Tag Archives: sci-fi

Interstellar | Review | Film

Interstellar

Interstellar is not 2001: A Space Odyssey, so get that out of your head right now. Christopher Nolan’s space-bound, more than featured length epic certainly shares some DNA with Kubrick’s classic, but in reality what you get is something quite different.

Interstellar poster

One similarity is that you can explain the basic premise without telling you much about the film at all. In a nutshell, Interstellar follows Cooper, a former pilot and engineer who exists in an age when the human race is grinding to a halt as it is running out of food. Despite culture debunking the Apollo moon landing as a hoax, to focus people on solving the problems on their doorstep instead of looking to the stars, in the end it is the stars which present the only real chance of saving humanity.

This time it’s personal

Coop's family and their battle with blight on their crops feels close to home at times
Coop’s family and their battle with blight on their crops feels close to home at times

Cooper’s own journey, and his relationship with his family is the real story though, with sci-fi merely providing the crisis to put things under pressure. Matthew McConaughey, who plays Coop, is very much the star here, delivering a very relatable and likeable performance in what was a critical role to sell the concept of the story to the audience.

The supporting cast keeps going and going, with the introduction of each new character bringing another “Oh it’s that guy” moment, though this is by no means a bad thing. Jon Lithgow and female lead Anne Hathaway stand out as the strongest performances, as the former fulfills a Jiminy Cricket-type role to Coop before he leaves Earth, while the latter jumps between believing in science and love as the increasingly head-scratching plot progresses.

Matthew McConaughey drives the film as engineer turned astronaut Cooper
Matthew McConaughey drives the film as engineer turned astronaut Cooper

From Nolan past films you may already have an idea what to expect here, leaving the somewhat more obvious Dark Knight Trilogy to one side, there’s always a cerebral element to his films, particularly Inception. You can almost watch the film in two ways: trying to make sense of the science and sci-fi or taking each thing as it comes and focusing on the human element. Nolan does a good job of balancing the two, meaning there is enough to keep a wider range of film fans engaged.

Despite Nolan’s experience though, the final act does require a bit more brain power and could easily lose some, particularly the open-to-interpretation final shot. Not thinking about it all too much is the best way to enjoy it, although a lot of the science is actually fact, even if it is baffling. The perceptive may pick something up early on which reveals more about the finale than Nolan may have intended.

Style or substance?

Without a doubt the film is a visual feast more often than not
Without a doubt the film is a visual feast more often than not

Visually the film certainly lives up to the recent depictions of space, particularly Gravity – in fact the film could be described as a more action-packed version of that very film in some ways, and that’s by no means a bad thing. The depiction of the wormhole, which provides the celestial doorway to far-flung planets, and the black hold found on its far side are particularly stunning, and give you a real sense of scale.

As usual, the silent depiction of space itself (due to it being a vacuum) is incredibly striking, and adds another dimension to some of the action set pieces. The score too does a lot to add to the atmosphere too, with Hans Zimmer stepping away from the somewhat distinctive sound of the past few Nolan films to something more soft and quite haunting in places.

Providing you have the patience for a three-hour film, which can slow down at a couple of points, but not quite enough to lose your attention, then Interstellar is an impressive film with a good sense of scale and solid characters. That said, it won’t set your world on fire, particularly is Nolan’s style of filmmaking has struck a nerve in the past. Much like Gravity it’s a film worth watching for any film fan but only the committed will jump in again to unpick it’s layers.

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry

Pacific Rim | Review | Film

Pacific RimThere’s nothing subtle about a giant robot. From the opening monologue it’s immediately clear that Pacific Rim isn’t a film to do things by halves. The age old story of good versus evil, but retold on a (literally) massive scale.

Or at least, that’s what you might first think: a simple, all out action blockbuster which is all explosions, set pieces and visual effects but no substance. In fact there’s more to the film than meets the eye and, if you suspend disbelief and commit to this post-apocalyptic world, you can be rewarded.

The introduction tells us that an event occurred in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which saw a creature enter the world we know from another dimension and attack San Francisco. Six months later there was another event, this time in Manilla, then more and more until the world decided something had to be done.

Pacific Rim
Nothing like a massive robotic killing machine to get your attention.

The world’s resources were poured into the ‘Jaeger’ program, a plan to fend of giant Godzilla-like monsters with equally massive Transformers-esque robots.

The comparisons flow quick and fast, with the film seemingly drawing from a wide range of sources, but due to fantasy heavyweight Guillermo del Toro at the helm the film manages to toe the line expertly.

