Well, it was bound to become legend. Action Park was something I grew up with. I was born and raised in Sussex County, NJ, just about 20 mins south of Vernon, where Action Park was the face of the Vernon Valley – Great Gorge ski resort during the summer months (Now called ‘Mountain Creek’). The stories I used to hear would ‘turn your shit white!’. The ‘Cannonball Loop’ was well known, though before I started skiing in 1992, I had never seen it myself.
During the summer of 1993, I went to Action Park with some local friends. All of us being around 14 years old, we were old enough to know some of this crap was crazy, but still young enough not to really care. We figured…I figured…that if it was really that unsafe, it would have been shut down long ago. How naive I was. While I wasn’t hurt during that day, one event did shake me up enough to be very wary of going on anything else and most times after I would stand around and wait for my friends to finish having their fun.
There was a ‘ride’ in the park called the ‘Cliff Jump’ and it was exactly what you would expect, a 30 foot drop and a higher 50 foot drop down into a (very cold) pool, lined with rocks. (I exaggerate…slightly, but it looked that high when you were standing there!) The pool was pretty big so the rocks weren’t much of a concern, unless you didn’t get enough distance when you jumped, which is what happened to me. Since I’m deathly afraid of heights, I would only go on the ’30ft’ jump, and only after being ridiculed about being scared of going on the ’50ft’ one. The ‘attendants’ were no more than slightly older high-school kids getting some extra cash at a summer job. There was a line of kids (no adults that I could see anywhere, which I thought odd at the time), you stepped up to the edge, the kid would have his hand in front of you and after the kid before cleared enough distance in the pool (they alternated between the two drops, though the higher one was to the right far enough not to be much of a concern), he’d pull his hand up and you jumped.
Well, everything went fine until it was my turn. The kid in front of me jumped, splashed down and swam away. The ‘attendant’ kid looked to the other drop for permission to let me go but no one jumped from the higher drop even though there was a line. So after a second (this all happened in mere seconds), he gave me the go ahead and I went to jump. At the very last possible moment, he went to put his hand down in front of me. But my momentum wouldn’t let me stop that fast and I grabbed the metal railing that was behind the kid and at the edge, trying to stop. It didn’t work. I had to jump. (Like I said, this was split-second stuff) I hoped to God I had enough clearance and fell, hoping the kid on the higher drop didn’t somehow come down on me too. I hit the water in not the greatest of positions, more to my side than feet first so it stung pretty bad. The water was FREEZING cold, too, especially given how hot the air was. As I swam to the edge of the pool, which slowly angled from deep to shallow, I looked up at the ‘attendant’ kid and he just shrugged his shoulders half-ass, like no big deal. Well, I suppose not for him. But it was for me. I was pretty much done after that. The next kid to come down from the higher drop actually did a belly-flop and when he hit the water the crack sounded like being next to a lightning strike! Everyone around said, ‘Oooh!‘. After what I had just experienced, I had no doubt that kid was gonna be hurting for a while…
So these stories of horror from there are no surprise to me. I’m just surprised they made ‘national’ attention, years after it was shut down. It was kinda ironic that the winter before I had hit a patch of ice while skiing there and flipped, landing on and breaking my thumb. (I actually went down the mountain three more times after I broke it, until my thumb had swollen up so much I could not longer hold onto my skiing pole. The throbbing pain was getting ‘somewhat’ annoying too…lol) Then having this experience that summer, maybe it was a good thing I moved out of state that September…
(Originally posted to IO9 at 10/18/13 8:52pm – http://io9.com/we-dont-speak-about-action-park-anymore-well-it-wa-1448209714 )
The FINAL episode!
I actually watched this very early this morning, right before going to bed before it was announced everywhere (I think they put it up like two mins before I happened to stumble on it). I was waiting all week for this, thinking about the other four eps and how bad-ass the fourth one was, I was giddy with anticipation. But…
As much of a HALO fanatic as I am, I should pretty much love anything related to it (which I do, for the most part). And for the first four eps of this awesome series, I was enthralled.
