I know, I know, only a Sith deals in absolutes. Anyway, this is an obligatory end of the year post that’s a day late, because I never finish anything I start on time. This kind of stuff usually works best with bigger lists. Especially since I have such a hard time picking a best of/worst of anything. But I’m going to force myself to pick a best and worst, and a biggest surprise for each of the main media type things I consume regularly. For anyone just tuning in to my rants, that’s books, movies, video games, TV and toys. I like to leave music alone, because I just hate so goddamn much of it, and there really isn’t any good reason for it.
But that’s another rant. So… here we go with 2012 In Absolutes*.
*please keep in mind that I haven’t seen, played or read many things that were released this year. In regards to books, I haven’t read hardly anything at all that was released this year, so I’ll be dealing instead with the ones that I did indeed read, many of which were only really popularized this year because of movie tie-ins.
2012’s Absolute Best Movie:
I admit, I was excited for this movie. I hadn’t outright hated any of the lead in movies. I have a bit of a dislike for Iron Man 2, but otherwise, I really, really enjoyed all of Marvel’s Phase 1 series of movies. They all lead up to this one, though. In order for it to work, this movie was going to have to be an adventurous romp through the Marvel Universe, with some of their heaviest hitters having to share the screen. The result was one of the funniest, most action packed, entertaining things to hit the big screen in a long damn time. I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much, on all levels, probably since Terminator 2: Judgement Day. If you know me at all, that is some high fucking praise.
2012’s Absolute Worst Movie:
Admittedly, I’ve seen maybe a dozen new movies this year. For me, this was the worst of them. It committed the mortal sin of being absolutely fucking boring. I nearly fell asleep 4 times in the theatre. I’ve never had that problem with a Tim Burton movie before. While I might not always agree in the direction he takes with his movies, I’ve never had the desire to walk out on one them before. He gets a lot of flack for churning out the same thing over and over. I think that’s fine, if you like the same thing over and over. I buy the same flavour of ice cream every time. I drink the same type of soda. I love AC/DC. I used to say with confidence I like Tim Burton movies. After this, I’m beginning to wonder. It was boring and forgettable. Literally the only thing I remember about it now (other than the Burton constants) are 1) It was based on an old soap opera and 2) I think I was supposed to be surprised when the daughter turned out to be a werewolf. Terrible movie.
2012’s Absolute Biggest Movie Surprise:
I was shocked, utterly amazed, the day after watching this movie. Leaving the theatre, I had thought, “That was pretty decent, I guess. Other than Bane. And that twist.” I told my brother as much. He thought it was really good. The next day we were talking about what we liked about it, and I found I couldn’t remember anything at all I had liked about it. I remembered laughing at it. I remembered thinking the action was okay, but was ruined by terrible dialogue throughout. I remembered a terrible double whoop-de-doo-twister ending that made no fucking sense what-so-ever. What I couldn’t remember was anything that made the movie really good. Over the next few days of us discussing it, I had to come to the realization… I really didn’t like the movie at all. I had left the theatre in denial. This disappointed me greatly. I really, really wanted to like this movie.
2012’s Absolute Best Video Game:
I still can’t believe what an enjoyable experience this game was. Granted, it’s probably only a step above Dragon’s Lair in terms of not simply being an interactive movie. But if you accept that that’s what a point and click adventure game is supposed to play like, this game is an amazing experience for anyone that loves a good The-World-As-We-Know-It-Has-Ended story. Since the story is paramount in a point and click adventure, the writing becomes a major focus. The writing here is done well enough that the choices you make feel like they matter, and the story is solid throughout, with an ending that fits. All of these story related successes hold up a spotlight against the flaws of what I’m deeming…
2012’s Absolute Worst Video Game:
Okay. If you’ve played the game… hear me out. I know I’m not being fair, but I really don’t give two shits. I don’t feel entitled. I don’t think the industry has to bow to the video game fanbase and retcon its decisions. I’m not, nor have I ever, been on the band wagon saying BioWare had to change its ending. I damn sure do contend, however, that Mass Effect 3’s ending was so goddamn awful, such a steaming pile, so horrible a bastardization of everything great that the game–hell, the series— stood for that it completely ruined the entire experience. Because the ending is part of the game as a whole, the game as a whole is the worst thing I’ve played this year. Had I stopped playing 15 minutes before the credits rolled, The Walking Dead wouldn’t have been anywhere near its top slot. Up until the final 15 minutes, this game blows TWD out of the water in story-telling, gameplay, graphics, immersion… everything that makes a series great. Then… then… they throw it all away with the biggest piece of copy-pasta sci-fi fluff ending you’ve ever seen. In the final moments of a game series all about choice, they gave you three identical, completely out of character options to choose from, and rewarded you with your favourite flavour of RGB shaded explosions and ray beams. I’m still pretty savage over it.