The cast is source on big names, with only Idris Elba ringing a bell as military leader Marshall Pentecost, but in general holds together well. One baffling exception is the muddling introduction of Robert Kezinsky and leading man Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Beckett within minutes of each other, as both characters look very alike, but as soon as the action kicks off the divide in the characters seems becomes clear.

Pacific Rim - Idris Elba
“First, don’t ever touch me again. Second, don’t ever touch me again.”

The special effects are undeniably first rate, and the visual direction emphasises the scale of both the battles, and the contrast between the mechs and their operators.

Twists and turns make the story a notch above generic, but undeniably an ‘action romp’ at its core. The pace jumps between action and the slight unease of its character-building moments, with the latter always welcome but never quite comfortable. Luckily the finesse and style of the action drives the momentum and builds gradually towards the films’ climax.

Those expecting originality and a mind-bending experience may come away disappointed, but this is an action blockbuster which fires on all cylinders and delivers style and substance.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

What is Defiance? – Gaming and television combined | Feature | Entertainment

DefianceThe ‘movie tie-in’ game is one of the most disrespected of genres in the computer games industry, and yet SyFy and Trion Worlds have come together to create an experience which straddles both television and gaming media. The question is will does succeed?

In short, the cop-out answer is that really it’s too early to tell. Series one of the TV show is still only just underway (as of April 2013) and the games following is swelling slowly.

On the silver screen

The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she's not to be trifled with
The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she’s not to be trifled with

As pilot episodes go, the first episode of Defiance sets itself up well, but you can’t help but shake the feeling that is trying hard to be ‘the new Firefly’. Of course it will want to avoid the destructive fate of Joss Wheedon’s famously cancelled series, but the setup is undeniably strongly influenced.

You have a slightly gruff, reluctant hero and war-veteran with the heart of gold – Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) – accompanied by his young female companion who may well have one or two screws loose – Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).

The similarities don’t end with the characters either. There’s a definite post-apocolypse Western feel to Defiance, with a real feeling that people just want to get by and go their own way.

What is different to the world of Serenity though, is that this is Earth, a place called Defiance to be precise, the city which used to be called St. Louis before the trouble began, which now stands in the midst of mini wars taking places throughout the wastelands which surround it. The landscape has been partially terraformed by the arrival of the Voltan, a race of alien refugees who’s own planet has been destroyed, and the splintering of humanity following their inevitable clash with the Voltan has left a number of different factions, all out for themselves.

Being part of the story

The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.
The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.

The TV show serves to set up the story for the game in many ways. Despite being in different locations (the game takes place in San Francisco), the lore of this world puts it’s own twist on the issues of politics, race and deception, much as Star Trek once did.

In the game you take the role of an Arc Hunter, a scavenger who travels the wastelands searching for the best salvage and ‘scrip’, the universe’s currency.

As the game is Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO), your journey through the world is accompanied by others from across the globe, who jump in and out of missions at leisure.

Though based around social interaction, the gameplay doesn’t push it on you. There is area chat, which can be switched off, and you can make a group or go it alone as you please.

There are some areas specifically designed for multiplayer, such as specific cooperative missions and some player vs player modes, including the savage Shadow War, a 64 player battle to control an area in the vein of Battlefield’s Conquest mode.

Bringing it all together

The mo-cap on the TV show actors is reasonably good, but the visuals in general are standard rather than jaw-dropping.Where the two feed together is the unique selling point of both the game and the TV show though, with grand promises that down the line the characters from the game (even top-ranking players) could find themselves appearing on the show and vice versa.

The latter has already been teased with a handful of episode missions set ahead of the TV show, which show its protagonists in search of a crystal which then appears in the pilot.

It’s a delicate balance to keep both a game and TV audience happy when they aren’t necessarily bought into both perspectives.

Undoubtedly the two combined are greater than the sum of their parts, and seeing familiar elements recur is a genuine thrill, but with a project with such a long-term focus, is it better to wait until things are a bit more built up?

Patch yourself up

The 'EGO' rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).
The ‘EGO’ rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).

The first in-game update has already fixed a long list of bugs and issues with the game, though some reviewers’ concerns such as the lacklustre visuals and limited weapon options remain.

To topple the giant that is World of Warcraft, the world’s most popular MMORPG, would take some serious doing, but the team here have made an MMO, something altogether more straightforward to engage with.

Character customisation is basic, think Mass Effect levels of detail customisation, and equally the weapons take some time and a lot of luck to get interesting. Weapon modding is perhaps the most complex sub-system, with certain weapons having ‘synergy’ mods, which work together for an overall more combined effect.

