Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nitpickery -- Mega Man movie review

Hey y'all. I know I said I was going to review Disney princess movies, but for my lack of ownership of them (and my desire to not steal) I'm going to have to delay this for a bit. Besides, there are other things I want to review because they are interesting to me. I'm going to be reviewing a fan film, done entirely out by non-professionals, in particular Eddie LeBraun, the director. They actually did a pretty good job for what they had, though I'm going to nitpick them anyway, because that's what I do. Overthinking is fun! Yay!

Okay, so this film is called Mega Man. I kept thinking that "Get Equipped" was part of the title, but that's just the tagline. Anyway, it's basically a retelling of the plot of the first Mega Man game on the original NES. Man those were the days. I miss 'em. I'm just old enough to barely remember a commercial for the Game Genie that actually came on TV years ago. Anybody remember that? Naturally with my love of original video games (it hasn't been long enough for them to be retro!), I just had to see this film. I'm kinda shocked how good aspects of it are. I think we're going to see more of LeBraun as time goes by.

So the story of the movie goes thusly: Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are genius robotics scientists that have just developed a line of robot masters that will perform duties to make life easier for humans. After Dr. Wily is expelled from the project, Dr. Light and his robot "daughter" Roll proceed to build another robot, this one called Rock. Jealous of Light's fame and accolades, Dr. Wily steals the robot masters and uses them to devastate Fujiwara City. Rock decides to risk his life and become Mega Man, a fighter robot capable of taking down Wily and putting an end to the terror. He his helped from time to time by the mysterious Blues (AKA Proto Man) who is Dr. Light's first creation, a robot that ran away from the lab to seek his own fate.

This movie is actually visually effective for something not on a big budget. The cinematics of it are great, and the camera angles do their best to show off the places where these are filmed. I'm pretty sure that it was filmed in New York, but the movie calls it Fujiwara City. In the games it was Monstropolis, but whatever. The name change isn't a big deal. S'all good. It's not like Monstropolis is all that great a name anyway.

So, yeah, the way it was filmed was definitely the best part of this film. Being a fan film, they simply didn't have the budget to make something too spectacular, as far as fight scenes and costuming went. Also, they couldn't show anything blowing up, because naturally this was filmed in a city and you can't blow up public property. Not without getting arrested, anyway. So, there's no damage to the city from the rampaging masters, a column of smoke looks very solid, and trying to make Cut Man's hand blades fly out convincingly makes creative battles take a hit.

The movie opens up with Dr. Light doing a check up on Roll right before a reporter is due to show up and put Dr. Light and his new robot masters on television to gain exposure and begin to sell them commercially. I have a bit of a problem with this scene: why is Dr. Light letting a reporter into his lab when this is also his house? That's a security compromise, to say the least. Tyler Perry filmed Diary of a Mad Black Woman partially at his house, and he eventually had to move because people knew what his house looked like and wouldn't leave him alone. I'm just saying, it's probably better for Dr. Light to pick a warehouse or some neutral site to display his creations.

Also, the camera (the one the reporter's camera man is holding) is pretty close to the reporter's face at one part. You can't imagine he's getting a good shot. Even worse is when the reporter is signing off, and the camera, instead of letting the robots be in the background (which any reporter would want to showcase), lets a very moody Wily be very clearly on camera and brood. I know that LeBraun probably wanted to show Wily's jealously, but there are other ways to go about it.

Before I get too much further, let's talk about the acting job of the first actors to come on. The reporter and camera man were fine in acting, though I felt the reporter was slightly too cheesily done. Decent enough. Can't complain. The real gem of the first part, and indeed all of the movie, is Jeanie Tse as Roll. She's friggin' perfect. She's not particularly how I view Roll is, but she's even better. Jeanie is perfect in the part of playing a robot who is silly, sweet, and a bit too abrupt to be human. The slight awkwardness and total sugar innocence Tse brings to this character really brings about the idea of what Roll always was supposed to be in the games. In the Mega Man universe there's always been a thematic conflict between fighting wars and innocence, and this Roll stands perfectly on the side of innocence. She doesn't understand evil, and doesn't try.

Some people who watched this commented that Roll was annoying, but they're wrong. I'm calling it like it is. Any annoyance she has is like C3P0's in Star Wars: perfectly fitting for the realm in which it's portrayed. Certain people are probably too sensitive to that kind of thing, or maybe they just have a tag-along sister like Roll at home.

Ah, now the actors who played Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are Edward X. Young and Dave Maulbeck, respectively. These two characters side by side...okay, let's do this one at a time.  This is going to take some explaining.

