If you have been reading Geeks Under Grace, then you know that this review is a new experience, indeed! Though video games is my primary department, I have published in other departments here such as movies. Never, however, have I found myself using equipment traditionally associated with gaming such as an Oculus Rift, to experience a movie. Such is the case with The Great C, a VR cinematic based upon the short story of the same name, written by renowned sci-fi writer, Phillip K. Dick.
In the introduction of The Great C, expect “PG” levels of violence. Victims are explicitly impaled and choked, with others abducted and dragged off-screen to the sounds of screaming and hollering. Blood is minimal, with only two characters suffering from a visible flesh wound—one inflicted by gunshot.
No god or gods are referenced directly, however the community in this feature behave in ritualistic ways. It is possible to interpret the journey demanded of the community as a pilgrimage. They bring an “offering” representative of times long gone, such as an old revolver. On more than one occasion, characters recite mantras mentioning a kind of repentance, turning away from old, dark ways. They speak of technology particularly that of war.
The Great C opens with a father and son scene that might remind viewers of the God of War (2018) announcement trailer. The son takes aim at a deer with a bow and arrow, but gets distracted by the caw of a crow and misses. The father instructs the son to retrieve the arrow, and he reluctantly obeys, hesitating when he discovers the remains of a tank hidden in the undergrowth. But he does not know that this is a tank, for it has been decades since the last “Smash,” as the short story “The Great C” references the apocalypse that has brought forth this setting. A humanoid creature with a living, tentacled skirt emerges from behind this tank, and inquires as to why the community has failed to report. The father replies in a way that the female creature dislikes, and it goes to town—literally—and razes it, leaving the son as one of the few survivors.
He lives long enough to become a sage of sorts to remind future generations to be obedient to the Great C. The scene transitions to Tim and Clare on a boat, not giving a care in the world; perhaps they do not care enough, speaking some words considered taboo. They are actually betrothed, and the scene shifts to a wedding where the village elder who had survived the previous “Smash,” presides. Unfortunately, a sound in the distance interrupts the ceremony, and a crow flies in between the couple, “choosing” one of them to make the next pilgrimage to the Great C.
I have mentioned that this short film The Great C is based upon Dick’s short story of the same name. In fact, one could imagine that this is something like a sequel. Those who have never read “The Great C” can do so here, as I do believe reading it will enhance the effect of comprehending a world where humanity is reduced to hunting and gathering, high mortality rates among men such that they take on multiple wives (the protagonist in “The Great C” has eight), and embarrassing illiteracy. The characters in this VR flick barely can barely recognize or operate a gun, are dumbfounded by a jukebox, and consider canned cherry pie a delicacy.
Developer Secret Location Inc. is sensitive that their production is a VR movie and offers “cinematic” or “comfort” modes for viewing, the latter portraying scenes that one might be accustomed to in a 3D movie, where the camera is mostly static; it shifts when characters move and require new angles for visibility. The former mode is more dynamic, offering a camera that moves and shifts while viewing through the VR headset, providing an effect of slight motion and depth. My wife, who is sensitive to even the motions while I play FPS games, was able to watch on my 27″ ΛSUS monitor in either mode.
Those who ever wondered what would have been possible had Telltale Games ever developed a more sophisticated engine will be pleased with The Great C. Its presentation quality is a leap beyond cell-shading, and its textures are more dense, reminiscent of what one would see in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Most lines are delivered crisply, though Clare and Tim’s interactions are at times as stiff as their canoe in the water that refuses to bob to the waves on the lake.
This interpretation of The Great C ends in a way that deviates from the resolution that its source material provides, creating an experience that is enjoyable, but predictable in its reliance on several tropes such as love becoming much of a motivator as the burden of responsibility or revenge, and the emotional drive and ingenuity of humanity somehow transcending its own inventions that were painstakingly designed to be fundamentally superior. Even so, this brief movie lays down some important groundwork in the evolution of VR entertainment. I did not expect to use my Occulus Rift to sit in my chair and be placed into a world like this with a bird’s eye view, but now I wonder what it would feel like if Secret Location Inc. decided to expand on what it began here with a post-movie adventure game.
Review code generously provided by Wonacott PR.
+ Like a 3D film + Affordable price + Production value exceeds standard VR cutscene demos
- Not actually a game that can be played - Some lines and animations lack fluidity
The Bottom Line
Though I prefer the themes presented in the original short story, the cinematic short The Great C is certainly worth the price of a standard movie ticket to watch—it certainly will not disappoint like recently-released films like The Predator or Venom.