Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bayonetta (Switch)


Back in 2010, Sega released Bayonetta, developed by PlatinumGames and directed by Hideki Kamiya of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe fame, onto the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in North America. At the time, I had, for a number of reasons, played the PS3 version of the game, widely considered the worst version of the game (Kamiya has since confirmed that it was because the game was designed with 360 hardware in mind). In 2014, a sequel, Bayonetta 2, launched exclusively on Nintendo’s Wii U alongside with an improved port of the original game. In 2017, a Bayonetta 3 was announced exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, along with Switch ports of the first two games for 2018. Since I didn’t want to permanently stay out of the loop, I finally caved and bought a Switch and later bought Bayonetta 2. However, I decided to play the original game again first, available through a download code, both for the story and because it had been eight years since I had last played it. In that time, I think the game has aged rather well, but its issues have become more noticeable as well.

Bayonetta is awoken after a 500-year slumber with no memory of herself or her past. She spends the next 20 years battling angels from Paradiso, one of the Trinity of Realities alongside Inferno and Purgatorio, until one day she finds herself wrapped up in a centuries-old conflict between the Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages over something called the Eyes of the World. As she chases these lost memories, she comes into contact with another Umbra Witch named Jeanne, a journalist named Luka and a child named Cereza. As she chases the meaning of the Eyes of the World, the pieces of her lost memory begin to fit together.

Jeanne, a recurring enemy throughout Bayonetta's journey.

The backstory of Bayonetta is rather fascinating and very consistent in its presentation and execution. Though out there in comparison to other games, the story is fairly easy to follow and is complex enough to keep the player invested until the end, when all of the preceding events make much more sense. What also helps keep the player invested are the contrasting personalities of each of the characters and how they play off each other. Even without knowing all of their backstories in full, their interactions also give a sense of familiarity that would have developed within 20 years. The only drawback might be that the full background of the world is located within collectible journals, which means that players should prepare to do some light reading.

The presentation of the cutscenes is also unique from other games. Though there are parts of cutscenes rendered the traditional way, some parts use static shots of the action rather than full motion, though some things like hair still have motion. It feels off at first, but after a while it feels like Platinum was going for a specific style with this approach and it does help it stand out from other games.

The easiest way to describe the gameplay of Bayonetta is that it’s like an evolved version of Devil May Cry. Combat is similar in that there are dedicated buttons for shooting, melee and jumping. However, this is where the similarities end. For one thing, Bayonetta can be equipped with two weapons, one on her hands and one on her feet; the default is a set of four guns called Scarborough Fair, with each individual gun named Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. She can also be equipped with two sets of weapons, an A set and a B set, which the player can swap between on the fly; equippable weapons are unlocked by collecting Gold LPs and going to the shop. Additionally, the “Light Attack” button has her attack with her hands and “Heavy Attack” has her attack with her feet. Bayonetta also comes with a double jump which, along with unlockable beast transformations, allows her to gracefully move along the battlefield. Bayonetta can also use the enemy’s weapons against them, though the player will temporarily lose the ability to shoot. The player can also string together combos, which usually end in a Wicked Weave attack created from Bayonetta’s hair.

Combat in Bayonetta with a Wicked Weave attack.

I'll quickly mention that my personal setup while playing eventually fell into using Scarborough Fair in my A set and Shuraba and Odette in my B set. This allowed me to play the game will full power guns while also switching to a powerful and speedy weapon setup to help make certain fights easier.

An emphasis is also placed on dodging, since doing so at the right moment activates a mechanic called Witch Time. During Witch Time, time slows down, allowing Bayonetta to freely strike her enemies for the duration without worry. Witch Time is also used in some environmental puzzles in which the player must dodge a lightning blast to slow time and traverse certain terrain (ex. running water). Attacking enemies also builds up a magic gauge which, when full, allows Bayonetta to perform a Torture Attack which can heavily damage, if not outright kill, an enemy angel. However, taking damage beforehand will proportionally drain the magic gauge. Bayonetta can also craft and consume lollipops which provide a variety of abilities, including replenishing health and magic, creating a shield and multiplying her strength, but using these will also incur a score penalty at the end of a Chapter. Crafting ingredients can be obtained by destroying objects within the environment.

On the subject of scoring, Bayonetta, like Devil May Cry, features a ranking system that takes into account completion times, combo scores and penalties from retries and items uses. Each set of fights, or Verses, within each Chapter is scored on a scale from Stone to Pure Platinum, while each Chapter, rated on the same scale, averages the ratings from each Verse before applying score penalties; it is entirely possible to miss some Verses. Though the player can replay Chapters in an attempt to get a better score, the game itself can be pretty unforgiving as it goes on, even on Normal. I’ll admit that during my playthrough, I ended up using a lot of yellow (shield) and red (strength) lollipops to survive some of the harder battles.