However, for some reason, the finale to it, this last episode, doesn’t feel…right. I’m going to post some major spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet, do so and then come back or whatever.
You’ve been officially warned…
The very beginning, like with the rest of the eps, starts with Cortana in the ‘present’, as in where the series is at right now after the end of HALO3, which is on-board the frigate (destroyer?) ‘Forward Unto Dawn’…or, well, what’s left of it. Master Chief is in cryo, as they drift through space waiting for some kind of rescue. Four years have passed and Cortana is suffering the effects of an illness that all A.I.’s experience after 7 (or so) years – Rampancy (which basically means that all the knowledge she’s gathered and collected over the years reaches a ‘critical mass’ and emotions start to run…rampant…as the A.I. breaks with reality and begins to succumb to the notion that it is better than everything else, it’s amassed enough ‘power’ that it no longer thinks it has to be subservient to humans and becomes extremely dangerous and unstable. There is no known treatment or cure and the A.I. has to be…destroyed, for lack of a better word). It’s now been 8 years since Cortana came to be and she’s trying desperately to hold on to her sanity, which features heavily in the new game. I’m not quite sure what place that part of the story has with this series, other than to explain some back story before the game comes out and the fact that for four years Cortana has sent out distress calls, which are eventually picked up by the UNSC Infinity (also in the game), which is apparently commanded by Thomas Laskey, who is the main character in this series.
Whew! Still with me? After the bit with Cortana in the very beginning (where we finally actually see her instead of just hear her voice. Her look changes with each game to a certain degree and personally I liked the very first look of her in HALO: CE, though she looks good in this one too. She has a very young looking face but a body that looks to be older to relate the fact that, in ‘A.I. years’, she’s practically past middle-age), we return to where we left off in the fourth episode, in ‘the past’. The Covenant have invaded the planet where the cadets of the military school are training and Master Chief, along with some of his squad (who we read about pretty extensively in the books, especially ‘Kelly’) are fighting them off so he can save these four cadets that are left, apparently on the planet. In the previous episode, one of the cadets, ‘Sully’, had been hit in the leg and they finally found a Warthog and took off into the woods to an extraction point being held by the other members of Master Chief’s squad. The Chief is in the back manning the gun turret and the rest are in the Warthog itself. Basically, they get ambushed along the way and stop. It’s then we find out that Chyler, Laskey’s best friend this whole time at the school, is hit in the chest and badly wounded. After some more shooting and running, they get to a small area where she dies. This is one of the points that I feel doesn’t quite ‘work’. The other two cadets are a little shocked but don’t say anything, Chief is watching out into the woods and Laskey starts crying – hard. All that is fine, but for some reason I just didn’t ‘feel’ it. His tears didn’t look ‘real’ enough for me, honestly. It looked as if he was forcing it, from an acting point of view, rather than really trying to convey the feeling of the scene. On top of that, he comes off as being a bit ‘whiny’. The whole scene just didn’t work for me. It’s moving, yes, but just not in the right ‘way’ for me. I dunno, hard to explain I guess. Then after checking things out, Chief comes and kneels down and just says, ‘I’m sorry’. But even that felt somehow ‘wrong’. In all the games and books, for the most part, Chief is a man of very few words. Especially in the first few games, he says very little and conveys that image of a tough, ‘macho’ type. And it works perfect. In these two episodes we see him, I feel he talks way too much for what is considered ‘normal’ for him, at least in my eyes. Granted, yes, this is supposed to take place years before his appearance in (most of) the books and games, so he may have been somewhat different then. War has definitely been known to harden a soul.
