Monday, June 25, 2012

Ding! 50!

It took me 6 months, but I have finally leveled a character in SWTOR to 50, the current max level. Here she is, my new level 50 Jedi Sage:

To commemorate this event, I thought I'd share some screen shots from my adventures (excuse the low quality video settings--my computer system isn't that great). Cue the nostalgic music...

Overlooking the sarlacc pit
Reenacting The Lion King. If only I could have zoomed out more, it would be clearer that I'm on a narrow rock outcropping.
Speeder surfing (a fun glitch I got once)
My pet orokeet races to keep up with my speeder, like in that imprinted duckling video
Tattooine's twin suns
I loved Alderaan, especially for those sweeping thranta rides.
Reclining in the Alderaan palace throne room. I could get used to this.
Upon reaching level 40 (and all levels other than 50), the achievement was greeted by droids carrying a banner that says "Congratulations" (in this shot, it actually says "tulations con", but just picture it scrolling). Not sure why they thought level 50 deserved less celebration.
Hoth: cold, but in some places strikingly beautiful.
Lightsabers are great, but sometimes you need a big gun.
Portrait shot of my Sage on the bridge of her ship, from the load screen
I still haven't finished my class storyline--two more planets to go, I think. Then there are all the hardmode flashpoints and operations to improve my gear and hone my skills. No rest for the Jedi. But it has been, and continues to be, a fun, exciting journey.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Finally Brave

Today marks the premiere of this year's Pixar offering: Brave. As many news articles and reviews have pointed out, Brave is notable as the first Pixar film to have a female protagonist. Sure, they've had a few important female characters in some of their movies--Helen, EVE, Jessie, Dory--but the main characters at the center of each of their first 12 films were all male. In fact, I'd say only two female characters in previous Pixar films have even held the distinction of playing the second lead role (The Incredibles, WALL-E).

I actually wrote about this problem three years ago, when DreamWorks Animation was releasing its first film with a female protagonist (Monsters vs. Aliens), after 11 male-led CG feature films. I figure I might as well update my lists for Pixar and DreamWorks films and their protagonists...

CG feature films (and main character, females in bold):

1. Toy Story (Woody)
2. A Bug's Life (Flik)
3. Toy Story 2 (Woody)
4. Monsters, Inc. (Sulley)
5. Finding Nemo (Marlin)
6. The Incredibles (Mr. Incredible)
7. Cars (Lightning McQueen)
8. Ratatoille (Remy)
9. Wall-E (Wall-E)
10. Up (Carl Fredricksen)
11. Toy Story 3 (Woody)
12. Cars 2 (Lightning McQueen)
13. Brave (Merida)

DreamWorks Animation
1. Antz (Z)
2. Shrek (Shrek)
3. Shrek 2 (Shrek)
4. Shark Tale (Oscar)
5. Madagascar (Alex)
6. Over the Hedge (RJ)
7. Flushed Away (Roddy)
8. Shrek the Third (Shrek)
9. Bee Movie (Barry)
10. Kung Fu Panda (Po)
11. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Alex)
12. Monsters vs. Aliens (Susan)
13. How to Train Your Dragon (Hiccup)
14. Shrek Forever After (Shrek)
15. Megamind (Megamind)
16. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Po)
17. Puss in Boots (Puss)
18. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (Alex)

DreamWorks may have beaten Pixar to the punch with its first female protagonist, but now they're tied again. Looking ahead, DreamWorks has seven films with estimated release dates (according to Wikipedia); the last one, scheduled for late 2014, appears to be the only one with a female protagonist. Pixar's next film will be a Monsters, Inc. sequel with the same old male protagonists. I can't determine any characters in The Good Dinosaur, though the following Pixar film, planned for 2015, will at least take place inside a girl's mind. I would hope mainly female characters populate a girl's mind...

So we have some female protagonists now in this highest echelon of children's animated movies (not that there aren't other great kids' films, but these studios are definitely the two powerhouses), though they are still few and far between. As I said in my old post, I understand that film studios and development teams are mostly composed of men, and people like to create stories about what they know and relate to. First of all, they should try to find more women. But in any case, we are not so different that good writers can't write for the opposite sex. Really, if you can get inside the head of a trash-compacting robot who lives with a cockroach on a long-abandoned Earth, you can probably get inside the head of a woman. We're not that mysterious.

I also understand that movies are a business, and if boys respond more negatively to female-led films than girls do to male-led films, that gives studios motivation to release only male-led movies. But as I argued before, if you always release male-led kids films, of course young boys aren't going to learn to appreciate films with female leads. It's basically a self-fulfilling prophesy. Girls deserve characters to look up to just as much as boys do. Girls don't have to be the best friend or the love interest--we can be heroes in our own right. Pixar and DreamWorks films are so popular and successful, I think they can stand to be put a little faith in their storytelling and their audience, be brave, and release more female-starring films. Help little girls dream bigger. This is a good start, but more often than once a decade would be preferable.

It seems preliminary reviews for Brave are positive but not ecstatic. Certainly better than last year's Cars 2, widely recognized as Pixar's worst, but not as magical as the great Pixar films. The primary criticism is that it seems too...Disneyfied. That is, it's a somewhat formulaic princess fairy tale. I have nothing against princess stories if the princess is as capable as Merida, but I do remember some people expressing disappointment upon learning that Pixar's first female-led movie would be about a princess. It seems they had a point.

I remain extremely excited and optimistic about Brave, and I hope it's a huge hit in theaters. I love bows and arrows, I love spunky young female protagonists, and I adore Scottish accents. I will see the movie this weekend, and in all likelihood I will love it. It doesn't matter if Merida is a princess--she's a master archer and a worthy hero for any kid to admire. Thanks, Pixar, just keep the female protagonists coming.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ready for Prometheus

Ever since we saw its first trailer back in January, my boyfriend has been repeatedly asking me, "So when does Prometheus come out?" He has fond memories of Alien from his childhood and loves horror as well as sci-fi, so this is right up his alley. Now his wait is finally over.

Strangely enough, up until a month ago I had never seen any of the Alien movies. It has been a huge hole in my science fiction movie experience (remaining hole: I've never seen a Terminator movie, though I did watch the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show). It's especially funny because, as my parents tell it, Sigourney Weaver was my idol when I was a small child. I have no memories of this--I was probably 3 at the time--but apparently we saw an exhibit about Aliens at the science museum, which inspired me to gallop around the house battling imaginary aliens and proclaiming "I'm Sigouwney Weava!"

Well, I've finally watched both Alien and Aliens (it is my understanding that the rest are mostly not worth the trouble). Alien was great, though also frustrating as horror movies tend to be when people are so obviously being stupid, stupid, stupid. At least the cat was saved. Aliens had more, well, aliens, but also a lot more guns, so it seemed a bit more fair, and thus more to my taste. And Bill Paxton--oh my gosh. Did people actually talk like that?! Not just ninja turtles?

Now that I'm all caught up on Alien(s), I'm ready to see Prometheus. Shame it won't have Sigourney Weaver. Over 20 years after I first came to admire her, that lady still kicks ass.