While the combat is very fun and engaging, there are some general annoyances with the gameplay that are hard to ignore. During cutscenes and other in-game sequences, it is possible for quick-time events (QTEs) to pop up at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, failing a lot of these leads to instant death and a score penalty during a retry, not helped at all by the fact that the window to press the right button(s) is very slim. QTEs are also used during boss fights, where Bayonetta finished them off with a Climax attack which summons a demon from Inferno. In this case, the QTE determines how much of a score bonus you receive at the end of the Verse, but the timing window here is also pretty strict and it can take a moment to process which button you’re supposed to mash for each one.

Due to the game’s unforgiving nature, specific enemy pairings become increasingly unbearable no matter how you power up. Special mention goes to Grace and Glory and their later Gracious and Glorious counterparts, especially when the player has to survive multiple waves of them, as well as any team of at least three Joys.

In spite of the difficulty, the boss fights are highly interesting. This is the sort of game where enemies that are originally mid-bosses show up again as regular enemies and end bosses show up again in mini boss rushes. This isn’t really a bad thing, since it adds some extra challenge to the game, although the boss rushes can get kind of draining after a while, since they occur two or three times in the last few Chapters. What mitigates this somewhat is the creativity in their unique designs and strategies. The last three bosses are especially memorable, as they include some unique and highly cathartic sequences, though to elaborate would go into spoiler territory. However, I will admit here that during the Golem boss fights, I was able to cheese it by staying right next to it, dodging its attacks into Witch Time and holding down the fire button. Probably not the best way to enjoy the fight, but food for thought.

The Golem can change shape, but can also be easily cheesed.

The controls are mapped pretty intuitively and are highly responsive to the player’s button presses. However, I should address here that I did not play Bayonetta on a Pro Controller, as others may recommend, but rather with the Switch’s Joy-Cons. I tried playing them while attached to the unit, but it felt more comfortable to use a Joy-Con Grip to act as more of a traditional controller. Even then, however, I found the controller kind of cramped and the shape of the L and R buttons makes it rather easy to accidentally press them in the heat of battle. It didn’t affect me too much, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. The Switch also has a touchscreen-friendly control scheme, but I wouldn’t really recommend it, since it depends heavily on player gestures.

There are also times when the game switches to different types of gameplay, necessitating a different button layout for the duration of the applicable Verse(s). These take a little getting used to, but for flying sections I would suggest inverting flying controls (in this case, the default is already inverted, where Up=Down and Down=Up).

During the course of the game, the player collects Halos by defeating enemies or destroying objects in the environment. These are exchanged at the Gates of Hell bar run by the demon Rodin. Halos can be exchanged for items, techniques, costumes, weapons, accessories and treasures. The game will highlight some “Hot” buys, or recommended purchases. Personally, I would highly recommend buying the techniques Air Dodge; Stiletto, a version of Devil May Cry’s Stinger attack; Break Dance; Bat Within, which eases up on dodge timing; and Crow Within, which grants temporary flight, as soon as possible, as they are very invaluable for movement and combat advantage.

Bayonetta (left) with Rodin (right), proprietor of the Gates of Hell.

Since Bayonetta and Devil May Cry were created by Hideki Kamiya, the comparisons are inevitable. They share some similarities in their visuals and atmosphere, but, as stated earlier, Bayonetta feels like an evolved version in terms of combat and the visuals themselves are also flashier, lending itself to its more upbeat tone. The sillier tone at times reminded me of a Suda51 game, which, considering I like Hideki Kamiya and Suda51, is actually pretty good.

The graphics of Bayonetta have aged quite well and are pretty good on the Switch, perhaps even improved from the original release, aided by a very steady framerate (especially when compared with the PS3 version). I’ll note here that Bayonetta’s design in this game is meant to strongly evoke sex appeal, mainly from her figure and costume design (her costume is actually her hair). While her sex appeal is subjective, her design is certainly iconic and really stands out, even eight years later.

I’ll note here that the Switch version of the game comes with a couple extras, mainly amiibo support and some extra Nintendo-themed costumes based on Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Link and Samus. The Peach and Daisy costumes alter Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave attacks to summon Bowser from the Mario series while the latter two actually alter the gameplay. The Link costume changes the Shuraba weapon into the Master Sword and allows Bayonetta to parry attacks without the need of an accessory (specifically Moon of Mahaa-Kalaa), which can free up an extra accessory slot. The Samus costume not only allows Bayonetta to raise or lower a visor, but also enables her to fire a chargeable laser when shooting enemies.

Bayonetta in the Link costume.

The score for Bayonetta is absolutely fantastic, perfectly matching the tone of the game. Certain tracks are also very memorable, especially the main theme, Fly Me To The Moon, which plays at all the right moments. The music which plays during the various menus also becomes familiar with time and sets the right atmosphere.

