Monday, October 4, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess AMV: The Cinematic Experience

Well, it's been a little while since I had an AMV rant for you all. Simple reason for that, too--I ran out of good ones. Yeah, out of the literally dozens and dozens of AMVs I look over every few times a year for every RPG I've played to date, which has to total in the hundreds by now, I only had about half a dozen that I thought were high enough quality to make a rant about. That's probably the worst track record I've seen for fan-related works, an even worse ratio of good to bad offerings than's Final Fantasy 8 section.

At any rate, though, whilst recently perusing the AMVs created at Youtube and since last I checked, I DID find another noteworthy subject, one made by a certain Roynerer, that's not only very good, but rather distinctive, too. Oh, and long. Like, 8 minutes. Just to let you know in advance. Oh, and this is DEFINITELY one of those AMVs that needs a SPOILERS warning slapped all over it--you're gonna essentially be seeing the plot of the game from start to finish here, so, y'know, fairly warned.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The Cinematic Experience:

Alright, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for my Close-Up: The visual quality of the videos used is good enough, nothing to complain about nor particularly praise. The videos' nature, of course, is fairly noteworthy, as the visual component to TLoZ: Twilight Princess was both impressive and aesthetically effective.

The artistry of the video, though, is pretty much the main event. Roynerer hasn't thrown any notable visual tricks into the AMV, but they would be out of place, even distracting, from what he DOES use the video component for: telling a concise, yet epic and powerful, version of TLoZ: Twilight Princess's story. This AMV uses key scenes throughout the game to show the watcher the main arcs of game's events, from the beginning of Link's journey and transformation, to meeting Midna, the spirits, Zelda, Zant, and Ganondorf, to the final battle and Midna's emotional goodbye. The AMV is showing the most plot-relevant scenes during his journey, and interspersing these scenes with several quick clips of the various tasks Link engages in during the game's course, from fighting to riding the river.

This by itself is a skillful move for Roynerer's purposes--the plot-essential scenes obviously tell the game's epic story as he intends them to, but the scenes thrown in here and there that show some of the tasks and battles Link goes through on the way to the important plot points effectively conveys the length and spectrum of the journey, showing the viewer that much effort and time is expended to get from one event to the next in a way that just showing us the important parts wouldn't manage. At the same time, though, there are only a few such images, leaving most of the AMV to be filled with the story-telling scenes, which is important when you have a longer one like this (let's face it: attention spans ain't what they used to be). Roynerer also employs some smart scene selection for the major plot parts of the AMV, cutting and pasting the videos of each event to give you a concise summary of each part that tells you as much as you need to know for the story, without adding unnecessary time to the AMV.* It works pretty impressively well, creating a fairly understandable and straightforward take on the story that's shown well enough that I suspect even those not familiar with the game would have little trouble following it, while sacrificing little to none of the story's power and grandeur--if anything, this summarized version better emphasizes the epic nature of Twilight Princess's plot than the game does. Even more impressive when you consider that the AMV tells the story entirely visually--none of the game's dialogue that accompanies the scenes is shown. Roynerer takes artistic, stirring visuals from a really cool story, and edits them together to make the whole product better. This AMV is, simply put, great to watch.

I Gotta Have More Cowbell: The music used in this AMV is comprised of several parts of the soundtrack for the movie The Last Samurai, composed by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer is, apparently, one of Roynerer's musical heroes (and the same goes for my sister--she just loves The Last Samurai's music), and one can certainly see (well, hear, anyway) why--regardless of your musical tastes, it would be hard not to recognize this music as strong, moving, and masterful.

Now, under normal circumstances, the visual part of this AMV would certainly be its highest virtue--as I describe above, it accomplishes a great deal with its video portion, and does so with excellence. But with this AMV, the audio component is actually an equally strong part of what makes it great--and once again, this is a combination of the music itself being great, and the skill of the AMV's creator. The score to The Last Samurai is at many points designed to be epic, and Roynerer takes full advantage of it--in fact, he goes beyond what I'd consider "taking full advantage." That implies (to me, at least) working with a song perfectly within the normal expected, established parameters of that song. I believe, however, that Roynerer's selection of which pieces of music to put where makes great use of it in ways that were not intended. See, one of the really great things about The Last Samurai's music is that it's meant to be the mood-creating theme to a movie about Japan at (I think) the end of its feudal age; it takes its cues from traditional Japanese sound, and creates and emphasizes the movie's Japanese setting at least as much as any visual aspect of The Last Samurai.

Basically, what I am saying here is that this soundtrack really sounds Japanese.

