Friday, August 28, 2009

Parasite Eve

With a few exceptions, games and film don't mesh particularly well. Games are an interactive medium, so you have to create stories and situations where interacting is a vital part. By contrast, movies are non-interactive, so you are free to tell any story you might choose. For the most part, this means that movie-based games and game-based movies never quite work out, since the fundamental part of one is lost when attempting to mesh it with the other. The good movie-based games find a way to take what is good about a movie, and then use it as a foundation for a completely different experience. One of these games was, in fact, Parasite Eve.

Now, I'm not sure if PE was based on this movie or on the original book, but it did use the situation in such a way that it expanded on the original idea and managed to make a significantly more interesting story and world. Plus, it had the perk of being interactive, and fairly fun to play. In fact, I would go so far to say that the game is better in pretty much every way, and the best way to experience the story is the few lines of dialog in game that explain it away.

The story goes that Toshiaki (Hiroshi Mikami) is a prominent scientist studying mitochondria, natures power plant, little cells in ours that we have a lovely symbiotic relationship with. He also has a wife Kiyomi (Riona Hazuki), who he met one Christmas Eve and is very attractive. Well, one day she drives into the back of a truck and dies, as part of a dastardly plan hatched by her mitochondria, which set about trying to take over the world.

For the first hour of the movie, not much happens. Just a car crash, some light mourning, and debate about whether organ donation is a good idea. Unfortunately, well aware that he has been trying to sell a horror movie that doesn't actually have much horror (or much of anything, for that matter) happening, director Masayuki Ochiai told well known (and normally reliable) composer Joe Hisaishi to get his creepy on. Thus, we get the funniest clash between music cues and on-screen action I have ever seen. Montages of driving down the road and labeling bottles are underscored with the most intense, slasher-movie esque score you have ever heard. "OH MY GOD HE'S ACTUALLY WRITING A LABEL ON THAT BOTTLE IS HE A MADMAN?" you might breathlessly exclaim, as the music tries really hard to make extremely benign actions seem intense.

The funny thing is, when stuff actually happens, the score settles down, as if admitting that the on screen action is actually interesting and it has to try a bit less hard.

That also gets to the biggest problem with the movie, the pacing. It is, in a word, terrible. It takes an hour before the plot even gets started, and it loads all of its action into the final confrontation. That doesn't mean it's an action movie, just that there is no action until very late in the game.

The story itself was handled better in the game as well. It doesn't tie the whole biology-driven sublot in particularly well, front loading the picture with a ton of exposition and obvious foreshadowing (more than one exchange about how our bodies would never betray us, and a bird eating a snail using bad CG, bad puppetry, and ridiculous music cues, for example), and then settling in for a lengthy organ-donation based diversion. It doesn't seem to know what to do with its running time, so it just plays around with plot threads until the climax shows up.

The only good scene, in fact, is the final one, which does have an admittedly cheesy message - love conquers all - but is well done, visually fairly neat and actually has the tension that the film was lacking yet trying so hard to drum up artificially. It doesn't necessarily make the entire film worthwhile, but it does make you feel better after sitting through the rest of it.

It doesn't seem like a particularly obvious candidate for a video game sequel. There's no real action, the story takes too long to get interesting, and there really isn't much else to distinguish it from other films. In fact, I was reminded most of Another Heaven as I watched it, and that was better in basically every way. Yet, I'm glad it did, because no matter how unremarkable the film might be, the game is pretty good. Maybe I should play it again?

No comments:

Post a Comment