Bayonetta is a game I would highly recommend. The story isn’t necessarily a literary masterwork, but its creative concepts and charming atmosphere are able to come together for a memorable experience. Though some aspects haven’t aged as well, including the instant death QTEs and certain encounters that are more difficult than they have any right to be, it’s still overall a very solid and enjoyable experience that’ll easily please action games fans, as well as those who enjoyed Devil May Cry and are looking for a great twist on the formula. For those looking for a game to add to their Switch library, Bayonetta should more than satisfy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review Hub - Jurassic Park


Jurassic Park, based on the book by Michael Chrichton, tells the story of what happens when scientists successfully revive dinosaurs and try to put them in an amusement park, only for things to go wrong because they also revived the carnivores for some reason. Despite some flaws in this premise (scientific accuracy aside), the movie is ultimately about a family coming together, which (along with the impressive special effects) is likely why it went on to become an undeniable hit, spawning sequels and other tie-in media, including a multitude of video games. In recent years, the franchise was given the "requel" treatment in order to keep it going after a 14-year gap, under the new branding of Jurassic World, beginning with its namesake film about what happens when scientists repeat the flaws of the first movie on a larger scale. While Jurassic Park is not as much on this blog's radar as some other long-running franchises, we will still review any Jurassic Park media on this blog if we find it interesting enough.

Below is a list of links to every Jurassic Park review on this blog, presented in order of release.

  

Jurassic Park
Jurassic World
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Stubs - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom



Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018): Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B. D. Wong Directed by J. A. Bayona. Screenplay by: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly. Based on  Characters developed by Michael Crichton. Produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Belén Atienza. Run Time: 128 minutes. United States. Science Fiction, Adventure, Sequel.

Seeing as its summer, the theaters are teeming with sequels. We've already had Avengers: Infinity Wars, Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2 and now Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest sequel in the Jurassic Park movie franchise requel, Jurassic World. It's too bad that somethings don't get better the second or fifth time around depending on your point of reference.

Jurassic World 2 finds the dinosaurs that survived the destruction of the Park abandoned on the Isla Nublar left to fend with an erupting volcano. There is a movement afoot to save the dinosaurs led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who one has to imagine would have been sued from here to eternity. When  Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Hammond's former partner in developing the technology to clone dinosaurs, and making his first appearance in the franchise, promises to use his resources to move the dinosaurs to an isolated island, she's on board. But she needs Owen's (Chris Pratt) help to get Blue, his prized Velociraptor. It seems the live-happily-ever-after promised at the end of Jurassic World didn't happen. Add in Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a paleo veterinarian and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), a systems analyst and hacker and you have a diverse and ready crew.

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt)
meet Maisie Lockwood Portrayed by Isabella Sermon.

The best thing about the film is Chris Pratt as Owen. He seems to channel his Star-Lord character from Guardians of the Galaxy here in a wasted effort to save this film from utter stupidity. Bryce Dallas Howard is no longer the cold business bitch that she was in the Jurassic World. Now she's a bleeding heart for dinos and is all too easy to sucker into the dastardly plot that is at the heart of the story. Together on screen they have a certain irresistible chemistry sadly lacking anywhere else

Everyone you think is evil is and for the most part get their comeuppance, save for the evil Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), who like the worst of the dinosaurs lives to see another day in what is already a planned for and an unneeded sequel three years from now. Too bad things don't promise to get any better the next time out, only dumber. And if the post-credits scene is any indication, watch out Las Vegas.

The only problem is that the whole premise of the movie is just about as dumb as the worst film noir, the type where the plot only moves forward with stupid decisions. In this case, the idea that dinosaurs that should have been extinct and have done nothing but eat people and cause destruction in every film are worth saving for future generations. No doubt the thinking is that dinosaurs will help cut down on world overpopulation, otherwise there seems to be no reason to save the carnivores on the island. And what a surprise if that's not what happens in this film, though I won't go into any details in case you've got cash that you don't know what to do with; either throw it on the ground or go see this movie. Perhaps throwing it on the ground isn't such a bad idea.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review Hub - Harry Potter


Following its initial publication in 1997 (UK) and 1998 (US), Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (Philosopher's Stone in its native UK) proved popular enough to get a movie deal from Warner Bros., with a film adaptation released in 2001. The rest is history, as the Harry Potter franchise has proven popular enough to spawn numerous multimedia tie-ins, chief among them video games, LEGO sets and an entire section of Universal Studios theme parks devoted to the series (based on the Hogsmeade location from the series). It has also received a series of spin-off films based on the tie-in book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as a two-part (controversial) stage play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) billed as Part 8 of the Harry Potter story. Though Harry Potter's story ends in the seventh book (which was split across two movies and began an industry trend of adapting a single book across multiple films because money), it appears that Harry Potter as a franchise is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Below is a list of links to every Harry Potter review on this blog, presented in chronological order.

  
  
 

Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Batman Ninja


Since its announcement last year, Batman Ninja quickly caught my attention with its intriguing trailer and the pedigree of its creative team. Said team included Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai; Kazuki Nakashima, writer for Gurren Lagaan and head writer of Kill la Kill; Yugo Kanno, composer for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Psycho-Pass; Jumpei Mizusaki, who had directed the opening animations for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure; and animation studio Kamikaze Douga, which had also animated the opening sequences for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Now that I’ve viewed it through the physical Blu-ray release, I believe that the hype was mostly worth it.

