Wow, I found another RPG AMV so good that it deserves its own rant, and it hasn’t even been a full year since the last one! Truly we live in wondrous times. Today we look at the first Mass Effect video to get its own spotlight here, Go Back to Sleep, by Xeriana11.
Mass Effect Series: Go Back to Sleep: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpuwTZca_rg
Look. Look With Your Special Eyes: Top-notch visual quality on this one. Everything looks as good in this AMV as it does in the actual games, and anyone familiar with Mass Effect knows just how good that is. Along with being well-suited for the AMV’s story and the song’s lyrics and tune (more on that later), Xeriana11’s selected a set of clips of footage from the Mass Effect series that has a decidedly darker tint to it, even when it’s bright, which definitely accentuates the darkness of the music and the video’s intent. I don’t know how much credit to give her for this, since ME2 and 3 (from which most footage is pulled) have a generally darker visual tone anyway, but it works great for the AMV’s purposes, so kudos all the same.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m very partial to AMVs who employ visual bells and whistles with moderation, keeping them simple but effective (not that more grandiose visuals in an AMV are necessarily bad, but they usually wind up just getting in the way, distracting the viewer from the video’s actual content). So it should come as no surprise to you that this AMV that I like so much is another case of a video with a moderate number of basic visual effects, used effectively to increase the effect of the AMV without going overboard. Some of the best instances of this come when the video starts out, with some quick blurs, discolorations, and jerky visual transitions, which effectively convey the subconscious mood set for both the song and video in those few first notes, finally getting into the song and video proper with a quick focusing upon the Illusive Man’s face, which brings to mind how the world looks when you first open your eyes after awakening--a simple but absolutely great effect to use to portray Shepard’s just having awoken and to visually set up the idea of The Illusive Man wanting Shepard to “go back to sleep.” The blurred zoom-in* that follows that scene at 0:34 is another example of a comparatively basic effect that coordinates really well with the AMV as a whole, this time mirroring the abrupt and violent change in the music to abruptly and violently bring us into the scene of Shepard’s death in ME2.
Those are the best examples of Xeriana11’s touch, visually, but the visual effects stay solid throughout. Lots of faded overlay transitions link one scene to the next in a more connected way than a simple switch would when the scenes should be associated together, some color-burny effects at times to coordinate with the song’s harsher notes, that sort of thing. It’s all well-placed and effective.
Your Music’s Bad and You Should Feel Bad!: This AMV employs the song Pet, by A Perfect Circle. This is the first I’ve ever heard this song, and I have to admit that while I don’t actually like it personally, it IS impressive to me--dark, creepy, powerful, even disturbing. This is one of those rare occasions I can look at a song and actually see it as an example of art.
There’s no denying that the music is the dominant force in this AMV, driving the visual component of the music video and its message. The AMV endeavors to follow along to the song on several different levels, and succeeds admirably on all counts. On its most basic level, the AMV follows the music’s tone and changes admirably with its visuals. The quiet and creepy parts are reflected by appropriate scenes, most often involving The Illusive Man, which fit perfectly with his bright and yet dark surroundings. As the music turns to a harsher, more hostile tone, we see the visuals reflect it, violently transitioning to scenes of destruction and the nightmarish situations and foes that Shepard faces off against. On the next level, the video also follows along and excellently compliments the lyrics of the song, as well. Practically every moment in the AMV during which there are spoken words is an example of this, but I’ll throw out a few exemplary moments anyway. Moments like 1:16 through 1:19, where “truth” and “choice” are represented by unpleasant moments of ME2 and 3 where Shepard learns that The Illusive Man knowingly allowed Shepard to walk into a trap because he wanted the potential prizes of information from the situation (the truth that The Illusive Man is only interested in what Shepard can do for him, rather than what Shepard can do for everyone), and where Shepard must choose whether or not to shoot a misguided old friend in order to save the council’s, and by extension countless others’, lives. Or like 2:56, where we see The Illusive Man’s dream of Control from the (horrendously awful) ending to the lyrics talking of a new world order, 3:12, which show Shepard’s visions of the Reapers to the lyrics “the boogiemen are coming,” and 4:01, showing Shepard’s loyal and good friends as the “other” and “evil” ones to The Illusive Man. It’s all good stuff.