Yet, when I watch this AMV and see the scenes that the music plays becomes transformed to me, somehow. Put to the well-chosen and entrancing Twilight Princess scenes, the music seems to meld with the game's video, and suddenly the epic and emotional music doesn't sound like it was taken from another source--it becomes such a connected part of the AMV that it sounds like it was somehow made for THIS. Seriously, when I watch this AMV, everything clicks so perfectly that the music doesn't seem like it was taken from something else and put into this--it's like it was MADE for this game's visuals. It's hard to describe how it happens, especially since I don't know much about cinematography and music to begin with, but the pace at which the visuals tell their story matches the music's tone and pace perfectly throughout the AMV, and that, along with the individual scene segments fitting extremely well with the moments of the song that accompany them, makes the song clips seem less a separate entity's music and more like they were designed around this AMV. That's an illusion that requires a lot of skill to create and maintain.

Also, as I mentioned, the individual scenes shown to the music are often flawlessly matched to its tone, coordinated as well as any AMV I've reviewed so far. My favorite example of this is at 1:22, when Link turns around and sees Zant. The music characterizes the visual wonderfully, taking a sudden, surprising dip into a deeper set of notes that work with the sudden appearance of the bizarre and formidable mask of Zant to startle the viewer and emphasize the unsettling nature of the villain in a slightly unnerving, almost regal way. And I'd like to note that it's also an excellent example of the AMV taking the music and changing how the listener reacts to it...this moment in the music is, in The Last Samurai, used for a moment of strong emotion in a way that you would expect. It's used perfectly, but conventionally, in its original use. Yet in this application, where the same moment of the song is used to convey unsettling, shocking imagery and timing to properly create a feel for Zant, it works equally well--it's a completely different way of using the same moment of music, yet it feels equally natural.

Overall, the scene's a really cool coordination of audio and visual and my favorite individual moment in this AMV, although it's very far from the only one--I'm not going into detail on the others simply because they go throughout the AMV, many, many scenes and moments mirroring and meshing with the music's mood of pitches, tones, and crescendos, singular scenes that sync with the sound so well and so successively that they simply become whole segments of superb coordination.**

Guy, You Explain: Like a few others I've reviewed, the point of this AMV is to provide a summary for the game, to give you an idea of its epic power and grandeur. Unlike the ones I've done here before, though (not to mention practically all other AMVs I've seen), this is no attempt to communicate the general feel and emotion of the game--this AMV actually attempts to show you the game's plot from start to finish, using the scenes of important events in the plot to give you a basic, but effective, story to watch. It's done so well that a person who hasn't played the game before would, I imagine, have very little difficulty following the AMV's story (and thus, the game's) from start to finish from this musical movie and pretty much understand most of the game's important ideas and plot points. Roynerer has told me,

"The idea just kinda sparked one night as I was trying to look for a new way to be creative and productive within the music area...which then resulted in the idea of making a short movie-like sequence made up of footage from a game, carefully structured around specifically chosen orchestral music. Orchestral music helps tell the story and grip the viewer a lot better, you see.

"...after the first section of the video was finished, I found it rather enticing, I said to myself that this has to be big, different, nothing like other AMVs on YouTube; I wanted it to be gripping, meaningful and in tune with the music I'd chosen."

Creative, movie-like, gripping, meaningful, and in tune? Mission Accomplished on each. This is a fresh and engaging idea for AMVs that I hope to see more of. The combination of a great set of visuals with a cool story set to an epic and emotional score makes it very movie-like. From start to finish, the AMV grasps the watcher's attention masterfully, impressing us with its power and feeling, gripping us like few AMVs can. Meaningful? I think there are scenes from TLoZ Twilight Princess that this AMV conveys more impressively than the game itself does, and if you can find any meaning within the game (and it's definitely there), you can find it almost perfectly preserved within this AMV--indeed, the meaning may even be better off in this form, because it's all presented together, rather than over the course of 50 hours. And in tune? I already mentioned earlier that this is so "in tune" that it basically BECOMES the tune.

TLoZTP: The Cinematic Experience is really just a splendid work. The care and skill in it is practically palpable, and I can't recommend enough that anyone and everyone check it out.

* To be critically fair, this may have been done as much out of necessity as of artistic considerations--the original version of this, according to my correspondence with Roynerer, was 12 minutes long, which won't fly on Youtube with its short-sighted demand that all videos on it be in the 10 minute range or less. Regardless of what could have been, though, the version we have now is good AND efficient, so I still feel it fair to count this as one of its virtues.

** Why yes, I DO like alliteration, now that you mention it.

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