"They're sort of, I suppose, weirdly opposite, in that the Doctor always strikes me as sort of like an angel who aspires to be human, whereas Sherlock Holmes is a human being who aspires to be God. They're sort of opposite parts. ... [The Doctor] wants to have fun, he wants to be silly, he's very, very emotional and sentimental, whereas Sherlock Holmes is trying to put all of that behind him."
"He [ Homer ] lived for a century in the City of the Immortals, and when it was destroyed it was he who counseled that this other one be built. We should not be surprised by that it is rumored that after singing of the war of Ilion, he sang of the war between the frogs and rats. He was like a god who created first the Cosmos, and then Chaos.
—Jorge Luis Borges, The Immortal.
Both H. P. Lovecraft and Jack Kirby told stories about the universe being beyond human comprehension, it's just that Lovecraft found that terrifying while Kirby found it rad. All I really have to say in elaboration on this is that one of these guys never left his house unless it was utterly necessary and the other fought in street gangs as a kid and served in WWII and maybe that says a lot about the difference in worldview.
Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone are two Playstation 4-exclusive open-world games that share the same essential structure and gameplay interests but diverge in completely opposite directions when it comes to presentation and pacing. To play them back-to-back feels like one game flowing into another as far as hands on the controller and eyes scanning the map are concerned. Stylistically though, it's an experience of an absolute whiplash. Horizon: Zero Dawn is an ambitiously gigantic map set in an overly post-apocalyptic version of America's Four Corners region, fixated on boss-like fights with gigantic foes singly or in small groups. Days Gone is an elaborate small-scale map, a country and a half or so of backcountry America just little south of where the game was developed in Bend, Oregon which, conversely, focuses on huge waves of smaller, simpler enemies. One tells a toe-for-toe story of classic adventure with a feminine edge, the other tells a more meandering tale that makes dudebro blood violence a core part of its storytelling identity. I want to talk about these games together because I'm fascinated by the ways these two Studios working along such similar lines, both brand-new studio-owned IPs, both third-person open-world action titles, both leaning heavily on cinematic story presentation, both fixated on a particular style of monster for its gameplay, could end up being so artistically divergent in the actual experience of them.
The most important shift here is not in tone, though, it's in frame. he symbols and references aren't from an older man trying to endear himself to a child, pulling details from their limited frame of reference, this story is completely introverted. Alice has lost everything that ever mattered to her and she thinks it's her fault when it isn't. Working those feelings through in the context of a literal struggle is the arc of the game's story. While that seems straightforward enough in today's market, keep in mind that this was 2000, when evil corporations with cyborgs were the primary villain of a given action game. More than that, action games typically followed a Macho Man aesthetics, from the low-key Doomguy whose bruised grin is forever etched into generation's collective memory to Duke Nukem's instantly recognizable voice and style of one-liners to the great mass of grim soldiers who to this day grace the box art of the games with the same pattern of stubble, attitude and automatic rifles. There's plenty of great exceptions to this, like No One Lives Forever's Kate Archer, but the trend unequivocally did not point in the direction of pairing Doom-style supernatural grit with a teenage girl's journey to the center of her psyche. What makes American McGee's Alice stand out so much from even other women-lead action games like Tomb Raider was this internal frame. Tomb Raider is not exactly about Lara Croft, it's about pushing bricks and navigating mazes, it's about exoticism and using Lara's feminity to "enhance" that exoticism, for a mostly male audience. With Alice, there isn't really anything remotely sexualized about it and the extremes being explored are extremes of image and emotion, anguish and grief manifesting as contorted, horrifying versions of once-familiar things. On the surface, some of the symbolism is so on the nose and simple and some of the images so self-indulgently gross and excessive that you might think that the game is being edgy for the sake of being edgy but I don't feel like that's the case here. The way American McGee subverts the iconography of Alice in Wonderland'' also subverts the predatory aspect of the original work. This is not a story being told by a grown man to a child, it's a story about a wounded woman, whose narrative is in her own control.
To see what the game could have been, had it actually been a genuinely sexist trainwreck, look no further than Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, itself a blood and gore action take on the Alice in Wonderland story, also released in 2011. That they were in development at the same time is kinda astounding, it's an Armageddon-Deep Impact situation, it seems like one ought to be trying to copy the other, but no, they're completely independent if parallel works. Sucker Punch, however, is a singularly bad movie and Madness Returns is an enduringly enjoyable game. They use so many of the same motives and even some of the same specific imagery to such very different outcomes. (..) Compared to the first game, Alice: Madness Returns is messy in its themes and its storytelling vision. Compared to Sucker Punch it is a feminist masterpiece. When talking about gender in media it's important to have a baseline and in terms of feminine interiorality, thanks to Zack Snyder we have measurable point to place absolute zero at on the scale of credible perspective.
Yep, Megamind released just four months after another movie about a bald supervillain who plans dastardly schemes, with his servant or servants that answers to the name "minion", and who ultimately become reformed through the female influence in their life, saving the day from a more threatening, but also nerdier, villain in an orange spandex. Now, I know what you're thinking, "aw jeez, did Katzenberg have his tiny spy camera placed on anyone who even thought about releasing an animated movie?", but the truth be told, these movies are very different tonally and plot-wise. And I don't think this is A Bug's Life - Ant Z. I think like these similarities were mostly coincidence, but that's just a theory. Jeffrey Katzenberg could very well be keeping tabs on every single person who ever dabbled in animation, just to steal their ideas for his dying animation company, now being helmed by the head of Illumination, how wonderful. And yeah, the precursor to Illumination's domination and Dreamworks' increasing irrelevance can be traced back to these two releases and the aftermath that followed. One was massively successful, spawning a gigantic franchise that is solely responsible for the Minion-ridded hellscape that we're now toiling in, and the other...didn't do that. As a kid, I liked Despicable Me a lot more than Megamind. it just seemed a lot funnier and even emotional at the time. Now, as an adult, whenever I see this movie, I really, really...still like it. Keep in mind, this was back before Illumination figured out they didn't have to try in order to make a profit on their movies, so in their first outing they actually tried with good emotional beats and funny jokes. This is pretty much the only good animated film they ever made as a result. But of course, now I think it's a darn shame this was the massive success between these two movies because revisiting Megamind as an adult, I can now see the emotional intelligence, wit and even artistry at work in this underappreciated gem. More and more people are really starting to connect with this one and recognize it's strengths.
Schaffrillas Productions, Why Megamind is a Subversive Masterpiece
Figuring out how you'd fix a book that you don't like is one of the best creative writing exercises you can possibly do. And sometimes it can actually lead to great book ideas, you'd be amazed how many story ideas come from "Oh, I really didn't like this thing about that, I'm gonna riff on the one thing I did like and come up with my own ideas" or even just thinking "How do I take this book that has a really, really great premise and do it differently from how this author did it to "fix it"".
Alexa Donne, Read Like a Writer
''Took me a second for this to hit me like a bag of wet sand behind my left ear; There's a huuuge similarity between The Boy and My Hero Academia: In both settings, every superhero is a corporate mascot, hawking fast food and snacks. And The Boys is one long reference to real life historical events showing how badly corporations can screw up. Dilbert meets Watchmen.