REVIEW: God of War: Raising Kratos (2019 – Documentary)

Release Poster – Sony PlayStation

The following is a short review of God of War: Raising Kratos — Directed by Brandon Akiaten.

Brandon Akiaten’s God of War: Raising Kratos is a documentary about the making of the 2018 version of God of War, which is arguably one of the best games of the decade. Dubbed a masterpiece by plenty of video game critics and netting a 94 Metacritic-score, God of War was a critical hit and, later, a fan-favorite. It won new fans and it pleased old ones, and it made the developing studio into a reinvigorated and much more cherished studio than it had ever been before. But the journey to get there was arduous as revealed by Akiaten’s feature-length documentary, which has been released on YouTube by Sony PlayStation.

Raising Kratos tells a story of evolution for the Sony first-party studio Santa Monica. Over the course of the documentary, we see how it failed to rebrand itself with a new internal property, which was eventually canceled, only to then revamp the franchise on which they made their name. They were so successful in doing this that God of War‘s Game Director, Cory Barlog, became the face of a changing art form and popular face in video gaming. It is a story about the death of a dream and the making of a triumph.

While documenting the change in Santa Monica’s perspective, workload, and challenges, the documentary also showcases the taxing experience of receiving criticism from playtesters and executives. Getting to see a glimpse of their reactions to internal and external criticism is eye-opening as it humanizes those who elevate their craft. It is one of the shining moments of the documentary, which also shows us how they made the magnificent music themes for the game, as well as gives us a new perspective on the mind-blowing presentation footage that was revealed year-by-year.

In perhaps its greatest moment, the documentary focuses on lead voice and motion-capture actor Christopher Judge, who I became a fan of when he was a series regular on Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner’s Stargate SG-1, and gives you a raw moment of acting, wherein the seasoned and underappreciated actor becomes deeply moved. In his interview, he very briefly gives some very limited context, but it is a powerful moment all the same. I wanted much more of these overwhelming moments in performance-capture, but there really wasn’t much of it.

In fact, I think one of the disappointing things about this 114-minute documentary is that it lacks depth. It isn’t hastily put together, and it does document the making of the masterpiece, but it doesn’t really go in-depth on the many different aspects of the game. I wanted more of the performances, I needed more about the criticisms of the character and their impetus for making real, significant changes to the franchise. It does touch upon pretty much every which angle you’d want it to take, but, to me, it only superficially covers them. However, I do feel like it should’ve shown them basking in the success more than it did.

Nevertheless, Brandon Akiaten’s God of War: Raising Kratos is a strong ‘making of’-documentary and a solid audiovisual text about the creation of a masterpiece, which, throughout the processes, never really looked like the shining star it would become. It documents the creation of one of my personal favorite video games ever made, and it is a testament to the hard work that goes into making a video game.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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