There’s one last, overall level of the music that I feel the video meshes with excellently, too. As the song continues, there’s a point near its middle that seems...well, if I had to play musical interpreter, I’d say that it’s the point at which the singer’s manipulations seem to be failing. Eventually the singer’s vocals become louder, more insistent--he’s no longer soft and wheedling as in the song’s beginning, he’s now frustratedly shouting his manipulations, as the music itself starts to sound more energized and epic, and thus, hopeful--as though the one the singer is trying to control is breaking through the manipulations. This, of course, could be entirely a misinterpretation by someone who prefers the optimistic and positive conclusions to the dark and unhappy ones, but even if that’s definitely not what the song means to portray, the AMV uses the song in this way, going from primarily using ME2’s visuals halfway through the song to primarily using ME3’s scenes--in other words, going from the visuals of a game where Shepard was working for The Illusive Man to the game where Shepard is his enemy, using the scene at ME2’s end where Shepard has destroyed the Collector Base against The Illusive Man’s wishes and walks out on him as a transition between these two halves of the AMV. As the music becomes more powerful (again, like the manipulator is fully losing his control over the song’s subject) at around 3:23, we see scenes from the assault on The Illusive Man’s base, and scenes from the game’s finale where Shepard finally has the opportunity to break through his control and shoot him dead, as the singer gives one last whispered plea of manipulation. Again, maybe this more hopeful message of the manipulator’s illusions failing isn’t what the song intended, but that’s the direction the AMV’s interpretation of the song goes in, and it does work.
Guy, You Explain: The purpose of this AMV is to portray, and perhaps even explore, the relationship The Illusive Man has with Shepard in the light of the song. As the representative of Control for Mass Effect, The Illusive Man and his manipulations of Shepard, both successful and failed, are a great match to the creepy control the singer of Pet seeks, through threats and reassurances, to exert over the song’s subject. It’s interesting, even intriguing, to see The Illusive Man’s perspective of Shepard in this way, and casts him in a decidedly sinister light, one which fits him well. Xeriana11 also states that her intended purpose with this AMV was to show Shepard’s struggle to figure out whether or not to believe The Illusive Man, to show how his skillful manipulations of Shepard that would create doubts in Shepard’s mind, and that’s definitely achieved here, too, partially through use of scenes where the embodiment of Shepard’s connection to the Alliance, Kaidan (or Ashley; whomever survived Virmire--in this case, Kaidan is the one used), is cutting his ties with Shepard in ME2 and standing against Shepard in ME3, and partially just from the overall effect of having The Illusive Man be the narrative force of the video.
Now granted, this isn’t a perfect AMV in some respects. It’s an interpretation of The Illusive Man and Shepard that takes a certain amount of liberties in their interactions, liberties that perhaps separate it from being a perfect, literal match to the actual game’s characters. And I have to say it confuses me a little why a Male Shepard is not used in this video rather than the Female version of Shepard, because one of the opening visuals of the AMV has The Illusive Man looking, for a brief moment, at a dossier of Male Shepard, and one of the last lines of the song refers to the song’s subject (who is Shepard for the purposes of this AMV) as “son.” It wouldn’t be a problem for me if the AMV were forced to use a character who had no male version available, but there IS a male version of Shepard, so why not use him instead and simply avoid that incongruity?
Still, the gender thing is so small an issue that it barely even warrants mention anyway, so it’s not really a problem at all in the end. And regardless of how accurate you consider this video, it’s more than close enough that it works well as an AMV to the Pet song and provides an entertaining, and maybe even thought-provoking perspective on Shepard and The Illusive Man, whose connection is interesting to consider and explore. Ultimately, Go Back to Sleep is a very well made, interesting, and creepily powerful AMV, just great overall, and I think it deserves real recognition.
* Once again: I totally do not know anything about cinematography terms. I guess some day I should really attempt to learn them rather than have to keep making these apologies, but for the moment, you’ll just have to bear with my ignorant descriptions of visual effects.