Wily was fairly terrible, at least at first. A lot of people seemed to think that he stole the movie in the same sense that the Joker stole the movie The Dark Knight, and quite frankly it makes me ashamed that people have such an opinion of this Wily. He didn't do a great job. Then again, I haven't seen The Dark Knight, so whatever.

My criticism of this movie's Wily goes like this: he's pretty one-note. You're almost always seeing him through close-ups of his perpetually sweaty face (come on, makeup people) and he's always bickering about how important he is or how badly he's being treated. It's really annoying. Can't we see him chill for a minute and...I dunno, make a hot dog or do a crossword puzzle or something? Releasing the tension once in a while would help.

The way I always viewed Wily in the games was that he was always determined, and always ready to stack circumstances to make him look smarter.  I mean, come on, this guy has been defeated by Mega Man like ten times already without showing sign that he'll ever give up. He's got to be the most arrogant and gleefully evil baddie ever. Seeing Maulbeck whine and complain for the first two thirds of the movie was annoying. Wily might whine, but he's never unable to compliment himself and enjoy his intelligence. This is the Wily we get to see the last half hour of the film, one who is confident and boastful until the very last second. That I appreciated.

Also, his accent was very annoying. I think they were trying to go for something Germanic, but it really came across as a partly Russian accent, and a bad one at that. He's too deliberate in his constant turning of Ws into Vs. Gah. It was really distracting. I really hope they weren't trying to for a Russian accent, because that just doesn't seem like Wily, and if LeBraun wanted to do a sequel with the Russian Dr. Cossack, it just wouldn't fit right.

As far as looks go, I was pretty annoyed at first that Wily wasn't portrayed by a bald man. After a while, I let it go. It wasn't important for the character to look note for note like the game version, and this one wasn't too bad, other than being perpetually sweaty and having hair look like it was painted. I kinda liked it in the end. However, his looks, satisfactory as they were, created a reality conflict with the looks of Ed Young.

Let me explain. Maulbeck had a goofy, parodiacal appearance and over-emotive acting. Dr. Light's actor was the exact opposite: he was played by a guy who actually was older, and looked genuine rather than being some guy in a costume. I absolutely adored how LeBraun actually found a guy who could pull off the Dr. Light style, but this guy's acting had the exact opposite problem as Maulbeck's. He was very dull sounding, and it rarely felt like any of the serious topics he spoke of had any real emotional connection to him. He rambled on in the same mild tone without really making me believe he cared about anything going on.

It would have helped if he added more physical movement to his acting. Little things, like sighing, or rubbing his head, or scratching his ear, or fiddling with some technological whatnot. Maybe if he's upset he can slam a screwdriver down on a table. When he moved like this (very rarely in the film) it was a far more believable performance.

So, when you put these actors side by side, it really looks weird. Young looks very real and serious, while Maulbeck looks goofy and trying to make people laugh. It's just impossible to take this work seriously when both are side by side. It's like putting a clown in a movie where intense jurors are trying to decide if a man is guilty of murder. For the most part, I blame Maulbeck (or the way Dr. Wily was written) because this film more or less tried to have a serious tone about robots trying to understand humanity. Alternatively, LeBraun could have gone a more silly route and thus Maulbeck would have fit in better, but as is Wily wasn't a good villain. I mean, sure he's supposed to be an angry, jealous, emotional guy, but at the same time this dude is dangerous. It's very difficult for me to take whiners seriously. For most of this movie, I didn't feel the danger that should have been eminating from him. 

Let's move on. After the interview, Dr. Light takes Dr. Wily into his office and tells him that he's fired, thus ending their friendship (I'm going to cut out spoilers after this, but this isn't too huge a point, so don't worry). My problem with this is the excuse Dr. Light gives him: he wants to work on his new robot by himself. Well, he's just made a bunch of other robots, so why can't he just work on his robot by himself and let Dr. Wily handle making more commercial bots to supply the inevitable demand that his interview would bring? There are plenty of other reasons to fire Wily. Like his bad attitude and hygene. Or maybe Dr. Light already suspects that Dr. Wily is a looney. It's weird that we never see Dr. Light and Wily really being friends. I mean, Light put up with Wily for a reason.

Actually, y'know what? You don't actually have to make it so Dr. Wily was fired. You could have him just get pissed off really bad one day and just steal the robot masters with the access he has already. Maybe the new robot, Rock, will be so good at assisting Dr. Light that Dr. Wily just gets pissed off and starts blowing stuff up. I would have loved to see Wily interact with Rock before their fight against each other.