The game does warm up quickly though, granting a vehicle to zip around the surprisingly diverse landscape, filled with mini-encounters and secondary missions to keep things interesting. The whole thing has a strong Red Faction Guerilla feel, which is no bad thing.

Early days

Defiance
The badlands have a number of different enemy factions in which tend to want to shoot, hurt or run you over.

The reason that this isn’t a review is because this is a game/TV series which is an investment of time as much as it is an entertainment experience in its own right. The ultimate decider as to whether the joint venture has worked will be whether they both last more then two seasons.

The potential for expansion is exciting though, and there are some good ideas and characters here begging to be developed further. Imagine teaming up with an army for a battle which spanned both the game and the TV show and your actions contributed to the outcome of both worlds. To see some real interaction and commitment to the vision both teams have set out towards could yet make the game one of the defining moments of this generation – a real trend-setter.

Hopefully these sorts of mutually beneficial collaborations are something which will become more and more common, with the one-sided affairs of old, which only sought to squeeze a few extra pounds out of a franchise, confined to the history books.

James Michael Parry

Looper Review | Film | This Is Entertainment

courtesy loopermovie.comTime travel: singly responsible for some of the biggest noodle-scratchers on film. Looper gets the topic out of the way in one 30-second conversation between Bruce Willis (Joe) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (erm…also Joe…we’ll get to that…), in a scene in a coffee shop which recalls the tension of a similar sequence in Heat. Willis quickly puts a stop to Levitt’s pondering about changing his – and therefore Willis’ own – future, dismissing the idea as a waste of time.

This exchange sums up Looper in that it is an action film, a sci-fi film, and even a love story, but it doesn’t fall into the trappings or self-indulgence of any of the three. Instead the film moves at a pace, with only an intermittent voice-over to explain a few choice pieces of terminology.

courtesy scifimoviepage.comAccording to the film, time travel is invented some time in the 2070s, and is immediately out-lawed. With movement restrictions and 24/7 surveillance at their peak, an easy nod to the present’s increasing ‘Big Brother’ culture, there is no way to dispose of a body in 2072, so organised crime decides to send their victims back in time to be taken out, meaning they never existed.

Joe is a ‘looper’, a hit-man who takes out these time-travelled targets for bars of silver with a trusty blunderbus. If the whole thing sounds like piracy, then it is. This is sci-fi piracy in the most tightly controlled and regulated way possible. The looper is given a specific time to be ready and waiting and the target appears in front of them, hands tied and face covered.

Both Willis and Levitt are the same character, 30 years apart, and as a result the character arc is immediately both interesting and confusing. The story begins with young Joe carrying out his day job with precision, this is a guy at the top of his game – think a more talkative Ryan Gosling in Drive – and as always, everything seems to be going well.

Of course, it doesn’t last, and the audience is treated to a massive helping of foreboding when one of Joe’s friends fails to complete the final task of any looper – ‘closing their loop’. As you can imagine, running a serious crime operation 30 years in the past leaves a lot of loose ends, so when your time as a looper is up they find your 30 years-older self and send them back as your final hit, leaving you to have relaxed three decades of retirement.

courtesy loopermovie.comKnowing that Bruce Willis is in the film, it’s fairly obvious what happens next, and often this film doesn’t push the envelope enough in terms of story, but the chase movie we are presented with does succeed on being more than meets the eye.

Levitt is a triumph at being a younger, cockier Joe compared to Willis’ usual gruff old man, and the interplay between the pair is fun to watch – it’s almost a shame that they don’t spend more screen time together. The wider world of Looper pokes its head in now and again with a few subtle touches such as solar panels clumsily bolted onto every car and families living in an abandoned school bus, painting a picture of a world where the loopers’ type of killing could easily fit in unnoticed.

Emily Blunt is the only female part, save blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances from Piper Perabo and (Summer) Qing Xu, and surprisingly manages to give depth to Sara, who is, on paper, just a single mother who lives on a farm. Unfortunately the obligatory lovey-dovey scene forces the character to take a step back toward cliché territory.

It’s Sara’s ten-year-old son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) who really steals the show though, delivering matter-of-fact lines with conviction rarely seen (even in many adult actors), but with the inherent charm of a child.

