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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ‘The Godfather’ and death of the modern crime opus”

    Mario Puzo’s novel, “”The Godfather,”” inspired what many consider some of the greatest movies of all time. The movie series won Oscars and etched itself into the American consciousness. It was more than just the characters and settings that pulled people in, however. It was the rags-to-riches plot, the respect given to men of class who operated outside the law and the equal respect with which the filmmakers treated the audiences who paid to see their films. Even today, these movies are at the top of any movie lover’s list, and they continue to plant themselves into our subconsciousness. Few stories have that kind of staying power. Over the next 20 years, a flurry of Mafia and organized crime movies were released including “”The Untouchables,”” “”Goodfellas,”” “”Scarface”” and “”Casino.”” The crime genre was born, and the American public was held captive.

    After the barrage of these films in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, the trend had subsided.Interestingly, however, it transferred over to other media in the late 1990s and 2000s. Comic books have seen resurgence in the crime genre since the ‘90s, most notably with the Batman graphic novel “”The Long Halloween”” and Frank Miller’s “”Sin City.””

    Most importantly, however, was the introduction of the crime genre into the field of video games. Enter Rockstar’s “”Grand Theft Auto”” series. Created as a simple top-down crime series in the late ‘90s for the Sony Playstation and PC, it was reinvented on the Playstation 2 in 2001 with the release of “”Grand Theft Auto III.”” It survived the jump to 3D and captivated seemingly every gamer in the country with its mature storyline and cunning satire. Given tasks to complete by crime lords, you had complete freedom over where you went, what you did and when you did it. “”Grand Theft Auto”” popularized the “”sandbox”” genre of video games. The success of the game quickly spawned a 2002 sequel, “”Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.”” The games are so highly thought of that review compilation site gives them scores of 97 and 95 out of 100, respectively.

    More than anything, however, the series was created as a loving homage to the modern crime epic. “”Grand Theft Auto III”” rips directly from “”The Godfather,”” and “”Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”” is an obvious loving tribute to “”Scarface.”” The storylines, settings and character types carried directly over to a new platform of expression through interactive entertainment and sold tens of millions. The genre was essentially resuscitated.

    In April 2008, the highly-anticipated next-generation sequel “”Grand Theft Auto IV”” was released to huge critical acclaim. The game is the third-highest rated game ever released, according to It featured an Eastern European protagonist named Niko Bellic and his slow descent into the world of crime after coming to America to chase the “”Great American Dream.”” In the story, the further Niko travels into the “”real America,”” the more he learns there is no such thing as the American Dream. Each criminal to which he indebts himself drags him deeper and deeper into a world much like the one we live in today: a place where you can’t leave your past behind or avoid the consequences of your actions. Unlike its predecessors in cinema, the “”Grand Theft Auto”” series took the lofty ideals of citizens easily operating outside the law for the common or personal good and distilled them into one new-age message for our generation.

    Our parents’ American Dream is no more. We’re living in the American Delusion.

    Of course, we saw this descent from the idealistic film opuses of the ’80s and ’90s into the reality-check world of “”Grand Theft Auto IV”” coming from a mile away, didn’t we? With the economy suffering, it wasn’t too hard to imagine that even our most revered media genre would eventually begin its own fall along with everything else. Instead of resting on its laurels, the crime genre has evolved into a defunct version of its former self; it has become a caricature of its own former glory.

    In hindsight, it hasn’t been all bad. “”Grand Theft Auto IV”” ushered in a new era of gaming and was enjoyed by people from all backgrounds. There has been a resurgence of the crime genre in other media forms as well, most notably the box office hit “”The Dark Knight.”” Although the recent entries to the crime genre have been in a darker vein than the original source material, this speaks to the universality of its message: No one and nothing is beyond the possibility of tumbling into recession, not even something as grand as the idea of the American Dream. The American Delusion has become the norm, and we’d be remiss to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

    Even so, one has to miss the days when respect was key to success, lofty ideals ruled the day and, more than anything, the potential for achievement had never been so high.

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