Just kidding, I gathered as such from community opinion at the time of release.

A while back I stumbled upon a Starcraft 2 tournament video, and the match was exciting enough that it got me wanting to soak in Starcraft again. Eventually I made my way to Starcraft 2 wiki entries and reading up on the lore, and by god, the lore sounds exciting! when it’s laid out like it is on the Wikia for the game. Primal Zerg! Kerrigan ascension! Return and revenge of *all* the SC1 NPCs!

So I wanted to see one of these story scenes in action and

GOOD GOD WHY ARE Y’ALL NINJA FLIPPING ALL OVER THE PLACE LIKE YOU’RE BOTH YODA AT THE END OF EPISODE 2
D:<
THE CHANBARA SAMURAI CLASH ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME
YOU’RE PROTOSS NOT NINJA

There’s just, a hundred little ways that the cinematics in this game precisely, specifically cut against everything that gave the original game such widespread appeal. SC1’s cinematics had characters and units moving and acting within the cinematic just the same as they do in the game — if you saw a fleet of Dragoons warp in from invisibility in a cutscene, you would eventually be able to build and use the Arbiter unit yourself that lets you cloak your army like that. If you saw a Dragoon or a Zealot in a cutscene, he would only move as much and in the same ways as the in-game unit you command.

There are a couple exceptions, but come on, that sequence is a fan homage to Aliens. The extra things the Marines and Hydralisks get to do in this sequence are small, natural extensions that add to the world flavor of the game outside of the single-player story progression.

Starcraft 2, on the other hand — practically everyone is ninja-flipping all over the place in every cinematic sequence. There’s gratuitous slow-mo and shockwaves and things. There is such an over-reliance on the kind of action movie tropes that have come to define Marvel movies, that the game loses all sense of identity and coherence.

Much ado about nothing

But the more egregious problem for me is the writing, the raw words that the voice actors are called upon to speak. I touched upon this briefly in Part 1, the off-putting thing about Hollywood tropes isn’t that they’re tropes but that they’re used with such slavish devotion, to the exclusion of any unique voice or personality, that the work ends up feeling empty and lifeless.

Starcraft 1 had *deliciously* memorable dialogue. “Do you feel that, Cerebrate? The Protoss are here! They have been for some time…Hiding…On Char”
“Mayhap, O Queen. Or is it only that I need not flaunt my power at such an infantile test of will?”

The words are, loudly and proudly, unapologetically about Zerg and Auir and all these meaty things that have physical presence in the world of the game story. I LONG FOR COMBAT Between the alien words and the alien aesthetic, the actors had free reign to go all-in on emoting.

With Starcraft 2, however,  every word of every cutscene is ~drenched~ in cliche, locked so hard into being the exact same thing as every Hollywood action movie ever that the characters lose all personality, the words lose all meaning and feel like a lot of noise that isn’t saying anything about anything. “Face me, Narud. It’s over” “It is only beginning.” Does that mean anything to you? Do we even care? Is there *any* way to tell these lines apart from their verbatim utterance in any other movie, ever, aside from the Mad Libs slot for the name?

Every single bit of Starcraft 2 story I clicked on was just like this. Zeratul’s death reduced him to a plot device pointing our hero to the next MacGuffin, which *really really hurts* because he’s one of the most memorable characters of the series and deserved a much more dignified death than being a JRPG town member. The final confrontation between Kerrigan and Arcturus Mengsk is so hell-bent on speaking entirely in Hollywood dialogue cliches that it actually breaks grammatical and emotional sense.

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Ending – Final Cinematic – Kerrigan and Jim Raynor vs Mengsk

“You can never suffer enough for all the lives you’ve ruined, Arcturus.”
“I made you into a monster, Kerrigan.”
“You made us all into monsters.”

why does he admit full responsibility for the monstrosity before him

how is this supposed to be a counterpoint in his favor

THE ANTAGONIST HIMSELF says the line, “I made you into a monster, Kerrigan.” The VA’s intonation of the line just makes it even more confusing:

“I made you,” like he’s going to say that he made her greater than she would have been without him

“into a monster,” like the fact that she’s a monster now is supposed to give him the moral high ground. In the middle of literally the same sentence where literally the previous clause is him taking full responsibility for this outcome.

“Kerrigan,” with a final lazy spit like he’s winning the argument instead of having just said something that supports her case even harder.

