maanantai 17. tammikuuta 2011

Good vs. Evil - John Marston & Edgar Ross

An outlaw for the ages.
a.k.a. "The man from Blackwater"
Voice actor(s): Rob Wiethoff
Appears in: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

What does it take to be the most bad-ass protagonist in a game made by Rockstar Games? A mute, leather-clad killing machine? An ex-convict working his way out of the mob and attempting to take over an 80's metropolitan? An exceptionally foul-mouthed gangbanger trying to take over a whole state, or a Serbian war veteran living a life of crime to save his cousin's miserable life? The answer to all of these is no. What it takes is to be a family man - an ill-fated outlaw desperately trying to lead a new life as an honest rancher, blackmailed to hunt down his former partners in crime. John Marston had his wife and son taken away from him by two crooked government agents taking advantage of their positions. The only way John could save his family was to bring the people who raised him, this orphaned son of a Scottish immigrant and an American prostitute, to justice. There's nothing that John wouldn't do for his family. Even if it meant killing men he once considered as brothers, working for people that disgusted him from head to toe, or taking both sides in a Mexican revolution. All that mattered was protecting his beloved.

John was very much like Clint Eastwood's William Munny in The Unforgiven, which is the best Western movie ever made, bar none, if you ask me: calm and polite, yet determined and if need be, excessively violent. Unlike all other Rockstar characters that have emerged since Grand Theft Auto abandoned all censorship in terms of language, John rarely cursed, and never in the vicinity of women or children. Women loved John - he wasn't much of a looker, but in his nature he was the kind of man that doesn't grow on trees. He was extremely polite towards women and protective of them. Even if he had but one goal during his journey across the New Austin prairie, he always made time for himself to save the occasional damsel in distress, and other people he found wrongfully accused. John was an angel... or demon, if you necessarily wanted him to be.

SPOILER WARNING! John's life came to an abrupt end on his very own ranch. Agent Edgar Ross, who had orchestrated the kidnapping of John's family, lied when he told John his past crimes would be erased after he had killed his old gang. Ross saw John as a pest, and the last outlaw on his path to receiving the medal and pension he so coveted for. When John least expected it, Ross invaded Beecher's Hope with the U.S. Army by his side, with plans to execute the whole family. The hero John was, he helped Abigail and Jack to escape the ranch just in time, and sacrificed himself for his family in a hail of bullets. He knew that as long as he lived, there would be no chance for the ones he loved, to live a decent life. The image of John taking his last breath before falling to the ground, his body covered with blood, is forever remembered as one of the most breath-taking, heart-stopping moments in video game history.

John Marston was awarded "Best Video Game Character of 2010" by IGN. Congratulations to our favourite virtual cowboy for a well deserved victory.

Jumped the shark?
John's death scene is without a doubt the scene in which the whole game jumps the shark, but I guess I should be looking for a little more positive instance here. John has an extremely vast array of amazing dialogue, but one punchline that really made me laugh out loud was something he said to Irish. The scene is the one in which Irish is smuggling John across the Mexican border. Irish has told John he has a lot of friends in Mexico, and that there wouldn't be any opposition towards them. Well, as it turns out, Irish once again tells his own version of the truth and their raft is attacked by a large group of Mexican bandits. John takes care of the shooting while Irish tries to keep in control of the raft. At one point, he asks John if he knows what the Mexican word for "cunt" is. John's quick and sincere response is: "You tell me. You must've been called it a few times." Cue uncontrollable laughter.

Hit rock bottom?
I'd love to say John Marston never hit rock bottom, and so I will: he never hit rock bottom. Yet, there are a few characters in Red Dead Redemption who John was perhaps too easy towards. He let disgusting and irreversibly sick people live 'cause their affairs were not his business, but considering his nature, it would've been perfectly natural for him to grab his shotgun and blow their brains out without asking any questions. Even if these people helped John to get closer to his goal, leaving them alive was a liability I didn't believe John would've let linger.


What a piece of shit.
Voice actor(s): Jim Bentley
Appears in: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Edgar Ross was one vile, disgusting human being. This government agent from the earliest days of the FBI didn't just want to purge the West, he wanted to speed up the flow of time as he was so fascinated with modern technology. In Ross' most self-absorbed moments the player was truly asked the question of how low can one man go. He used John, and even his own partner Farnham, to do things he couldn't. He sent his "inferiors" to suicide missions while he was sitting behind a desk or in his car, dreaming about the medal he would be granted for his "bravery" and "single-handedly purging the state of outlaws" by the U.S. government. He was similar to John in a sense that he was a family man and the only people that truly cared for him were his wife and brother, who didn't even see the devil or technofreak in Ross. They saw a kind, intelligent man, who loved nature and fishing.

SPOILER WARNING! Ross commanded the U.S. Army to kill the Marston family only to lay back and enjoy the show himself with his huge cigar. John was killed in the onslaught, but Abigail and Jack survived. After Abigail's death two years later, Jack took on his father's mantle and set out to find the man who killed him. Through clues to his whereabouts, Jack found out Ross had indeed gained a medal and a huge pension to last him a lifetime for his "efforts" to make the Wild West but a memory. Jack's anger grew so that he didn't care the least bit for Ross even after questioning his family members about his location. He finally found Ross fishing on a river bank in Mexico. In the most memorable duel of the game, Jack gunned down his father's killer and left his body flowing down the river stream, never to be found. Like Ross himself once said something of the sort: each crime has consequences, and you can't escape your past.

Jumped the shark?
Edgar Ross is such as a nasty villain that the line between jumping the shark and hitting rock bottom is very thin. I think "jumping the shark" in this case would be a moment during which Edgar Ross shows some signs of humanity, and there are absolutely none of those. He's a character that was meant to be loathed by everyone. I guess he jumped the shark in those two missions in which he finally grabbed a gun and joined the action himself, instead of just ordering people around.

Hit rock bottom?
If we continue on the principles of the last paragraph, Edgar Ross hit rock bottom every time he appeared on the screen - the rock bottom of humanity. His facial expressions, his gestures, every word that comes out of his mouth... can a man possibly love himself as much as this dude? To save himself, John really should've had this guy assassinated. John wasn't the smartest man around, but I believe even he must've had a hunch that this guy would've stopped at nothing and that his promises were completely useless.

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