Looper is a film riding on a wave of hype, and at times it struggles to keep up with itself, but largely it delivers on what it promises. With any film which has multiple actors playing one role, the chemistry and natural delivery of the stars is key, and luckily Levitt and Willis have the skills to make the concept convince. Though there have been some ‘touch-ups’ to Levitt to make him look more like Willis, it’s the performance which really convinces, and cements the idea in the audiences’ mind before Willis even appears on screen.

In the world of time-travel films, Looper sits comfortably alongside Willis’ own Twelve Monkeys as an example of how to do it well. A few snags prevent the film from achieving its fullest potential, but it does give far more than you might expect at first glance, and the performances quickly hook you in until the credits roll.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Images courtesy: loopermovie.com, scifimoviepage.com

Film | Review: Prometheus | This Is Entertainment

In director Ridley Scott’s mind, there are two kinds of people – those who have seen 1979
sci-fi thriller Alien, and those who haven’t. Prometheus tries very hard to cater to both
groups, and largely does a fantastic job.

The film begins with a beautiful sweeping landscape, immediately hitting you with the
beauty and vastness of the spectacle you are faced with, before contrasting it with the
appearance of a huge, flying saucer style spacecraft.

At once the strong sense of style which flows from the film’s director is apparent. The sets
ooze sci-fi stereotypes, but all taken from a style which Scott himself (with his team) set
up with Alien and BladeRunner. The ship, the space suits, the corridors all look just the
way you expect them too, and go a long way to convincing you that you are in the same
universe as the creepy face-hugging aliens from yesteryear.

The strongest link for Alien fans comes in the form of the world-building terraforming
company the Weyland Corporation, ‘the company’ who will send out Ellen Ripley and
the crew of the Nostromo some 30 years later. It’s founder, Peter Weyland, finances the
Prometheus mission to discover the origins of humanity after a string of archaeological
finds which point to a specific star cluster in deep space.

The discovery is made by protagonist Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Noomi Rapace), who is brought along with partner Charlie Holloway to conduct a scientific study of a moon which
contains an atmosphere capable of supporting life.

The ship’s crew is made up of a band of clashing personalities, frequently not given enough
time or material to develop into more than stereotypical supporting characters, who help or
hinder Shaw in finding the truth.

Shaw is gifted with more development, the daughter of a Christian father who finds
reassurance in her faith, literally wearing it around her neck with a sign of the cross, and is
challenged by the revelations she experiences throughout the film, taking her on a spiritual
journey as much as a dramatic one.

Rapace does Shaw justice as a doctor caught between science and religion, and convinces
the audience to follow her down the rabbit hole, though things don’t hold together quite as
smoothly as the action ramps up in the closing act.

The development of the story is interspersed with foreboding, and for many fans the
expectation for creatures to leap on faces or out of people’s chests at any moment, but
flows along at an even pace, with the intrigue of what exactly the team are looking for
growing with each new plot point. This leads to a sense that there are more questions asked
than answered, but for the majority of viewers the pay-off of the final climax is adequate, if
not definitive.

The star of the show is Michael Fassbender, as inquisitive android David, who’s motives
are vague, but the character is constantly irresistible – with a combination of childlike-
curiosity and a callous attitude to humanity. Fassbender delivers his lines with the
calculating precision of a machine, while giving the constant impression of emotion, which
remains unflinching throughout.

Charlize Theron’s evil overseer role as Meredith Vickers gives a first impression of being
one-note, but she allows the characters emotions to gradually bleed through a hard exterior
shell, creating a well-rounded, if not quite likeable representative of the company.

While not the ground-breaking slice of sci-fi Alien was, it would be hard for Scott to out-
do himself in the genre, but after so many years away, the film is fun, entertaining and
dramatic, something which has the inspired touch of a visionary but also the measured
approach of a master in his field. A few light years from perfection, but when you are
thousands from Earth, it’s quite difficult to notice.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Gaming Exclusive: Interview with Mark Meer, Shepard from Mass Effect 3

Last year This Is Entertainment caught up with Mark Meer, the man who provides the dulcet tones that bring the Mass Effect series’ Commander Shepard to life (the male version at least).

What with it being a brand new year, and there being a brand new trailer to gawp at (take a look at the Mass Effect 3 trailer), we thought we’d see how things were going.

This Is Entertainment: So how are things coming along with Mass Effect 3?

Mark Meer: Swimmingly!
TIE: Anything you can tell us?

MM: Sadly, no.
TIE: The final Downloadable Content for Mass Effect 2 re-united Shepard with Liara T’Soni, how was it getting to work more with Ali Hillis? Is there any truth to the rumour that her character will return in Mass Effect 3?