During the next part, Dr. Light works on Rock while Wily complains some more to his sentient AI computer Olga, played by Elizabeth Lee. Now she was a pretty good actress, and her accent, while still more Russian than German, actually sounded good. Too bad they don't really use her for anything. She's just kinda there for a couple of scenes and "poof", away she goes, never to be seen again. She has a couple of jokes, but overall her lack of a background or a future makes her pretty irrelevant.

Okay, this is a PSA to all people writing baddies: don't have them rant and rave about revenge and outdoing the good guys and then the good guys just forget all about it and get surprised when the baddie does something evil. In this movie it wasn't as bad as others, but still.

The scheme to make Fujiwara City suffer continues, and the six robot masters start causing mayhem. Rock chooses to upgrade into a fighter-bot and call himself Mega Man, because there is no one else to stop Dr. Wily.

Let me stop right there for a second. Okay, if a movie maker doesn't have the ability to make something show up in your movie, he shouldn't reference it. I'm talking about the lesser robots, like Sniper Joes and the like that you fight in the game on the way to the bosses. It's obvious this movie didn't have enough money to make complex lesser baddies, so they should have made the plot circle around their absense, not point it out glaringly. Ooh, I have an idea. If mindless robots were needed to imply the extent of Dr. Wily's control over the city, then combine the Sniper Joes and Mettools. Have people wearing all black, including masks, and then put a met helmet on them. Boom! There you go! They can be the generic baddies to spice up action scenes.  Maybe they have a shield, they definitely have guns, and you can call them Metool Joes.  Fans would appreciate something like that.

Jun Naito plays Rock. He does an okay job. He is fairly convincing of being a more or less innocent robot who just wants to help. I wish they had been less "Oh, I don't want to fight" and more "I'll do whatever it takes to save the day", because that's the real attitude of Mega Man in the game: dorky and naiively heroic. Not too big a problem, though, and I enjoyed his performance. Not great, but hey, he did the job.

Y'know, I really like how Rock, Roll, and Blues are all Asian people. Mega Man as a series comes from Japan, so naturally these people would be Japanese. It's a pleasant change, and you can really tell that casting was done with proper actors in mind, of those who were available. Some of the commenters said that Rock was boring, and I guess I see where they come from with that. He's pretty good during the earlier parts of the movie, but towards the end he gets really dull from trying to be cool. I guess it's easier for people to play awkward characters than cool ones. Like in the Matrix how Neo is far more interesting at the beginning of the movie than he is at the end.

We have Elec Man, Ice Man, and Fire Man as the actors with body armor on, and Cut Man, Guts Man, and Bomb Man are the digitally created masters. I liked the digital guys, but my problem with them was that their personalities weren't very clear cut. The Mega Man 1 remake Mega Man Powered Up gave these robot masters cheesy personalities, and for the most part LeBraun follows these to a more serious extent (Powered Up was some cheese, man), it just didn't seem like the digital guys weren't distinctive enough. It wasn't the acting so much as the writing. You can call Fire Man delusional, Ice Man schizoid, and Elec Man arrogant, but there's no real way to describe the others this plainly. Whatever. At least they looked awesome. I particularly like how Cut Man's design was upgraded to make him look more deadly.

The live action robot masters were awesome! Fire Man's looks were great, but I had a problem with him. They made him obsessed with justice and think that Wily was doing the right thing, but the problem with that is there's no real logical connection between blowing things up and justice. He could have really bolstered Wily's performance by having Fire Man say things about all people being appreciated for their genius or somesuch like that. As it was, his words sounded like ranting. The actor, Hugo Salazar Jr (awesome name!), did a good job with what he had to work with, and I like how much crazier than the other robots he was.

Ice Man! Wayne Chang! Wayne was a perfect pick. He was so cute, just like Ice Man, and he did a good job bringing to life the master. However, of all the robot masters ever designed, Ice Man should have been the easiest to costume. He wears a cute blue parka in the game, but not in the movie. Why not? He would have looked a lot more distinctive and sweet. Come on....please? For me?

Alan Fung as Elec Man to me was the second greatest acting job in the movie. He was magnificent, and I really believed him as the macho, arrogant bastard that Elec Man definitely is. I wish he could have had a greater role in the movie, like stealing something (spoiler: the designs for Rock to make Copy Robot) from Dr. Light. He was just too devious a baddie to die so soon. And he had great hair. LeBraun does a sequel to this movie, he needs to cast Alan Fung as Quick Man. And in the meantime, somebody needs to cast Alan Fung in something else, because he has acting gravitas.

