When nerds collide

Tuesday, 8 November 2005 — 12:02am | Film, Video games

Well, wouldja look at that: Chicken Little hits the sweet spot, a $40M figure that could be spun for good or ill depending on who’s doing the publicity. I was going to crunch the figures and pull up a few comparisons, but as usual, Jim Hill has already done it.

My review of Jarhead is in today’s Gateway, and the editorial staff is as on the ball as ever when it comes to excising my litany of tasteless puns and Mock Turtle simile soups. As always, if you have a grip on what my blogging style is like, you can probably identify what’s mine and what’s not. My impression of the film remains intact, though: amusing as a style piece and an evening’s entertainment, but in attempting to be more serious and dramatic than its only cinematic cousin (David O. Russell’s outstanding experiment, Three Kings), conventional to a fault.

There’s also one specific item of trivia I don’t mention, because it doesn’t belong in a review, let alone any piece for a general audience. It is, if at all possible, even more obscure than Docking Bay 327 in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which I alluded to under nearly identical circumstances.

Jarhead has, to my knowledge, the first explicit reference to Metroid in a theatrical feature film. It’s a bit of a throwaway, because… well, it’s actually in error, though made as a figure of speech and not with the presumption of being factual. One has the impression that William Broyles had a little gap in his screenplay marked, “Name of popular video game from circa 1990 goes here.”

The scene runs thus: the marines are sitting on a jumbo jet to Iraq and discussing what is it they’d be doing instead if they weren’t gallavanting off to defend freedom and pop some ragheads. “Sitting at home trying to get to the ninth level of Metroid,” one says. “You know what happens when you get there?” replies another. “Nothing. You go back and do it all over again.”

Thematically, it hits the nail on the head when it comes to encapsulating Jarhead‘s attitude towards war: escalation, redundancy and repetition. Only Metroid doesn’t have levels; in fact, the series is so notoriously nonlinear that there’s an entire video game subculture dedicated to exploiting pathways unintended by the designers. So the point is totally lost – it’s no different from claiming rock and roll had stale chord progressions, and mistakenly citing the Beatles – but hey, they tried.

Tetris would have been a better example. On the original Game Boy release, the ninth level was murder.

In other news, Nintendo’s worldwide Mario Kart DS servers are online (though nobody has the game except for Nintendo and the press), and their Wi-Fi service website is live, and the documentation reveals a lot about how it will work. Hits: day-to-day, game-by-game stat tracking on the Web; a sporting interface not unlike the software that comes with most wireless LAN cards; WEP key setup that doesn’t suck aside from the pain in the ass of having to punch in my entire 128-bit hex key instead of my clever passphrase. The promised one-touch setup only applies to proprietary Buffalo routers at partner hotspots, though I suspected as much.

Misses, neither of which apply to me: the drivers on the USB connector for those without Wi-Fi are Windows-only (presumably under the assumption that since Macs have built-in wireless, users probably have a network going already – or maybe it’s just shortsightness); and for those of you who care, no WPA. The website also gives pretty bad layman’s advice for securing a home network (using your phone number as a hex key? Please!) but that’s the price of selling cool toys to the non-technical.

Also, if the Wi-Fi configuration software is embedded in the game cartridge, does this mean I have to punch in my setup all over again come Animal Crossing in December? Or does it write the profile settings into the DS firmware? If they haven’t finalized the Wi-Fi implementation until now, I’m guessing it’s the former, which would be a pity.

I have Mario Kart DS on pre-order, so I’ll give it a spin next week. Whether or not I report on the experience here will depend on the length of said spin, or perhaps its angular momentum. For now, it’s back to civilization – or maybe just back to Civilization.

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