MM: I still haven’t actually met Ms. Hillis in person, but it was a pleasure to hear her voice in my headphones once again… I cannot comment on Liara’s possible presence or lack thereof in ME3 at this time. I will say that the Lair of the Shadowbroker DLC was some of my favorite work in the Mass Effect universe thus far…
TIE: BioWare Project Lead Casey Hudson has said that the series’ third instalment will have over 1,000 variables to its story line. That sounds like an awful lot of lines…how do you cope?

MM: Keep in mind that I get paid by the hour. I’m coping just fine.
TIE: Mass Effect 2 bagged best Role-Playing Game last year at the Golden Joysticks, was it a proud moment?

MM: The awards and accolades for ME2 just kept rolling in over the last couple of months – I’m certainly proud of the game’s many successes, but keep in mind, I’m just a small cog in this unstoppable entertainment juggernaut! Plus, any credit that goes to me must be shared equally with my other half, the lovely and talented Jennifer Hale.
TIE: IGN reported statistics last year showing that some people have completed Mass Effect 2 23 times. Have you ever been that addicted to a computer game?

MM: Way back when (in the mid-late nineties), I once played the original Warcraft for so long that I missed a night’s sleep entirely. I was doing a touring show at the time, and when the rest of the troupe arrived at my house in the morning to pick me up in the company van, I instinctively reached for the mouse to move myself from my front door to the vehicle. True story. These days, I tend to limit myself to one “Evil” and one “Good” playthrough of most RPGs.
TIE: The trailer released at the Spike Video Game Awards showed us a glimpse of London being overrun by the Reapers. Have you ever visited? What was your favourite place?

MM: Speaking of sleep deprivation… I’ve actually just returned from London and performing at the Annual 50-Hour London Improvathon! My wife Belinda is from London originally, and we visit there often, so I have quite a few favorite spots in that fine city. I always make a point of dropping into the world-famous comic shop Forbidden Planet, usually take in a few shows on the West End, do some improv shows with my friends from Grand Theft Improv at the Wheatsheaf pub in Rathbone Place, and of course there’s Hoxton Hall – an authentic Victorian music hall in Shoreditch where we do the Improvathon each year.
TIE: The next Dragon Age is only a couple of months away from release, have you managed to get your hands on it yet? How’s it shaping up?

MM: Not yet – I’ve been away for the last few weeks, so I’m hoping to pop into Bioware and see what’s up…

TIE: When we spoke to you last you mentioned you were looking forward to playing Fallout: New Vegas and Dead Rising 2, did you enjoy them? Anything you’re looking forward to playing later this year?

MM: Got Dead Rising 2 for Christmas, but I haven’t been able to play it yet. Now that I’m home, I’ll dive in. I LOVED Fallout: New Vegas – only had time to play it to completion once so far, but I killed Caesar! I’m unreasonably proud of myself for that (probably because people were constantly saying “That’s the man who killed Caesar ” around me for the rest of the game). I’ll definitely take another run at that one. Another Christmas gift was Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare – I’m very anxious to get to that, and to Dragon Age 2, of course. And, as a comic book geek, I’ll be looking forward to playing DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham City…
TIE: You got a nomination for a clip called “Doug, The Last Man on Earth”, on The Irrelevant Show CBC Radio show, at the Canadian Comedy Awards last year. Were you miffed not to win?

MM: Not at all. It is, as they say, an honour to be nominated. I should mention, that wasn’t improv, which I do quite a bit of – it was a comedy sketch that I performed in, written by my good friend Dana Andersen. I’ll ask him if he’s miffed – I think he would have got the award if we’d won.
TIE: And finally, any news on Shepard’s chimpanzee sidekick?

MM: He’s going to smoke cigars and wear a little green derby. More than that, I cannot say.


James Michael Parry

Gaming: Exclusive Interview with Mark Meer, Commander Shepard from Mass Effect

While many people play computer games, there’s generally little thought for the voices behind our war-torn characters, until now. This Is Entertainment, in a totally original and never-before-seen stunt, has sought out one of these unsung heroes to ask them a few questions and find out some juicy game secrets.
The man in question is none other than Mark Meer, better known as the noble/dastardly Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and the imaginatively titled concluding episode: Mass Effect 3.
This Is Entertainment managed to catch up with him between saving the galaxy and having some herbal tea :

This Is Entertainment: How does it feel to be one of the most identifiable computer game characters of this generation?