My one problem with Elec Man is the way he died. Well, not the physical way, because that was pwn, but who did it. Spoiler alert, go skip ahead if you don't want to read this. Proto Man kills him. I know that Proto Man is supposed to help Mega Man out, but until Mega Man 9, Blues never actually assisted Mega in any actual fighting, and that's only if you count Proto Man's downloadable play mode as plot canon (I don't). Even worse, Elec Man, a very dangerous master in the game, isn't able to damage Proto Man at all. Proto Man is a prototype to the newer robots, so shouldn't he be weaker? Lame.

Also, this movie is about Rock going to fight the robot masters because nobody else can. This bit really shoots that in the foot because if Proto Man can do so without incurring damage to himself, what's the point? It's a huge letdown. In Mega Man 3, Proto Man's first game appearance, he actually fights against Mega Man because he doesn't trust him right away. Couldn't they have done something like that? It would have been really intruiging if Proto Man thought Rock was just a stupid hero automaton Dr. Light made to save everyone. Or heck, save that entire plotline for a sequel, and just have PM do a cameo or two just to watch Rock and see what's up. Another idea would be to have him actually work for Dr. Wily because for whatever reason he's tricked into trusting Dr. Wily more. Something.

Spoilers are done now.

Okay, so let's talk about Sung-Mo Cho, who played Proto Man. Most of my complaints for him are due to faulty writing, not acting. He did a good job being the mysterious and slightly self-righteous Proto Man, and I can tell I would have enjoyed him more but for plot awkwardness. I mean, come on, (spoiler!) his free will results from a power core error? That's like saying a clock gets free will because its batteries started leaking. There are better ways to say he has free will. And since clearly Rock and Roll have free will themselves (Rock's choice to be a hero was his own, Roll's choice to make pancakes instead of eggs was her own), it's pretty ridiculous that fixing the error would make him an automaton. There's better ways to make him run away from home.

Also, the problems between Proto Man and his estranged creator are potentially very complex. I feel that they are oversimplified in this movie, and they more or less get resolved in the end. Come on, let some bitterness drag on a while for intruigue's sake! Instead Proto Man seems to be handled in the exact way to prevent LeBraun from having good drama for a sequel. Honestly, the subplot of Dr. Light's wife was fairly poorly done, and cutting out Proto Man would have given both it and Rock some time to develop. Of course, that sort of does tie LeBraun down to a sequel, and he'll probably want to change it up at some point. Bah, nobody ever does anything for the Mega Man 5 robots...they're my favorite...wah. Whine whine, complain complain.

Okay, so throughout the action of this movie, there are times when the action just slows to a crawl and Dr. Light gets out needless explosition. First of all, you'd be surprised how good a work is when it's trimmed down, and secondly, it's always better to show rather than tell. It feels like nobody can ask Dr. Light anything without him giving a long winded answer. And when Mega Man finally defeats the robot masters, the plot starts really kicking, only to be slammed in the face with how the fight with the yellow devil ends. Honestly, that plot point needed to be cut out entirely. Use the time on it to extend the fight with yellow devil and make it look awesome.

You know, in this Wily complains that Dr. Light isn't the only one who's lost someone. It would have been really interesting to find out that Olga was really Wily's dead sister that Wily put into a computer to save her life. Or maybe just have him muse over someone really important to him that died or left him, or something. That would have been cool. Not really necessary, but cool.

I really love Wily's freak out session when he finally loses at the end. It combines the hilarity of Wily begging for his life like in the games with the seriousness of Wily's real hurt from his lifelong rejection.

Okay, so to sum it all up, there are several things good and bad about this movie, but overall, it feels very much like the fanfiction I read over at It's an origin story for Mega Man, it doesn't go too far from the game's bounds and give it more creativity, and the plot feels clunky whenever it has to transition from one scene to the next. Writers will be very inspired for certain moments of a story they want to write, but in between those they have to figure out how they're going to make everything work.

This may have been a low budget film, but good writing costs only time, not money. The dialogue itself was fairly good, other than Dr. Light being forced to be Captain Exposition, Wily not being able to do anything but whine for the first hour, and Fire Man's ranting. If proper plot planning had been done, then much of the film's problems could have been avoided. As a writer, I see things like this and wonder how they happen. Writing alone would have turned this film around and made it much better. Costuming and a better computer budget would have helped, but not to this extent.

This film is fairly good if you are a fan, but for those of you who aren't into Mega Man or don't know what it is, it's a fairly standard action movie with a few cute moments. Heck, I like it despite all of its flaws. It's fun, silly, and in certain ways better than Hollywood could do. I look at this movie and see a great big wad of potential. Go to and click the link to check it out.

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