A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a movie called The Last Jedi came out and a lot of people saw it. While there were a multitude of reactions to the film, everyone agreed it was just a movie and that there were far more important things going on in the world…
Well, if they didn’t, then they certainly didn’t push a bunch of false narratives – during and after the film’s release…
It is no secret that Nintendo has seen better days. While the company is far from in trouble financially, the Wii U and 3DS have not matched the high profitability of the Wii and DS. Part of this is the normal rise and fall of the video game industry (think Xbox-Xbox 360-Xbox One). Yet there is another sign that the Big N might be in trouble that is actually far more worrisome than lackluster hardware sales.
Nintendo is a rarity in today’s video game climate. It is a company that survives largely without the support of third-party developers. Want to play Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, Star Wars Battlefront – buy another system. This absence would doom most video game console developers, but Nintendo has been able to fire back with the likes of Mario, theLegend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros., and Pikmin. They are a company that carries itself on its first-party (in-house) software library.
In short: if Nintendo first-party games don’t sell, the company hasn’t got a chance. So far this hasn’t been a problem, since Nintendo games usually gather near-unanimous praise from gamers and critics alike. This past year, however, has seen a disturbing trend. Several first-party games have been released to less than stellar reviews, some of them coming from Nintendo’s most prominent series.
Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
Beginning on the Virtual Boy, the Mario Tennis series went big with its Nintendo 64 entry. Since then, the series has been a staple of fun sports games done well. While it never rose as high as Mario Kart, the series enjoyed success on the Gamecube, the Gameboy Advance, the Wii, and on the 3DS. Yet the Wii-version was just a redone Gamecube release and fans could not wait for the next console entry to continue the series’ high standard.
They’re still waiting.
Mario Tennis was a series that prided itself on its variety of modes and diverse game types, features that were completely missing in the lackluster Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The result was immediately seen in the critical response. On Metacritic, while previous games averaged a 77, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash manged only a 58 (5.2 out of ten user score). This is a dramatic drop, and not just in review score. In its first month, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash sold just 18,000 copies (compared to Yoshi’s Woolly World at 97,000 which only debuted a few weeks prior). Mario Tennis had a reputation, and it was severely damaged by this lackluster entry.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival and Happy Home Designer
How do you follow-up the surprising success of Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS? Apparently, Nintendo opted for a mediocre handheld game (which many critics said felt more like a mini-game) and a console release that convinced many gamers that amiibos were the stuff of gimmicks.
While this game did not receive the negative reviews of the others, it is worth mentioning because it is a Zelda game. Specifically, I believe that this game features the lowest average review score of any Zelda game made by Nintendo (these don’t count). The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes earned only a 73 on Metacritic (user score was 75). To put that in perspective, the average of the other Zelda games, just on page one, was 92. Again, that is a large drop off in quality (far down from A Link Between Worlds, which earned a 91.
To look at units sold, Tri-Force Heroes sits currently at just over a million, whereas A Link Between Worlds is just under three million. Again, it is not incredibly troubling, but to release even an “okay” Zelda game damages the brand of one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises.
Star Fox Zero
I include this last one with an *. As of now, Star Fox Zero has not been released to the public yet in North America, but reviews are coming in. Currently, it is a 72 on Metacritic, which is not terrible (currently above Star Fox Assault). That said, Star Fox Zero was the first game since 64 that directly involved legendary creator Shigeru Miyamoto – so expectations were a little higher.
Time will tell exactly how well this new Star Fox sells and is received by fans. Star Fox Assault, the last console Star Fox game, sold just over a million units, so that is the number to beat.
It is no surprise that higher review scores translate to higher sales numbers. In a world that is overloaded with games, it is tough to make a case to own any game that is less than good. Nintendo has survived on its brands and will continue to do so. Every misstep is costly. Series like Legend of Zelda will no doubt recover from Tri-Force Heroes, but when will we see another Mario Tennis game? To give a comparison, Rogue Squadron was a staple Star Wars franchise… that is until Rebel Strike came out.
The damage done by lackluster games cannot be understated. Here’s hoping that Nintendo rightens the ship before it is too late. Perhaps they are saving all their big ideas for the NX.
Longer answer: While reading a review of Annabelle in the Boston Globe, I came across an unfamiliar accusation. Peter Keough opened his critique with the following:
“Some praised “The Conjuring” (2013), James Wan’s film about the exorcism of a possessed house, for being scary without resorting to gore or special effects. Others, myself included, found the scariest aspect of the film to be its misogyny.”
