Monday, March 13, 2017

Best of the Best: 2002

SUCH a good movie. Arguably Disney's last great movie.

Year: 2002
Movie: Treasure Planet
Game: Eternal Darkness (or Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance)
Album: Degradation Trip by Jerry Cantrell
Song: Psychotic Break by Jerry Cantrell

2002 was an interesting year for me. It was certainly an improvement over the darkness of 2000 and 2001. But it was still a very uncertain time for me, as I was without a place of my own, kind of floating around, spending time at my mother's tiny apartment, settling back into college, trying to figure shit out. As far as movies went, of course, there were many big ones that year. The first Sam Raimi Spider-Man, while flawed (that Green Goblin suit was retarded), was a movie I really enjoyed. There was the second Harry Potter, the second in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (which in some ways is my favorite of that set). There was the excellent inverse take on an alien invasion, in the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs. There was the dark but interesting Spielberg directed, Tom Cruise film Minority Report. Many other little films I enjoyed like Orange County, John Q, Mr. Deeds, and The Transporter. I, like many people, saw the American remake of The Ring, and while it honestly isn't a great movie, I was certainly drawn in at the time simply because I didn't know what the hell was going on. In fact, it's the only time to date, that I have ever gone to see a movie two times in one day. My friends and I had seen it, and gone back to one of their houses, and his roommate had just gotten home, and we were telling him all about it. He wanted to see it, and the next showtime was going to start soon, so we all packed in a car and rushed back downtown to go see the very next showing. Sufficed to say, that movie freaked me out a fair bit, as I have a thing about ghosts and such. I had to sleep with the TV on in my room for a bout a year after that, let's just say that.

But while I was tempted to pick Star Wars Episode II for my Movie of 2002, I decided to go a different route, and pick what in my humble opinion is the last great traditionally animated Disney film, Treasure Planet. There were others around this same early 2000s era that were good, like Atlantis and Brother Bear. But I really loved Treasure Planet, it just had a lot of whimsy and adventure to it....and like Atlantis, it didn't have any singy-song moments, which is rare for Disney. I thought the sci-fi space take on the classic story was very well done, and very imaginative. And I really, truly wish that Disney would get back to making movies like this again. They did, years later, make another "Princess" film that was 2D animation, and a Winnie the Pooh movie after, but for the most part, they still just do 3D CGI cartoon films. And some of those are good, don't get me wrong....but 2D animation, to me, will always, always be the best. It just has a magic to it, that CGI lacks.

Probably the best "Horror" video game ever made.

Gaming in 2002, for me, was much like gaming in 2001, though I did perhaps get to see or play a higher volume of games. There were several games I tried and liked, such as Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, which was a fun Godzilla battle game, though it needed more monsters. Metroid Prime was a major risk, making a 3D first person Metroid game, but it worked out, as the game was really in-depth and fun to play, though hard. Nintendo actually released a second 2D Metroid on the Game Boy Advance called Metroid Fusion, released on the same day, a major overload for Metroid fans after a near decade wait for a new game. There was also an okay remake of Spy Hunter by Midway. But the two that are the strongest candidates for me, were both "horror" related games. The first was the Game Boy Advance game, part of the Castlevania series which I have loved since my teens, called Harmony of Dissonance. It was a game very similar in style to their Playstation hit Symphony of the Night, and some have criticized it for the fact that music isn't the most amazing in the series. But to me, it was the best new Castlevania to come along in years, and the best one they've made since. It was very fun, and they added some really awesome mechanics to the SoTN formula that fleshed out the gameplay experience even more. It was basically the SoTN sequel people had been clamoring for for years, so in all honesty, people should have been far happier with it.

However, I did not actually get to play HoD until 2003, so that leaves my pick for Game of 2002 to be the Nintendo published oddity (for them), a "survival horror" game entitled Eternal Darkness. Now unlike the Resident Evil series (of which the Gamecube that same year had received both a good remake of the original, and a not-so-good prequel called RE Zero), Eternal Darkness had a much better functioning gameplay system, in which you could aim for enemies heads, limbs or torso with relative ease, and there was more strategy and flow to the gameplay. The story and setting, though, were what won me over. Hearkening deep shades of two of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, the story spans many centuries, allowing you to play many different characters, as events center around a dark cult, a Necronomincon type book made from human flesh and bones and written in blood, and their attempts to bring the Old Gods back into this world, to wreak destruction. It had a fairly deep story, and some genuinely creepy moments, including a certain bathroom moment earlier in the game (if you've played it, you know), that managed to scare the shit out of me. Not a perfect game, and it really would be nice to get an improved remake or sequel. But it was really great and novel for it's time, and I enjoyed it a lot.

RIP Layne Staley.

2002 was a more sparse year for music, however, so my choice of favorite album and song was a fair bit easier. There were song bands I got into that year, but nothing that was new that year. So my choice is the second Jerry Cantrell solo album, "Degradation Trip". As you can see, the album was dedicated to the memory of his former Alice in Chains band-mate, singer Layne Staley (aka the reason I loved AiC so much). Layne had died that same year, of a drug overdose, as he had never beaten the addiction demons that had caused Alice in Chains to break up in the first place. But he was still a close friend of Jerry, so Jerry dedicated the album to him, and even wrote the last track "Gone" in his memory. On a funny side note, as you can also see, bassist Rob Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies, was in a transition phase at this point in his career, also having played for Ozzy Osbourn and Black Label Society, before he would ultimately get hired as the new bassist for Metallica in 2003. As for song, while there are several goods ones from that record, I chose "Psychotic Break", a haunting and somewhat sinister tune that has stuck with me over time. In a better year for music, I likely would have picked something else, but it's still a very good album.

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