Mark Meer: First of all, thank-you for opening with a flattering question. I feel lucky and honoured. As a long-time collector, I’m pretty thrilled that I get my own action figure later this summer. Of course, it will really be a Mark Vanderloo action figure… he’s the guy who Shepard’s appearance is based on. It’s also quite an honour to get to play the male version of a character Jennifer Hale is voicing – she’s one of the best in the business.

TIE: Have you played the games yourself? If so, what did you think of them?

MM: I have, and they’re great. I’ve usually seen some animatics and concept art during the recording process, but to see it all put together in gameplay always makes me pretty proud to be a part of it. As a player, the one problem for me personally is that I’m privy to many of elements of the plot, including the many alternate ways that any given situation could go. Here’s two equally geeky frames of reference: it’s a bit like playing through a Dungeons & Dragons module that you were Dungeon Master of a few months ago. Or like being Dr. Manhattan…except with pants. On the other hand, with something like the Dragon Age games, I can enjoy watching the plot unfold as it would normally, and then have fun slaying myself as a Werewolf or Darkspawn or what have you.

TIE: Mass Effect works on a varied morality system, if you were Shepard for real, would you be the noble hero, or the man who did whatever it takes to get the job done?

MM: Well when gaming, I tend to play ruthless on the first round, and noble on the second. It feels like I’m redeeming myself for all the poor bastards I screwed over on the first playthrough. Since there are few opportunities for a second chance at real life, I’d probably do my best to try to be noble.

TIE: There are countless dialogue choices throughout the two games, is there any line in particular which you’d class as your favourite?

MM: I could trot out “I have to go”, since I say it enough. Renegade Shepard has plenty of awesomely snide/badass comments… it’s hard to choose. As a side note, I had a blast doing all the Vorcha in ME2. Screaming and screeching at the top of your lungs in the soundbooth is always fun.

TIE: How did you begin to build the character of Shepard at the beginning of making ME1? Did you have a lot of room to experiment or were BioWare very clear on what they wanted word for word?

MM: To approach Shepard as a character is a bit tricky, because many of the lines you record will have to serve for both the Renegade and Paragon versions. And ultimately, the player is the one who’s deciding what Shepard’s personality and background are. First and foremost, Bioware wanted Shepard to be a marine – whether ruthless or noble, that’s who Shepard is at his/her core. Occasionally, we’d change bits of dialogue on the fly to make it flow better or sound more natural, and when Mac (Walters – Head Writer) was sitting in on sessions, he could approve those on the spot, rather than us having to pause in recording and phone Bioware for clearance.

TIE: What’s your favourite part of voice acting?

MM: I suppose it’s different to other sorts of performing since there’s the chance to play an incredibly wide variety of parts, including ones that you might not be cast in if the project were, say, a film or television show. Plus, you get to show up in your pyjamas and drink soothing herbal teas while you work.

TIE: What was your reaction to the controversies which were raised over the first game’s adult content? Were you surprised?
MM: Baffled, really. Most of what was being said was outright fabrication, so what was really puzzling was how these people who had never played the game were speaking with such authority on its content. But ultimately, most everyone realized it had been blown completely out of proportion and that some fairly tasteful partial nudity did not equal “virtual orgasmic rape” or whatever the hell they were trying to call it. As I recall, most of the “pundits” involved sheepishly recanted within a week.

TIE: Other than Shepard, who’s your favourite character in the series? And why?

MM: It’s hard to choose. I’ll have to go with my top three – Wrex, Tali, and Mordin. I guess I just like aliens…

TIE: According to me sources (i.e. Mr Google) you’re a keen gamer. Are there any titles you are particularly enjoying playing at the moment? Or looking forward to?

MM: Currently playing Red Dead Redemption, eagerly awaiting Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Rising 2, and DC Universe Online. Naturally, I’ll be eager to see the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect 3 as well.

TIE: Outside voice acting work you do improv shows, how are those going at the moment?

MM: Very well indeed. I just got back from the Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival and the General Fools Improv Fest in Regina in time for Edmonton’s own Improvaganza. A lot of comedy has been made up on the spot and a lot of beer has been consumed. While I was in L.A., some friends of mine and I did a special super-hero themed show at the Eisner Award-winning Brave New World Comics in Newhall. The show’s called “The Harold of Galactus”. If you know both improv and comic books, you’ll find that name hilarious. Otherwise, you’ll just be confused and angry.

TIE: Mass Effect 3 is due late next year and we’ve heard it’s going to be more ‘light-hearted’. For fear of danger to your family from the BioWare overseers, is there anything else you can safely tell us about the game?

MM: Two words. Chimpanzee sidekick.
James Michael Parry