And then: “You made us all into monsters.” In the ~DRAMATIC PAUSE~ she takes before she says that, you can palpably feel the executive order of cliche sucking all the soul out of what SC2’s single player campaign could have been, a brief moment to snuff out any last trace of personality before playing the next line in the script. It isn’t even a real response to what he’s just said!

  1. He’s literally just admitted that he’s the bad guy and that there’s not even any profit achievement to justify his actions! What even do you need to refute!
  2. You’re living in the same universe where Artanis is doing morally unambiguous heroic as shit defiant stands! (albeit with its own set of immersion-breaking cliche problems)

The trailer for the Warcraft movie is more of the same terribly soulless stuff. If you ignore the Blizzard logo at the beginning and the Warcraft logo at the end, it’s almost impossible to distinguish this from any other fantasy action movie that’s been released in recent years. Oh, there’s the intriguing angle of orcs allying with humans, but that doesn’t even mean anything unless you’ve already played Warcraft and have a vested interest in the lore. The *old school* Warcraft at that, since by the time it progressed to World of Warcraft orcs had already transitioned from violent savages to tribal nomads in the series lore. For all that Overwatch’s fun gameplay and enthusiastic gay fanart has restored my confidence that Blizzard still knows how to make games, the aural assault of meaningless words and Generically Epic Fantasy Music has made me sad about the future of the “-craft” franchises. Is there no way to rescue them from the iron grip of Hollywood?

Not a khaleesi, but a waifu

But as much as the lazy writing offends and wounds my linguaphile’s soul, it’s the crass sexism and sexualization that is most galling. In the Warcraft trailer, the male orcs are nice, orc-y orcs, giant, stout, beastly. The women orcs?

femorc

The human liaison is a supermodel with green body paint and two MINIATURE Halloween fangs

The first orc woman in the trailer doesn’t look supermodel-y, thankfully enough. But goddamn it, they should all look like *orcs*. It’s sexist, it’s objectifying, yah

AND IT’S JUST ABSOLUTELY UTTERLY JARRING

D:

It’s just visually confusing and self-defeating. Even under the most male-biased gaze, it *breaks* the aesthetic and the immersion to have no visual consistency between male and female of the same race. If the orc men are going to look like non-human behemoths, why don’t the orc women? If the orc women are going to look like humans with green skin, why don’t the orc men?

The Kerrigan-Arcturus cutscene with that emotionally incomprehensible Arcturus line has more of this stuff, and worse. The entire freaking point of Kerrigan, Queen of Blades, is that she’s the most terrifying, unstoppable force in the universe, a whirlwind of blades and infestation and psi-storms that inspires fear and hatred at the death she spreads everywhere she goes. In between games, she kills off all the patriarchal Cerebrates and replaces then with Broodmothers. Within the game world, it’s a natural non-sexualized extension of the insectoid aesthetic of the Zerg. As a piece of art in the social world, it’s a gratifying gloriously physical expression of tearing down the patriarchy and putting women in charge. You understand how much accidental feminism is mixed into this terrifying world conqueror-beast of a character.

kerrigan

You understand how absolutely offensive to the physical senses it is, how much it destroys the entire heart and soul of the Starcraft franchise, to have this the most iconic character of the series rendered in Playboy pinup poses and soft moans during her electro-torture scene.

The most powerful *being* in the universe, capable of throwing psionic storms despite her origins as a mere human — the only mortal creature capable of surviving the ascension to Xel’Naga — is brought to her knees before the electronic toy of a small-souled petty MAN because he’s a man, and she doesn’t get back up until her MAN Jim Raynor comes in and busts her out.

the fuck

And again! At the end of the cutscene! Here is a being who has mixed with the insect and monster strains of the Zerg race, and gone into the primordial first Spawning Pool to ascend to a Primal Zerg form. Here is a being of power and destruction who has insect appendages sprouting out of her back, who used claw swipes to attack in her original appearance. And here she is, rendered with soft lips and doe eyes and looking longingly at Jim Raynor IN THE ENTRY WHERE HER RACE AND HER PERSON WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE CENTRAL MOVING FIGURE

JIM RAYNOR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE SIDE KICK TO THIS GAME

why does he get top billing as the man of the house

how do you go back and retroactively fail the Bechdel test in a story that’s so far out in space and war that it doesn’t even have time for rom-com nonsense

tumblr_nowecbf48j1uw1s6ho1_1280

The world needs more Fury Road and Furiosas and Reys

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One thought on “Videogames and “Hollywood speak” Part 2: “No one ever told me how terrible the Starcraft 2 cinematics were”

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