Escapism vs Realism: What is Entertainment? | Film and Gaming | This Is Entertainment

Some people might insist that entertainment as an entity exists as a ‘way out’ from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, but why then do games and films so often strive to be ‘realistic’?

Surely if we just wanted to escape from reality (without turning to hallucinogenic substances), then the most attractive prospect would be to jump into something completely different from our everyday lives.

Take Super Mario for example. One of the quintessential platformers, there aren’t many of us who navigate pits of lava, turtles throwing hammers and flatten grumpy-looking, mushroom-shaped creatures on a daily basis.

Later Mario titles have arguably become even more unrealistic, adding talking fire extinguishers and intergalactic flight, and the titles sell in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps this argument is a foregone conclusion then?

Not quite so simple in 2012. According to vgchartz.com, role-playing epic Diablo III takes the top spot, a clear point for the escapism camp, and three different Mario titles are in the top ten. On the other hand Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 remains at sixth and eighth on the multi-format global sales chart after a massive 39 weeks on sale.

MW3 is a game which seeks to immerse you into a world of guns, shooting and slow-motion breaching (before more shooting). While this isn’t the sort of thing the average person would get up to on a day to basis (we hope), it is presented in a highly detailed and ‘realistic’ way. From here it’s easy to begin to appreciate how blurred the lines between escapism and realism are.

In the first days of console gaming there was no chance of you mistaking Pac-Man for a real person just wandering down dark alleys looking for pills and trying to avoid his dealers – the poor guy was made up of about 12 pixels and didn’t have any legs – but now with the level of detail capable my modern technology you can very nearly almost be lured into thinking there really is such a thing as dragons from the likes of Skyrim.

In film too the harsh realities of the past decade or so have bled through into Hollywood’s presentation of much-loved characters. Batman successfully shed its campish past for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005. British institution James Bond followed suit and underwent a gritty reboot the following year with Casino Royale. Spiderman too returned to his more ‘real’ comic book roots for Andrew Garfield’s turn as the webslinger only this year.

Clearly escapism for escapism’s sake still exists, exemplified by the mere existence of The Expendables 2, but the new normal seems to be geared towards giving consumers a dose of reality.

There is a flaw in this plan though – people don’t like it when things get too real.

There has been a lot of fan backlash from the reboot or Devil May Cry: DMC. Undoubtedly the ‘new look’ Dante is grounded in a much more ‘real’ universe, albeit with crazy demonic stuff going on. Many fans of the original games took objection to the re-imagining of the character of someone more grounded and supposedly relatable, while others were just averse to change in the first place.

Tomb Raider too has his the ‘realism’ button pretty hard and there has been plenty of discussion whether it is necessary or appropriate to tackle the issue of rape – even in the context of the development of the character.

Undeniably though, horrible things do happen, and for gaming and films to be taken seriously as artistic mediums, they have to tackle sensitive issues. Film has a clear head start, having delivered countless classics over the years revered as taboo-breakers and genre-definers.

With games, it’s more of an uphill struggle, since the medium already has a long way to go to be respected by fellow industries as more than just ‘something kids and teenagers do’, let alone by the public in general.

Could tackling ‘real’ issues help? Perhaps, but it’s only worth doing if that’s what gamers actually want, which brings us back to the debate in question.

Reality is huge, but imagination is limitless, so with nothing but technical stumbling blocks to hold developers and directors back, entertainment should be striving to push the boundaries and show us things we have never seen or experienced before.

Whether that is something relatable, intimate and personal or off-the-wall, crazy and just good fun is up to us. If we as the people enjoying these products don’t give things which are a bit different a chance, then there will be less chances taken by the big studios, and we’ll miss out on things like Inception on the big screen and Bulletstorm on the small.

In the end, escapism and realism aren’t as much at odds as you might assume from first glance, and there is certainly place for both in the entertainment world – it all depends on what you feel like.

James Michael Parry
YouTubery lovingly embedded from original source. Images courtesy: popchassid.com and setlol.com

Advertisements

The Dark Knight Rises | Film Review | This Is Entertainment

Hand-breakingly good actionWith its predecessor raking in critical acclaim from across the globe, not to mention two Oscars, the deck could not be stacked higher against The Dark Knight Rises. Quite amazing then, that the film generally manages to escape the shadows of previous films to hold its own and live up to its legacy.

Eight years have passed since Batman vanished after taking the blame for Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s killing spree at the climax of TDK and the years have not been kind. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is a recluse, Wayne Enterprises has been hit hard and there is a storm coming – a storm led by build-like-a-tank supervillain Bane.

The Nolan incarnation of Bane is far removed from the hulkish giant found in Batman’s most tragic cinematic outing, Batman and Robin (which, interestingly, Bale was almost cast as Robin in). Bane circa 2012, played to perfection by Tom Hardy, is a calculating and brutal terrorist, intent on bringing Gotham to justice. Sounding familiar? That’s because justice was the driving force behind Ra’s Al Ghul’s assault on the city back in Batman Begins.

In fact the ties with Director Christopher Nolan’s first venture into Gotham City keep popping up, almost as if the franchise has gone full circle. Unfortunately it does mean that the continuity seems odd, as TDK now doesn’t quite fit as well with the other two, despite sharing most of its name with the latest film.

The returning cast is on fine form, with Bale, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman slotting in to their establish roles reliably. It’s Caine though that really pushes the envelope emotionally, with the most touchingly tearful speech of the trilogy.

Newcomer Anne Hathaway as cat burglar Selina Kyle, or Catwoman as she’s better known, is a delicious blend of deadly and sexy, instantly convincing as the opportunist thief making the best of a bad time in a bad town.

Bane does the Caped Crusader some damage.The other two new faces of note quickly give a suggestion of the film’s mind-bending edge, since they both feature in Nolan’s last blockbuster – 2010’s Inception. Marion Cotillard’s shrewd investor Miranda is the first suggestion that the business world of Gotham is bigger than just Bruce Wayne. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Gotham cop John Blake, who provides a new point of view as the audience follow for much of the film, as the characters we know change before our eyes.

Gary Oldman continues his Oscar-worthy turn as Commissioner Gordon. This time around Gordon is held back from the front line, forced to let youngsters like Blake take the lead. Oldman perfectly depicts the character’s mixture of frustration, as he struggles to stay in control of his city, and regret, at keeping the truth about Harvey Dent a secret.

The spectacle of this film is undoubtedly the greatest of the three, with the sound and cinematography reaching new heights, something particularly noticeable when viewed in IMAX. The film’s plot is a double-edged sword however, simultaneously too complex and too simplistic. Some characters aren’t given the time they deserve, and the lack of a central driving force like Heath Ledger’s Joker really tells, as the smaller plot lines conflict and fight for attention towards the final act.

Nolan went into this film to meet the challenge of making a compelling final instalment to a trilogy, something notoriously difficult to accomplish, and thanks to his passion and dedication as a director, succeeds in making a film up to the calibre of the other films, but falls short of surpassing them.

Rating: 4/5

pictures courtesy: breitbart.com