this entertaining character to his natural strengths, and the movie is better for it.
Anthony Hopkins as Odin also delivers a part that seemed to be made for him. I can easily believe that Odin’s time is ending, and he is the ultimate Hero for Asgard as he realizes that Asgard exists not because of the place, but because of the people. His seeming sacrifice for Thor and being there for him later for advice seems like something the actor would do. The part seems natural.
While no doubt we will see a new Thor movie at some point in the future (especially with the box office numbers Ragnarok is returning), it is good to see that the movie series can reinvent itself in order to keep everything fresh. I have no idea as to the tone of the next movie, but I believe that Marvel has given Thor a solid foundation from which to tell new stories (and there are certainly plenty of other superheroes with which to share those stories). Besides, we may have just discovered that we actually like the guy.
Today on GamerTalk we are discussing the recently released Sonic the Hedgehog game Sonic Forces. This game is the latest in the Sonic series, created by the same team that did Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. Cody Chaffins has been heavily researching the game for us, and we are curious as to what he has discovered.
NerdBeach: First of all, let’s see what you thought about the game. If you had to summarize it and give Sonic Forces a score out of 10, what would you give it?
Cody: I would say 7 out of 10.
NerdBeach: What do you feel is the game’s best asset?
Cody: I like the plot, it’s good. I also do like the custom character generator, it adds to the game.
NerdBeach: What would be your main criticism of the game?
Cody: The game is just too short. The average person could probably beat it in 4 hours or less. Even if you had a problem with your dominant hand you could beat it in under four hours. I’m not joking. And why is classic sonic in the game after 80 percent of the game is already in 2D?
NerdBeach: So the levels are short?
Cody: Yes. Each level is only 1 to 2 minutes long. You just start getting into the game and then the level’s over. It can be irritating. I still find that some of the levels are well designed but too short.
NerdBeach: So level design is good in Sonic Forces?
Cody: Well, some are, they can even be really good for what’s there. But at times the levels can feel flat and uninspired.
NerdBeach: I know that Sonic Forces mixes both 2D and 3D gaming styles. How did that seem to work?
Cody: I think there was too much 2D gameplay and not enough 3D. Which is sad, because the 3D that was there really worked, ti was really good. But there needed to be more of it,
NerdBeach: Are there any new features in the game that you liked?
Cody: I liked the custom characters. This is a feature where you can make your own custom characters based on animals. I found this to be a nice addition.
NerdBeach: How many characters can you actually play as in the game?
Cody: You can play as the two Sonic Characters and as your custom character you created.
NerdBeach: Do you like that Sonic Forces is a direct sequel to Sonic Mania?
Cody: Yes, I do like that, but the execution was off. It seems like they did it on purpose just so they could retconn some older games.
NerdBeach: The classic sonic levels, are there new levels?
Cody: Well, they keep bringing back the Green Hill and Chemical Plant levels. They did that before in the last game, Sonic Mania. And then they retconned Sonic Generations, so now Classic Sonic is not from the past but from another dimension. It can be confusing to longtime fans of the series.
NerdBeach: Are there any disappointments you have with the game?
Cody: Yes. The game was advertised to feature four main villains from previous Sonics – Shadow, Metal Sonic, Chaos, and another. I was looking forward to playing against these characters, it seemed to be a main game plot of the new game as it was portrayed. But then Chaos, in the second cutscene, gets killed off and you don’t even get a chance to fight him. This ticked me off since I was excited to see him in a Sonic game again. So, classic Sonic appears and just kicks him, so he’s dead. You don’t even fight Shadow, so there’s another great villain wasted. And another villain you kill off in the third level. So three of those four villains are dead in the first 20 minutes. And even then Metal Sonic is way too easy to kill only 30 minutes later, leaving none.
NerdBeach: Do you think the classic villains were more of a marketing tool than a crucial part of the game?
Cody: It did feel tacked on. And I liked Chaos a lot in the older game, so I really didn’t like him not being a bigger part of the game after the way it was advertised.
NerdBeach: How would you rank Sonic Forces with the other Sonic games?
Cody: It’s not in my top five. I still like it, it’s a good game overall and I always like a good sonic game, but it doesn’t live up to some of the previous games. Still, I would rate it as seven out of ten just as an overall Sonic game.
NerdBeach: Sonic Mania was more or less a fan project that became a real game. Now with SonicForces, we have the professional doing the more or less sequel, which gives a great comparison point. Which do you think did the better job?
Cody: The fan project (Sonic Mania) was better. It was almost as if Sega didn’t know what they were doing, and they tried too many things in the new title. Such things as three different gameplay styles instead of being consistent with each title. Some of the choices they made were poor, that’s all. The classic Sonic doesn’t control as it did in previous games, which is confusing.
NerdBeach: With that said, would you play another Sonic game if it came out?
Back in the old days, before mobile gaming and its always-on connection was the hot ticket, people simply bought a game title and played it until it was ragged. But today we are finding more and more publishers are shifting to microtransactions for their revenue model. Now it appears that Take-Two, publisher of popular titles such as the infamous Grand Theft Auto gaming series, will incorporate it in all future releases.
According to CEO Strauss Zelnick, recurrent in-game spending provided over 42 percent of Take-Two’s earnings in the last quarter. Going forward, it will be even a bigger piece of its revenue model. As Zelnick explains,
We aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board
This change in Take-Two’s business model is in line with other changes we have seen of late. The case for a title to be an ongoing revenue stream is a strong one, and it can be argued that this could be a way to keep players engaged for the life of a game while paying for new development. Zelnick sees this as the case for Take-Two as he says,
The business, once upon a time, was a big chunky opportunity to engage for tens of hours, or perhaps a hundred hours. That has turned into ongoing engagement. Day after day, week after week. You fall in love with these titles, and they become part of your daily life.
Now, with that description, it sounds like Take-Two would be better off with a regular subscription model. But perhaps their research shows that people were more apt to pay for loot boxes and other forms of microtransactions than they were to shell out for a paid subscription. This may make sense, especially if they take the model of a paid game up front with ongoing microtransactions.
The decision to embrace microtransactions by one of gaming’s most popular publishers would certainly seem to be a death knell to the previous gaming model, where you bought the title outright at the start. But when you consider that most large titles have offered paid downloadable content (DLC) for some time now, perhaps it is not that much of a change. One thing is certain – the days of simply buying a game to play without an ongoing cost to fully explore it are changing.
It seems like we never get tired of time travel mechanics in TV shows and movies (well, at least it seems like I don’t). From countless Star Trek episodes to movies like Groundhog Day and the more current doppelgänger Happy Death Day, time travel provides a way to trip with the time fantastic and explore the incredible power of the do-over. But it’s hard to keep track of all the different ways time travel works in the story. Fortunately Minute Physics has made a video that does a pretty good job of explaining these mechanics in popular usage:
Of course, I have to say that I am a little disappointed that neither of Keith Laumer’s classic master works on time travel, Other Side of Time and Dinosaur Beach, were not referenced in the video, but other than that it’s a pretty cool watch.