2012’s Absolute Biggest Video Game Surpise:
As I mentioned a month back, my favourite MMORPG ended in 2012. It was a total shock to the game’s community and developers. It made no sense at the time, and still makes no sense. Regardless, it happened, and we had to move on. Between ME3 and this, it was not a good year for me and videogames. For a while I retreated into retro-gaming. Realizing that I’m no longer 13, and no longer have unlimited time to grind away at retro titles, I’ve since come back to the fold of modern gaming, for the most part.
2012’s Absolute Best Read:
Again, I haven’t read hardly anything that was released this year. The best book I did read this year was, hands down, the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Finally we’re up to speed again with all the characters that inspired HBO’s great series A Game of Thrones. The book was weighty, with fewer deaths and less action than I expected. There was a lot of political drama taking place, however, and on the whole it was definitely the best thing I read this year.
2012’s Absolute Worst Read:
I didn’t read anything this year that really deserves this title. But since we’re dealing with absolutes, the most mediocre thing I read this year has to get handed the cone of shame. That falls squarely on “The Chalice of Blood”. The mystery in this book is entirely predictable. The main characters are 21 books old, and as such, not fleshed out any further at the end of this book than in the beginning. The book is written well enough. The story, while predictable, is decent enough. But nothing about the book is truly exceptional, and as such, it wins this turkey.
2012’s Absolute Biggest Reading Surprise:
Damn. God damn. No. Not him. I don’t want to go on without him. He had just started to really come into his own in the later volumes. Kirkman, you bastard. Taking a page from George R. R. Martin’s guidebook…. Grrr.
2012’s Absolute Best TV Show:
Going in to season 2 of GoT was an interesting experience for me. In the interim between the two seasons, I got to read the first 4 books. That meant this time I knew most of the surprises. It also meant I noticed whenever they changed anything. It took a few episodes to shake off those particular cobwebs from my thinking, but once I did I enjoyed the season immensely. I can’t wait for season 3 to come around again in April. (Oh, if you choose to comment, please avoid any potential Season 3 spoilers for those illiterates that may be among us. 😉 )
2012’s Absolute Worst TV Show:
I didn’t start watching anything new this year that would fall into this category. I almost started NBC’s Revolution, but decided to give it a miss, assuming that this category is precisely where it would land. As such, my biggest TV disappointment in 2012 has to fall on the head of NBC’s Up All Night. This is because, while it had its moments in a few of the episodes I watched, it is terribly unfunny. What’s worse is that NBC spent most of the year giving it chance after chance to attempt to find itself, and some viewers, leaving their truly genius series Community blowing in the breeze.
2012’s Absolute Biggest TV Surprise:
Okay. The first four episodes of the first season of this series were amazing. From episode 5, until the season two double episode finale, this show violently choked on the hair on the sack of a Minotaur’s scrotum. It was painful to watch. But I stuck with it, because I loved the source material, which they had discarded handily. After the season 2 finale, I was cautiously optimistic about season 3. As it turns out, they’ve decided to blow me away. The showrunners are no longer following their own crazy vision of where they want these characters to go, but nor are they following a panel-by-panel remake of the books. They’ve brought back tension, rid themselves of excess fat that was holding the show back, and finally added back in the fucking zombies. Starting out this season, I never expected to be excited to see more of this show again.
2012’s Absolute Best Toy:
Okay. Obviously, I’ve been a bit of a fan of this character for quite some time. He’s been my online avatar/handle/screen-name for over a decade. Almost 15 years now. He was one of my favourite toys as a kid. Also, he was one of the few figures that had not been remade since he first launched in 1985. He wasn’t in the “New Adventures of He-Man” series. Not in 2002’s Four Horseman designed line-up. Nor in that year’s collector’s re-issue of the original figures. No busts or statues. Finally, though, he got some love in the form of Mattel’s online only Masters of the Universe Classics line. Inspired by the original toy’s design, but made larger, more detailed, and with more articulation… this figure has been worth the wait.
2012’s Absolute Worst Toy:
It’s a fucking nerf ball you put your smartphone in. Fuck you. This is not a good idea. You’re throwing around your $600 device. Stop it. You’re stupid. We’re not talking about a mid-90s Nokia here. I’m pretty sure if I casually looked at my wife’s smartphone the wrong way it would splinter into a million pieces.
2012’s Biggest Toy Surprise:
Okay, this isn’t a specific product. It’s more of an experience. I’ve written before about how much I hated going thrift store shopping with my wife. That was before I found out that in the toy section they have old toys there. This year I’ve found 18 Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power original figures, Castle Greyskull and Snake Mountain, on an average of $3 each, including Grayskull. It’s made me able to start building back up my original collection, which I tragically left behind after a move 8 years ago. I’ll never be able to get it all back, but knowing that I’ve got about 50% of it back now, in arguably better condition than what I left behind, makes me feel all warm and squishy inside.
And there you have it, folks. The best, worst, and biggest surprises for me this year. It’s Year-End-List-tastic!