I have seen The Conjuring multiple times and enjoy the film very much. I find it to be a well-written, well-acted, retro film of demonic horror. Personally, I had never noticed the misogyny that Keough referred to. After a little digging, the internet was revealed to have a few writers with opinions similar to the Globe. Andrew O’Hehir‘s article,“The Conjuring”: Right-wing, woman-hating and really scary, appeared to be the most notable piece of criticism. In it, O’Hehir damns The Conjuring for its portrayal of the Warrens, its use of female antagonists, and its implied message that the Salem Witch trials were justified. He also reveals that he had mixed feelings on the film.
Okay… slow down.
For the record, O’Hehir is not the only one to feel this way, there are other reviews that echo his own sentiments… but let’s look at the accusations. First off, the Warrens. For those out there reading this without seeing the movie, The Conjuring follows the horror standard of “based on a true story.” Ed and Lorraine Warren were real-life Christian demon hunters who roamed the land and looked for evil to exorcise. In short: they were/are religious extremists. The kind of people who are more likely to believe in the devil than Darwin.
Criticisms of The Conjuring take issue with the film’s validating portrayal of the Warrens. In the film, the couple’s faith is shown only as their greatest weapon. It is what allows them to defeat the demon and save the family from harm. While admittedly, the Warrens were not this positive in real life, I am curious as to what the solution here would be? In order for The Conjuring to work as a haunted house horror film – the Warrens have to be more than just religious kooks. The entire threat of the movie would vanish if the Warrens weren’t valid in their beliefs.
I feel that here is an instance where O-Hehir and other critics are projecting unreasonable expectations onto The Conjuring. EVERY MOVIE that uses the line “based on a true story” is fictitious. It is not the responsibility of any film maker to ever whisper to their audience “just remember kids, this isn’t real.” If The Conjuring were attempting a more meta approach, this criticism would be valid. As such, this is clearly a pure Hollywood thrill ride. The script does not address the fourth wall so director James Wan has no reason to either. It’s not that type of movie – these aren’t the real Warrens. They did not look like Vera Farmiga or Patrick Wilson either. Calm down about the portrayal.
Now, about the female portrayal:
Yes, the evil spirit haunting the house is a woman. A female antagonist does not misogyny make. It would as ridiculous as the claim that all black villains promote racism. Two of the main protagonists are women as well. Elaine Warren (who is depicted as the more essential of the couple) helps Lili Taylor‘s Carolyn defend her family from evil. O’Hehir seems to feel that the film labels women and their behaviors/identity as the source of all evil in the world. Again, this feels like a forced intrusion of perspective. Carolyn is not targeted for possession for neglecting her wifely duties – her family moved into a haunted house! If the ghost had attacked the husband, would that be a vengeful man-hating ghost uber-feminist? No, that would be a ghost.
But Carolyn is saved by the power of maternal instincts!
Carolyn is saved by loving her children and not wanting to kill them… you know, not becoming a monster. Could a person project opinions/commentaries of maternal identity onto this action – of course. Yet at its heart, it is a parent refusing to abandon their child, and fighting off an evil force to do it. It is the climax of the film.
Yes, this is a movie that projects religious salvation over evil – because it is a movie about exorcism. Is it validating conservative roles and proclaiming religious faith is the ultimate way to go? Sure… if any audience member actually fights a real demon in their day-to-day life.
The last criticism I would like to address is the charge that The Conjuring validates the Salem Witch trials. This is both a serious charge and a baseless accusation. By claiming (in a fictional movie) that one real witch existed in the 1800s, The Conjuring is somehow saying that those poor victims deserved what they got in the 1600s. There is no line of dialogue that refers to the Salem Witch trials. There is nothing to connect the dots at all. Having a witch in the movie does not condone horrible crimes that happened in real life. There are several witches in Wizard of Oz, and yet I do not think that film is looking to serve as a commentary either.
The Conjuring, despite its marketing campaign, is not trying to be fact. There are many films that cross that line far worse (The Fourth Kind comes to mind). It is not as intelligent as certain horror gems like The Exorcist, but it is not trying to be either. It is fine to not like a movie, that is a very acceptable situation. That said, projecting an unreasonable set of expectations – and labeling the film as misogynistic – when it fails to follow them, goes too far. Certain people will see scenarios where none exist. Certain people will read novels in the blank spaces between the lines.
In certain cases, there is something to it. That said, The Conjuring is popcorn. You either like popcorn or you don’t. Just don’t go calling it milk duds. Do not go looking for sin where none exists. That sounds like a witch hunt.