Also, as we see in the end, it appears that Chief may not be much older than the cadets he’s saving. After Chyler dies, they run some more through the woods, trying to evade a Covenant Hunter. They stop at one point and we find that they have no more ammo for their guns and only one grenade. We run into another problem for me right after this as Laskey announces that he’s going to run off to get the Hunter’s attention so Chief has a chance to use the grenade. When he says this, the other two cadets start yelling at him not to run, pleading emotionally that it will be suicide. Yet just a few mins before they were absolutely silent as Chyler died. Laskey goes for it anyway and runs in front of the Hunter and into the woods as fast as he can, all slowed down for dramatic effect. Again, I have a problem with this too. In the third episode, it became apparent that he couldn’t run because of his allergy and that if he did, he would pass out. He doesn’t here, nor does he show any concern about it. Also, the Hunter is able to get off a shot from his Fuel-Rod weapon and nearly vaporize Laskey before the Chief even moves from where he’s crouching. After the first shot, Laskey is knocked down but gets back up as the Hunter powers up for another and this is when the Chief takes off to somehow lodge the grenade on the Hunter and blow it to pieces. It does, however, fire off another shot which sends Laskey, who should be out of range and probably out of line of sight in the thick woods, flying through the air and into a bush and weeds. It’s cool looking, don’t get me wrong, and I liked it for the action but for what it represented story-wise, it was just another thing that didn’t feel ‘right’.
After the Hunter is defeated, they all get to a Pelican dropship/transport and meet up with two more Spartans in Chief’s team, one of them being ‘Kelly’. They briefly (and oddly) converse (it just felt a little ‘stiff’) and all get seated in the open bay in the back as it takes off. We see that the Covenant have already begun ‘glassing’ the world and the area where the school had been is now a scorched and burning wasteland.
It’s here where they throw an unexpected, but nonetheless absolutely awesome, surprise at us. While the Spartans sit on a bench seat on one side of the bay and the cadets sit on the other side of the bay, and the Pelican continues to climb up into the sky, we see the two other Spartans in Chief’s team, one being ‘Kelly’, take their helmets off. This is something amazing as, for those that don’t know or are unfamiliar with HALO, we almost never see the Spartans out of their armor or helmets off (HALO Reach being somewhat of an exception, which apparently takes place after this time-frame). And to date, we have never seen what Master Chief looks like. (there’s a huge rumor that he’s Black but it hasn’t been confirmed, at least to my knowledge. For the sake of clarity, the voice for Chief in the games is White, as is in this series) But, after they take their helmets off (Master Chief does not, of course), we see that his squad mates are just kids! Probably no older than the cadets themselves! ‘Sully’ even asks how old they are, to which ‘Kelly’ replies that “it’s classified’. I got a chuckle out of that.
After this, we flash forward to Thomas Laskey as an adult and we see him as we did in the first part of the first episode, on board the UNSC Infinity, listening to the distress call from Cortana. He then says that everyone is to go into Cryo-sleep for the journey to Master Chief and Cortana’s location and we see the scars from the allergic reactions of the Cryo on his chest as he suits up for it. We see the battle-group make the jump and it’s over. I’m assuming that HALO4 picks up right after this ending.
It really just feels, to me, that they built the whole thing up over the first three episodes, drawing it out to establish all the characters, only to kill most of them off in the last two and run at a blazing pace from there to the end. It felt like there should be another few episodes in between the second, third and fourth to keep the slower pace established in the beginning. It might be they wanted to convey the confusion and feelings of everything happening at once, so fast you can hardly understand what’s going on when the shooting starts. But in the last episode, it starts then slows, then starts again, then practically stops, and follows that to the end. Add to the uneven pacing, the somewhat awkward emotional scenes and I feel like they very unfortunately missed getting this absolutely perfect. It was close, SO close, but the ending just doesn’t work for the story being told, in the manner it started in. It almost feels like a ‘Mass Effect 3′ kind of ‘opportunity lost’ situation where it could have been so much more epic and meaningful, but for some reason, it just…wasn’t. That isn’t to say it’s not a wonderful series and a fun thing to watch. It certainly is. In fact, I’ve watched the whole five episodes, in order, a couple of times now already and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I’m definitely geared up for HALO4 (as if I wasn’t already!) and if I can get my PS3 sold, I’ll be playing it for a LONG time, no doubt. I would also say that anyone with even a remotely passing interest should watch this series. They won’t be sorry.