As Batman (Roger Craig Smith) battles Gorilla Grodd (Fred Tatasciore) at Arkham City, he is caught in Grodd’s latest invention, a time displacement machine known as the Quake Engine, which sends him to Feudal Japan. While there, he meets up with Catwoman (Grey Griffin), who reveals not only that Gotham’s top criminals had arrived two years prior, but also that they had become feudal lords trying to conquer Japan and that the Joker (Tony Hale) has made a name for himself as Demon King Joker. Now Batman has to find a way to prevent Gotham’s villains from rewriting history and make it back to his own time.

The premise is rather interesting and one that isn’t actually that out of place for a Batman story. This particular story is able to deliver on its premise rather well and deliver a film that is undoubtedly Japanese with a distinct “anime” vibe laced throughout. However, the plot itself leaves a little to be desired. Outside Joker, Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), Gorilla Grodd and Catwoman, the other villains, Penguin (Tom Kenny), Poison Ivy (Tara Strong), Deathstroke (Fred Tatasciore), Two-Face (Eric Bauza) and Bane (Kenta Miyake), don’t really have much screen time or direct involvement with the plot. Bane, for instance, is there for more of a quick cameo than anything is not addressed at all afterwards. The remaining villains are also more of a background threat and don’t become relevant that much again until the finale, and even then, they feel mostly superfluous, almost like they could’ve been anyone and the plot would stay the same. A shame, really, considering that the idea of them fighting for dominance over Japan could’ve easily made them more relevant to Batman’s goal.

That said, what is there is still very engaging and easy to follow. What helps is the impressive animation by Kamikaze Douga that’s able to make the CG models look and feel two-dimensional. The character designs by Takashi Okazaki are also very unique and attention-grabbing, as they capture the essence of each of the characters involved while staying true to both the Batman mythos and the setting of Feudal Japan. One especially interesting design is Demon King Joker, which perfectly represents the Clown Prince of Crime. There are also a couple of traditionally animated sequences, including one which has a different art style altogether, one that’s a bit sketchier and is able to highlight the mood of that particular sequence.

Joker's (Tony Hale) design is very visually striking.

The voice acting is also very good, with a special nod to Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Tony Hale as Joker. Though Roger Craig Smith has voiced Batman before, notably the Arkham Origins and Unlimited incarnations, he has proven once again that he’s capable of carrying the role his own way. Tony Hale is new to the role of Joker and does a fantastic job portraying the character’s maniacal side while remaining humorous when necessary; I wouldn’t mind if Hale reprised the role in the future.

Batman Ninja is an interesting film. The sheer pedigree of the creative team shines through really well, although the plot has some issues that harm the execution of the story a little. The animation and voice acting are fantastic, however, along with Yugo Kanno’s score, which keeps it engaging and entertaining. I would recommend this to Batman fans as well as fans of anyone on the Japanese creative team. Those unfamiliar with Batman might be able to enjoy this as well, though the appearance of certain characters, particularly four different Robins, may require at least a passing knowledge of their existence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Incredibles 2


Note: The following review contains spoilers for The Incredibles (2004).

Following the success of the Academy Award-winning The Incredibles (2004), Brad Bird maintained interest in creating a sequel, but wouldn’t begin writing the script until several years later, by which point several superhero films and TV series had become rather popular, especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, 14 years later, the film’s anticipated sequel, Incredibles 2, has released to critical acclaim. Considering the large gap between installments, the finished film feels very worth the wait.

Immediately following the events of The Incredibles, the Parr family – Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) - fights The Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who uses a large drill to rob the Metroville Bank, with the aid of Lucius Best, aka Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). Due to the failed attempt to stop The Underminer and the destruction caused by the fight, however, the Super Relocation program is shut down and the Parrs are forced back into hiding. Soon after, Bob, Helen, and Lucius are contacted by Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk), who wishes to make Supers legal once more by demonstrating how heroic and helpful they can be. He elects Helen to kick off this plan under her old identity of Elastigirl, which forces Bob to become a stay-at-home dad, a task made more complicated by Jack-Jack’s numerous and developing powers. Elastigirl’s mission is also made complicated by the arrival of Screenslaver (Bill Wise), a villain who can brainwash people through television broadcast signals.

At its core, the story and plot of Incredibles 2 follows a somewhat similar trajectory as the original film, but with Bob and Helen’s roles switched. However, this film is able to expand greatly on the events of the original while not undoing any of the previously established events, and even throwing in some world-building, as well as offer a greater amount of character development for the Parr family without undoing any of the development they went through in the original. In this sense, Incredibles 2 is a sequel that feels like a true continuation of previous events in a way that feels both seamless and organic. The parallel plots of the film are also both engaging and easy to follow, which helps the nearly two-hour runtime fly by.

The villain, Screenslaver, is rather intriguing and the brainwashing ability fits well within the setting. Though their motivation, like Syndrome, involves Supers and it’s a little easier than expected to figure who they might be, this did little to detract from the enjoyment of the film.

Screenslaver (Bill Wise) is an intriguing villain with an interesting ability.

After 14 years, the 1960s visual style of the Incredibles universe still has a timeless quality to it. Naturally, 14 years of technological advancement have resulted in largely improved animation and rendering compared to the original. This also results in some slight stylistic differences between the two films, mainly smaller details of the characters’ faces, but the viewer can quickly get used to it and it doesn’t really feel that jarring.

