Reviewed by Van T. Tran
- Dream Theater, widescreen 1.85:1, languages: English DD 5.1, subtitles: none, single side-dual layer, no chapter stops, rated M-17, no regional coding, $29.95, street date 11/21/98.
- Directed by Ali Davoudian. Starring Ted Davis, Rebecca Ferratti, Lorissa McComas, Jenna Bodnar, Tatiana Alvarez.
The MISadventures of James Spawn marks the arrival of an entirely new form of entertainment. It's the world's first interactive movie created for DVD-Video and DVD-Rom. More fun that a conventional film. More entertaining than an ordinary game. It's a unique hybrid that casts viewers in the role of writer/producer/director with control over the plot twists of an outrageous live action comic adventure.
The star of the adventure is James Spawn, a bumbling, young outcast from India whose father sends him on a quest for spiritual enlightenment. To aid him in his journey, the young man is given a magic ring with the power to make his dreams come true. Spawn decides to use the ring in the pursuit of "personal pleasure" and heads for a seedy Hollywood nightclub. There, he meets four beautiful women and that's when the fun begins.
Viewers control what happens next by using their remote controls to choose one of the four women and guide Spawn throught the ensuing adventure. At key points, viewers are obliged to make further choices that either lead Spawn closer to his goal of "true romance" or bounce him back to the nightclub to begin his journey again. Along the way, Spawn confronts a horde of preposterous characters, including a gay Australian mountain climber, an insanely jealous mob boss, a sexy highway patrol officer and a family of redneck cannibals, owners of a modern day Bates Motel.
Each of the four plot threads leads to a different howlingly funny conclusion. Viewers who successfully navigate through all four maze-like adventures are treated to a supreme ending that is simply too funny for words. In all, The MISadventures of James Spawn includes more than 100 possible outcomes to provide many hours of interactive amusement.
Picture & Sound (D+, D+)
- Remember Night Trap for the Sega CD? I am sorry to stir up such horrible memory for those unfortunately enough to have experienced the interactive "full motion video" game for the now defunct Sega CD. For those of you that don't have a clue to what I am talking about, consider yourself very lucky. Released in 1994, the Sega CD was suppose to be a "revolutionary" game console that boasted a high capacity storage on the CD-Rom than the traditional cartridge. One of the first few games to take advantage of this "revolutionary" console was Night Trap, a highly touted interactive gameplay that combines full motion video for a supposely realistic experience. On paper it sounded great, you get to decide the actions for the actor and the video graphics lend a realistic environment. I was, of course, one of those early suckers that plunged down $299 for the console and game, and quickly learned the hard way: anything that has the label interactive on video is basically a piece of crap. The concept just doesn't work. The interaction is limited to memorize a selected pattern that determines a scripted outcome. It wasn't too long before console and computer game players stayed away from these interactive "FMV" like the Ebola plague.
Forward five years later, a media production studio calls Dream Theater is touting the first interactive "movie" for the DVD format. The MISadventures of James Spawn can be played on either DVD-Video or DVD-Rom on your computer. Needless to say, the technology has improved, but the interactive video concept still sucks big time! The biggest flaw on this production is the poor execution. I won't get into the story because there is none, but basically the initial setting has James Spawn inside a nightclub. Sitting across the bar is four different types of woman that you can decide who James Spawn should pick to start the adventure. At certain key-point, you will be presented with four rings on the bottom of the screen, only ONE of these rings will allow the plot to proceed further, the rest will send you BACK to the nightclub. There are no hints to the outcome of each selection, so you just have to randomly pick the right one. The concept is that even on the wrong choice, you are suppose to get a few chuckles when James Spawn is bounced back to the bar in an uncompromised situation, such as touching a woman's breast when in reality he wakes up to find out that he is feeling a bouncer's butt and gets punched. Haha. If this kind of lame humor appeals to you, there are supposely 100 of these outcomes.
Seeing the conclusion of James Spawn with one of the selected woman is supposely the enticement. Of the four, Rebecca Ferratti and Lorissa McComas appeared on Playboy, but before getting too excited, the interactive movie is rated Mature-17, which means there is no nudity, except for some suggestive poses. So, what is the whole point?!! I don't get who the targeted audience the movie is for. The over-the-top lame jokes and sophomoric script will hardly appeal to anyone over seventeen. For the adults, there are plenty of interactive adult DVDs where there is a payoff.
As for the presentation, the picture is matted at approximately 1.85:1 with the black bar on the bottom raised higher to display the selections. The production, which took three years to complete, has the look of a home video quality. Images are soft and fuzzy with poor contrast and brightness. Colors are heavily saturated and often inconsistent from one scene to another. Fleshtones are abnormal and exhibit an orange tint. Dream Theater incorporates visual effects that are similar to the Mask, but are less refine and integrated. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack has a limited range and sounds very thin. The rear channels are mixed way too loud, which make the front outputs very difficult to hear. Dialogue is often harsh and muffled.
The MISadventures of James Spawn lends further doubt that I will ever enjoy an interactive movie. By definition, a movie is not suppose to be interactive, but as a visual medium to engage the viewer's imagination and be engrossed in the storytelling, and not having to fiddle with the remote control as a way to interact. Perhaps in the near future, there will be a device that tracks the eyes' movements and relays the data to determine the paths for a near subliminal interaction. Until then, I will pass.
Current as of 2/1/99
- Official Site--Learn more about the first interactive movie on DVD.
- Dream Theater--The media production studio that produced the movie. The company also works on visual effects creation and advanced website design and development.
- Amazon.com--At last check, the DVD is not available at Amazon.com, but can be purchase at DVD Empire.