Commentary

August 17, 2012

In theaters

Fly Over: “The Campaign”, “Space Marine”

Comedic heavyweights fall short in silly political satire

by Macario Mora and Jayson Burns

Through the eyes of a foreign friend of mine Will Ferrell embodies the American male – unseemly, dull-witted, loud and ignorant, but with a ton of misguided confidence whose moral compass wanes in the presence of power, greed and faux beauty. Though ultimately, we always do the right thing – “America (heck) yeah!”
Ferrell plays the same character, time and again. “The Campaign” is no different.
He plays Cam Brady, a four-term congressman from North Carolina who seeks an unopposed fifth term until he makes an unfortunate phone call to an uber-religious family.
The call was intended for his mistress and rather raunchy. Enter Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis). Huggins is essentially the same character from the “Hangover,” but with a higher-pitched voice and morally upstanding – it’s unoriginal and irritating.
Huggins comes from a wealthy family, and is the Republicans only hope of defeating the imbecilic incumbent – his more ideal brother has a rap sheet. Furthermore, he’s bank rolled by the Motch brothers, an obvious play on the real-life billionaire Koch brothers, who send in Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to form Huggins into a serious political contender. It works, and Brady becomes more and more desperate as Huggins continues to gain momentum.
“The Campaign” does provide a plethora of laughs, though they’re simple, slapstick and nothing innovative. Brady punching a baby, shame on me, is pretty funny as is Ferrell’s bewildered face when he confusedly inquires why folks aren’t concerned about his hand. There are many easy laughs and plenty of raunchiness.
But, Ferrell and Galifianakis are at their best when poking fun at the increasingly frustrating political process. In one scene Brady and his team come to the logical conclusion that Huggins’ mustache infers he’s in cahoots with the Taliban and other extremists. Huggins’ and his team release a voyeuristic campaign video of Brady’s son and Huggins having ice cream, which concludes with Brady’s son calling Huggins dad.
The back and forth ad campaign wars reach their climax with the first ever pornographic political campaign – it involves Brady and Huggins’ wife. It’s moronic, lowbrow, though funny.
Through it all Huggins sincerely wants what is best for his small town and begins to realize that politics are turning him into – a politician. Furthermore, the Motch brothers reveal their plan to basically sell his district to the Chinese, so Huggins strikes out on his own days before the election.
The rest of the storyline follows a well-worn path of two individuals gone astray only to come to terms with their moral shortcomings and in the nick of time save their community and vanquish evil doers. The movie has its moments, but if you’re headed to the theater this weekend you’d be best served seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” for the fifth time.

The film is rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.

 

…..and in stores: ‘Space Marine’

Recently, Games Workshop has made an extraordinary attempt to bring its gaming franchise, Warhammer 40,000, to the mainstream gaming community. With Relic Entertainment as developers and THQ as publishers, Dawn of War and Dawn of War II (as well as their respective expansion packs) were released to highly positive reviews from both critics and fans. I whole heartedly agree, and it was to my great pleasure to learn that their next project would be a third-person action game: Space Marine.

Like Warhammer 40K games of the past, Space Marine takes place in the “grim darkness of the 41st millennium,” where humanity constantly battles alien races and heretical cultists throughout the universe. You play as the super-soldier Captain Titus, the titular Space Marine, whose been tasked to protect humanity from an invasion of rampaging Orks. Warhammer 40K fans and newbies will feel right at home thanks to the developer’s steps in making the universe familiar.

The story is simple enough to follow and serves as an effective means to keep the action going, but the supporting characters are poorly developed. Level designs are mostly linear, though occasionally branching out toward ammo caches or audio logs that expand the game’s back story. Despite the obvious sequel bait, the campaign manages to satisfy players who have invested considerable time.

Like the story, Space Marine’s game play is easily accessible to all players. The majority of the game is a mixture of melee and ranged combat with occasional on-rails shooting segments. Both combat methods are effective, and switching between them is as simple. For example, after slashing through five melee-based attackers, I quickly switched to my rifle and picked off a pair of machine gunners without pausing the action. Combat effectiveness is increased by a super meter that boosts melee damage or slows time for ranged attacks, while wounds slowly heal. However, this is best saved for tougher encounters. Game play improves when Captain Titus is given a “jump pack,” device that allows the player to fly into the air only to crash down onto the enemy in an explosive blast.

The one glaring issue with the game is the health bar. Though your shields regenerate, there are only two ways to replenish your health — use the super meter or finish enemies with an execution move. The latter is best, but though the executions look impressive, the synchronized killing blow leaves you open for further attacks. There were many occasions when I desperately tried to heal only to be killed before I could finish my execution.

The second component to Space Marine is the multiplayer mode. Players can choose between Annihilation (essentially team deathmatch) or Seize Ground (essentially take-and-hold). Both are standard fare in games today but are fun.

Despite the occasional blocky shadow, Space Marine’s graphics are impressive with detailed gouges in Captain Titus’ armor and distant dropships. The game retains its gritty atmosphere with its blood and gore effects (some of which end up on Titus), but the oftentimes gorgeous lighting effects add color to the otherwise dusty planet. Designs of the armor, weapons, machinery and overall landscape seem to have been taken directly from the source material, and fans will be hard pressed to find anything missing.

After playing Space Marine, I found that Relic Entertainment had done yet another admirable job with the source material, regardless of the game’s issues. Some upcoming (and thankfully free) downloadable content will come in the form of a four-player cooperative mode, adding to the replay value. Whether you’re a fan of Warhammer 40K or just a fan of the genre in general, this game is worth the time.




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