Even though the story takes place in the 1960s, the problems that the Parr family has and the way characters of the world live and act are more or less universal to how we would live and act today. In fact, there are only a few small hints that clue the viewer into what decade the film takes place, most noticeably the style of cars that people drive and a joke about “New Math”, currently just known as “Math”, that would only work within that context. There are also brief glimpses of both Jonny Quest and The Outer Limits, which further reinforces the setting. There are a couple small things which feel a little out of place, mainly the hairstyle/color of a Super named Voyd (Sophia Bush), but they’re rather minor in the grand scheme of things.

The action is visually exciting and very easy to follow, which is helpful for the amount of action and number of characters onscreen. What helps is that new Supers that are introduced later on all have unique silhouettes and visual designs to help them stand out from one another. The comedy of Incredibles 2 is also consistently funny and mainly derived from the interactions of the characters and how Bob reacts to his stressful life at home raising three children. Some of it also comes from how Jack-Jack can easily throw a wrench into certain situations, though at some point the number of powers he has can get rather ridiculous, even though it’s explained away within the movie.

Brad Bird and Pixar did a great job with Incredibles 2. The story and tone are consistent with the original film and the world and characters are expanded upon while staying true to previous development. The action and humor help the film stay engaging and the parallel storylines are both easy-to-follow and entertaining, though at least one twist is a little predictable. The improved animation quality is such that the style is consistent even with an increased level of detail in the world. I highly recommend Incredibles 2 to people looking for a fun summer film or want to visit/re-visit a world that looks and feels different from the plethora of superhero films released within the last few years. Due to its nature as a direct sequel, however, you should also be sure to watch The Incredibles beforehand.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stubs - Seven Chances


Seven Chances (1925) Starring: Buster Keaton, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards, Ruth Dwyer, Frankie Raymond, Jules Cowles, Erwin Connelly, Jean Arthur. Directed by: Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline. Screenplay by Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell. Based on the play Seven Chances by Roi Cooper Megrue. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck, Buster Keaton. Runtime: 56 minutes. USA Black and White with Technicolor insert, Comedy, Silent

Sometimes films are made with the lowest of expectations. Consider Seven Chances, the 1925 silent comedy directed by and starring Buster Keaton. Originally a rather unsuccessful stage play of the same name by Roi Cooper Megrue, Joseph M. Schenck bought the film rights for $25,000 as a vehicle for either Keaton or one of the acting Talmadge sisters, Norma, Constance or Natalie. 

The play opened August 8, 1916, at the George M. Cohan's Theatre and closed in December after 151 performances. Buster Keaton, who saw the play during its original run, considered it a creaky, overly contrived farce. However, he owed Schenck money and had no choice but to make the film.  He turned the play over to his writers, Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell to take the static, stage-bound play and make something out of it.

Production got underway on September 16, 1924, with Jack McDermott directing. However, two weeks into the production McDermott left amicably, leaving Buster to direct the film. There was a short delay when he took over but production was completed on November 30, 1924. Seven Chances was shot at the Buster Keaton Studio located at 1025 Lillian Way as well as in and around Los Angeles, utilizing the streets around Greater Page Temple Church of God in Christ; Jefferson Boulevard & Arlington Avenue; and Chatsworth including Beale’s Cut, a natural formation once used as a stagecoach route and used in the films of John Ford, and D.W. Griffith. Keaton had also used the gap in his 1922 short, The Paleface.

Jimmy Shannon (Buster Keaton) and Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer)
 at the beginning of their relationship. (Note: the small dog).

This film opens with an early technicolor insert (275 feet), showing the long courtship between Jimmy Shannon (Buster Keaton) and his girlfriend, Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer). As the seasons pass and her dog grows, Jimmy cannot bring himself to tell her he loves her.

Seven Chances reverts to standard black and white as we see Jimmy with his partner, Billy Meekin (T. Roy Barnes) facing the financial ruin of their brokerage firm, Meekin and Shannon, as well as legal consequences. When a lawyer (Snitz Edwards) shows up at their firm, with news of a large inheritance for Jimmy, they initially try to dodge him, thinking that he is there to give Jimmy a subpoena or other court order. Even though he can see them in their office, he’s told by their secretary he’s not in. Determined to wait for them, the lawyer doesn’t leave.

Jimmy and his partner  Billy Meekin (T. Roy Barnes) listen to a lawyer
 (Snitz Edwards) as he reads Jimmy's grandfather's will.

They take solace at their Country Club and that is where the lawyer’s persistence finally pays off. Through the window of the dining room, he shows them the clause about the inheritance. They run after him, stopping the guards from walking him off the property. In the office at the club, the three finally sit down to review the document. It seems that Jimmy will inherit $7,000,000 from his grandfather if he’s married by 7 pm on his 27th birthday, which turns out to be that same day. Jimmy, of course, thinks of Mary and leaves to ask her.

This is one of the cases where the film gets inventive, using a technique from the brilliant Sherlock Jr. (1924). We see Jimmy get into the driver’s seat in the driveway of the Country Club and then the background changes and he is getting out in front of Mary’s home. The audience knows, without having to watch, that Jimmy has driven to her house.

Jimmy practices his proposal to Mary, who overhears and at first accepts.

After speaking with her mother, Frances Raymond, Jimmy goes to wait for her in the backyard. There he practices his proposal, which unbeknownst to him, Mary overhears and accepts. But, of course, the film can’t stop there and when Jimmy tries to explain why they have to get married that day, he makes her feel like it has less to do with love and more to do with convenience, saying things along the lines of any girl would do. Feeling less than special, Mary turns him down.

Jimmy returns to the Country Club and tells his partner and lawyer the bad news. Meanwhile, Mary and her mother discuss the proposal and her mother suggests Mary let Jimmy explain. She calls the Country Club and the receptionist, Miss Smith (Jean Arthur) puts the call through to the office, but the men don’t answer, assuming it is not for them.

Mary writes a note to Jimmy telling him not to marry anyone else and gives the note to their black Hired Hand (Jules Cowles in blackface) to deliver. Despite her plea to hurry, the Hired Hand’s horse plods along to make the delivery.

They make a list of names or Seven Chances and tick them off as they turn Jimmy down.

Meanwhile, The three go to the dining room of the Country Club to see if there are any suitable candidates for Jimmy to marry. Billy asks Jimmy if he knows any of the women and he writes down all seven chances. The list includes Eugenia Gilbert, Doris Deane, Judy King, Hazel Deane, Bartine Burkett, Connie Evans, and Pauline Toller the real names of the actresses who appear, and in the order, they do, in the film.


Jimmy's proposal to Second Chance (Doris Deane) gathers a crowd. 

First Chance (Eugenia Gilbert) laughs in Jimmy’s face, so loud in fact that the entire room can’t help but notice. Jimmy follows Second Chance (Doris Deane) outside to the edge of the golf course, where he gets down on one knee, only to be embarrassed by the crowd that gathers to watch. For his Third Chance (Judy King) he tries writing a note “Will You Marry Me” that he tosses to her in a mezzanine seat. She shreds the notes and the pieces fall down on Jimmy.

Jimmy tries to propose to his Third Chance (Judy King) by tossing a note up to her. She turns him down.
Billy takes it upon himself to handle the next proposal to Fourth Chance (Hazel Deane), who initially thinks it is Billy who is proposing. But when Billy insists its for a friend and points to where Jimmy had been standing and had walked away when he saw how chummy they were, she only sees the lawyer and refuses.

Billy asks Jimmy's Fourth Chance (Hazel Deane) who thinks he's proposing for the lawyer.
Jimmy fails with his Fifth Chance (Bartine Burkett), and Sixth Chance (Connie Evans) on the stairs, one on the way up and one going down. He follows Seventh Chance (Pauline Toller) into a telephone booth to get his final rejection from those women he knew. 

Following her rejection, Billy comes up with a plan and tells Jimmy to meet him at the Broad Street Church at five o’clock and he’ll provide the bride. On their way out, the lawyer turns to Jimmy and tells him to keep trying in case Billy fails and offers if there are two brides to marry the other one.

Thinking it might be his appearance, Jimmy goes to check out himself in a mirror. He looks at his reflection and then at himself. Meanwhile, a Black Man comes through the door, momentarily surprising Jimmy and he runs away.

Jimmy gets turned down by the Country Club's receptionist (Jean Arthur).
He next proposes to the Country Club receptionist, who shows him her own wedding ring before going back to her reading. On his way out, Jimmy draws a line through the Miss on her nameplate.


On his way out, Jimmy asks the hatcheck girl (Rosalind Byrne)
Next up, Jimmy goes to get his hat but the Hatcheck girl (Rosalind Byrne) waits for a tip before giving him his skimmer. When Jimmy sees one more candidate, he leaves the hat and takes back the tip. He starts into his spiel before realizing that the woman has a baby with her that she doesn’t want to part with to marry him. Back to hat check and before he can ask her his question she shakes her head no.

On his way out of the club, Jimmy stops again by the door with the mirror and out pops a girl who asks if anyone would want to marry her.  After fainting, Jimmy gets up and escorts her out. The seven chances are waiting for him outside and laugh at his misfortune. Their posture changes when Jimmy’s bride-to-be emerges and takes his arm.

But on the way to the car, the woman’s mother (Lori Bara) reveals that Jimmy’s bride to be is really just a child playing dress up. Embarrassed, Jimmy drives away as the Seven Chances laugh at him.

At a railroad crossing, the hired hand catches up to Jimmy. Holding up what he thinks is a stop sign, he is surprised Jimmy just keeps driving, narrowly missing a charging train. Turns out one side of the sign read STOP and the other side he was holding out toward Jimmy, read GO. 

Meanwhile, the man’s horse has taken off and he has to track it down.

On the road, an ever-desperate Jimmy pulls up to a woman in a car (Marion Harlan) but before he can get too far, he runs the car up a tree which is growing in the road.

Meanwhile, Billy and the lawyer go to The Daily News, an afternoon paper to place an ad, looking for a wife for Jimmy who will inherit $7 million.

Jimmy, now walking to the church, stops when he sees a woman reading a paper at a bus stop. He proposes but she doesn’t understand, since she apparently only know Hebrew, judging by her newspaper. Passed on the sidewalk by a woman, Jimmy is about to propose until he sees that she’s, in fact, Black and he backs off.

On his way to the church, Jimmy stops at a beauty parlor
where he mistakes a woman's head for a mannequin's.
Passing a beauty shop, Jimmy stops to watch the male beautician and is probably thinking of proposing to the customer when he sees that she is a mannequin and her head gets removed. He enters the shop and sees another woman in a chair and thinking she, too, is a mannequin tries to remove her head before realizing his mistake and running off.

Jimmy mistakes a female impersonator for a real woman.

Next, he passes a stage and sees the image of a woman on the advertisement. Tipping the stagehand, he goes into propose. While he’s inside, someone moves some boxes that cover up the name of the performer (Julian El Tinge), who at the time was a well-known female impersonator. When Jimmy emerges, his skimmer has been purposefully pulled down over his head so that the brim is around his neck. Jimmy takes back his bribe and walks away.

The church is empty when he arrives.

By the time Jimmy arrives at the Church, in top hat and tails and carrying flowers, he is exhausted. 
He settles into the front row pews and falls asleep. Meanwhile, women answering the ads, come to the church walking, driving cars, bikes, and train. And not only fill the pews but back out into the street. By the time, Jimmy wakes up, he is surrounded by bridesmaids wearing makeshift and real wedding dresses.

After a short nap, he's surrounded by potential brides.

When the minister (Erwin Connelly) sees all the gathered women he tells them that they’ve been pranked and to go home. This does not sit well with the mob of brides and they decide to take it out on Jimmy.

Under the church, Mary's Hired Hand (Jules Cowles
 in blackface) catches up to him with Mary's note.

He ends up taking shelter under the church where Mary’s Hired Hand finally catches up to him. 


Trying to learn the time isn't easy for Jimmy.

Seeing the note, he decides to go to her. Jimmy manages to get away but when he pulls out his pocket watch to read the time, it breaks from its chain and falls down the sewer drain. Trying to find the correct time proves difficult. The first person he asks the time, a bootblack, doesn’t have a watch on the end of his chain but rather a bottle opener. The woman whose shoes he’s shining has a watch on an anklet but when Jimmy tries to look she thinks he’s being fresh. Next stop, a clock shop but each one in the window is set to a different time. When he goes into the shop, the watch repairman’s own seems to have stopped as well. It is not until a drunk trying to sleep one off throws his alarm clock out the window, which hits Jimmy in the head, does he know that it is 6:15.

He tries to catch the trolley but it passes him by. Jimmy starts to walk down the center of the street towards Mary’s when he is spotted by some of the jilted brides, who are angry at the deception. They are joined by more and more brides and are almost upon him before he notices and starts running.

Jimmy runs for his life just ahead of angry mob of jilted brides.

When the mob passes a bricklayer building a wall, they pick the bricks clean and continue the chase.
Billy and the lawyer come upon Jimmy and the two run together for a spell. Jimmy tells him to have the ministers at Mary’s house and that he’ll meet them there. As they’re running, they run into another group of brides that take chase after Jimmy, leaving Billy and the lawyer to get trampled on by the rest of the pack.

Like a stampeding herd, nothing seems to stop the brides as they chase Jimmy through a football game leaving injured players in their wake.

Jimmy thinking he’s gotten ahead of them slows down, only having to accelerate when he see’s another group coming towards him from a side street. The women commandeer a street car, throwing the driver and conductor off, as they continue their chase.

Jimmy tries to take refuge in a Turkish Bath but it turns out to be Ladies Day.

Jimmy manages to grab the spare tire on a car and rides that until it gets involved with a trolley driven by brides. He tries to take refuge in a Turkish Bath but it turns out to be ladies day so the chase continues.

Jimmy makes a run for it down LaSalle.

He tries to blend in with a police regiment that is marching down the street picking up and depositing beat cops. But when they see the approaching wave of brides, they run away, leaving Jimmy marching alone.

Jimmy tries to grab a cab but there is a bride in there as well. She grabs ahold of him and only lets go when she falls into a ditch. Jimmy doesn’t know what to do but runs as the workmen from the ditch jump out and seek shelter.

Jimmy escapes a mob of angry would-be brides by grabbiing onto a crane.

When he finds an iron works, Jimmy runs inside only to be chased inside by the mob. A crane pulls him to safety but a bride commandeers it from the operator. She can’t figure out the controls and instead of lowering him back down, she swings him over the fence next to the railroad tracks.  When the crane lowers he jumps to safety, but the women inside think he’s been killed when a train comes roaring by. They’re all sad and crying until he walks by. Anger returns and they take chase again.

Meanwhile, at Mary’s house, Billy, the lawyer, Mary, her mother and the minister are waiting.

Now out in the country, the brides chase Jimmy through a cornfield, demolishing it as they run through. Jimmy runs through a barbed wire fence and into an apiary where a beekeeper is tending to the hives. But Jimmy and the brides knock most of them over, making the bees angry. When he stops to free himself from the barbed wire, a bull chases him back through the apiary. The bees chase him to the water’s edge, where Jimmy commandeers a boat.

Jimmy is in an awkward position when he spies a bull watching him.

But the water doesn’t impede the chase and eventually, Jimmy has to make a swim for it. On the other side of the river, he discovers that he’s picked up a turtle on his tie. When he stops to pull that off, he’s in the sightline of duck hunters who fire their guns in his direction.

Jimmy makes a leap while on the run.

Finally, he’s chased to the edge of the wilderness and when he runs up the side of a hill, the leader of the brides takes them another way to cut him off.  He jumps over the Beal Cut, rides a tree that is cut down from a cliff to the ground. Throws himself down a sandy hillside before he ends up dislodging some rocks.


Jimmy throws himself down a sandy hillside.

Small rocks cause larger ones to move and pretty soon there is an avalanche of rocks chasing Jimmy down a long and steep hillside. This is perhaps the most memorable sequence in the film. The rocks scatter the brides who have taken their shortcut, finally freeing Jimmy for a last-gasp run to Mary’s house, over one car and under another. When he gets to Mary’s house, his coat gets caught in the gate. Unable to free himself, he breaks the gate off from the fence and drags into the house.

A snippet of the sequence of Jimmy being chased by rocks of all sizes.


When Jimmy arrives, Billy checks his watch. Jimmy appears to be too late as it is now a few minutes past seven. But when the church clock shows there are few minutes to spare, Jimmy runs back in and the wedding ends just as the clock strikes seven.

Jimmy has until 7 to get married.

Everyone but Jimmy kisses the bride so he takes her outside. But before he can kiss her, the dog, now even bigger gets in between them.


Jimmy wants to kiss his bride but the dog gets in the way.

The film had its New York premiere on March 15, 1925, and went into general released the next day on March 16, 1925. The would be another success for Keaton, making $598,288 domestically.

While many may not consider this to be one of Buster Keaton’s masterpieces, compared to Sherlock Jr or The General (1926), this is still very funny and inventive especially considering that the director and star were not fond of the story, to begin with.

Like his contemporaries, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd there is a sense of improvisation. That they seemed to take every opportunity to make the film better, whether taking advantage of locale or situation. Did someone see the potential for a crane at the metal works or was that part of the script? 

As the viewer, you’re not sure because it seems natural in its way.

One scene that was added to after the film was finished was the boulder scene.  Keaton told his biographer, Rudi Blesh, that they had decided to end Seven Chances with a fade-out on the chase, not being able to think of anything to top it. However, at a preview screening, Keaton noticed that during the fade out, the few laughs the chase had gotten turned into a real belly laugh.

Running the film slowly back at the studio, they noticed that the laughs coincided when Keaton accidentally dislodged a rock that dislodged three other rocks, all of which were chasing Keaton down the hill. They decided to milk the gag for bigger laughs, building about 150 papier-mache rocks on chicken wire, ranging in size from a baseball to eight-feet in diameter. Using a longer ridge and kicking them off in a sequence they created a four-minute sequence that sort of saves the film and one of the greatest sight gags in cinematic history.

For some reason, there is nothing more fascinating to watch than Keaton running, which he does throughout the film. I’m not sure how much of it is due to hand cranking and how much of it is his pure speed. He just seems to move faster than anyone has a right to.

There are other actors in the film but the only one that really counts is Keaton. The role played by T. Roy Barnes could have been played by practically anyone. A British actor, Barnes had appeared in over 50 films in a career that lasted from 1920 to 1935. While he appeared mostly in comedies, here he’s pretty much the straight man.

Snitz Edwards, born Edward Neumann in Budapest, Hungary, emigrated to the US where he had a successful career on the Broadway stage and in Hollywood. Never a star, Edwards was a character actor, appearing in such films as The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), College (1927) and The Public Enemy (1931).

Ruth Dwyer, the love interest in the film, had a 20-year plus career in films, but never really received immortality. She is all right but nothing spectacular. However, the same cannot be said for Jean Arthur, who has an uncredited role as the Country Club receptionist in this film. Arthur was very near the start of a film career that would include such films as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Take It with You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), A Foreign Affair (1948) and Shane (1953).  Here her part as the receptionist is like that of T. Roy Barnes, anyone could have played it.

The story, unsurprisingly, has been remade though not to the same success as this film. Clyde Bruckman would rework the story for The Three Stooges twice, once as Brideless Groom (1947) and Husbands Beware (1956), the latter of which cannibalized the former. The French made their own version, The Suitor (1962) Directed by and starring Pierre Étaix. Hollywood would come back to the story with The Bachelor (1999) with Chris O'Donnell and Renée Zellweger, which turned out to be a minor hit.

Seven Chances received mixed reviews when it was first released but is one of those films that has grown in stature as the years have passed. It is funny, innovative and smart, which never gets old. If you haven’t seen Seven Chances, then you should see it. If you’re a fan of Buster Keaton, and you should be, it is worth watching again.