Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sick Movie Marathon . . . Wait . . . Not Like That

I've been a bit under the weather this weekend, and I've been bedridden because I'm trying to get to the point that I'll be fine for work next week.  As I've been sequestered in my own disease ridden chambers, I decided that between protracted bouts of unconsciousness, I'd check out some cheesy flicks from Netflix that I haven't made time for in a while.

One thing that I've noticed is that when I watch geeky movies, I have a hard time not thinking about how to translate things in the film to a Game Master's frame of mind.

I also have to say that originally I figured everything I watched would be potentially bad but entertaining.  One movie on the list has actually become one of my favorite movies, and I am kicking myself for not watching this sooner when some of my gaming circle told me to watch the film.

The first movie up on the Sick Movie Marathon is Season of the Witch.  It's Nick Cage, so you know that it's either going to be terrible or really entertaining, or some strange amalgam of the two.  One thing you can say about Nicholas Cage . . . he doesn't do things halfway.

What bumps this up on the list is that it not only has Nick Cage, but it has Ron Pearlman.  Okay, that whole  "awful but entertaining" side of things should at least come into play.

I enjoyed the movie, but I will say this, right off the top:  this movie has, in full force, the same bad theology/bad history lessons that Hollywood seems to automatically fall into for the period in question. If you can get past that, then you should be fine.

Cage and Pearlman are fun to watch as they play off of one another, and the bait and switch towards the end, while not brilliant, worked out pretty well.  It's never really scary, but it is creepy in a few places, and it moves pretty steadily towards resolving the story and doesn't stall out much.  If there is one thing, action wise, that bugs me, it's the use of spider climbing fast forwarded zombies that Hollywood seems to love to steal from Japanese horror films.  Just didn't seem to work well with the tone up to that point.

Spoiler Time:  What I liked about this, from a GM's perspective, is that this was actually a great set up for an adventure for an RPG.  You have three members of the group that are in trouble and can get out of trouble for doing a job, and two "true believers" that really want to be on the mission.  You have a set up for the group to take a prisoner to a remote location to determine if she is the X that is doing Y, because the remote location is the only place that can undo Y if she is the X.

Then you have encounters and challenges on the trip to remote location, and at remote location, you find out that she isn't X but she still has something to do with Y, and everyone at remote location is unable to undo Y but one of the people in the party has a chance to undo Y now, and a huge fight takes place at the end to keep Y from being reversed.

Really, it's a good set up for the opening arc of a campaign or maybe even a convention game, if you could tweak it so that no one that's seen the movie would realize what's going on right off the bat.

Overall, it was worth the time to watch it, and it was entertaining, but not a great movie or anything.

So I decided to watch the Midnight Chronicles, because it's based on a gaming property  (even if it's not one that is still active), and I know that this was done on a shoestring budget and I wanted to see what it looked like.  I had heard people say that it actually turned out well for being done on the cheap.

First off, don't look at the cover above.  There is no dragon.  Still with me?  Good.  I'll agree for a really cheap fantasy movie, this thing could run circles around much bigger budget 80s fantasy movies.  I'm not sure how much of a win that is, but it's a frame of reference.

Second, this doesn't watch like a movie.  It watches like a television pilot.  They introduce a ton of plot threads that aren't resolved and then they introduce a ton of characters that are only tangentially connected to the plot, and the story that resolves feels very minor compared to everything that has been introduced.

Third, this movie fully embraces the least endearing parts of the Midnight setting.  For anyone that isn't familiar, the Midnight setting is basically a d20 setting that posits, "what if Sauron had won in the Lord of the Rings."  Not directly, of course, but the "Shadow in the North" has cut off the rest of the world from the gods, elves are kind of helping humans sort of resist, orcs are everywhere, etc.

The problem is that in the setting good will someday rise again and have a chance for another round with evil, but since the crux of the setting is to explore what would happen if LOTR had an unhappy ending, the day for good to win, or begin to win, is not this day.  The PC heroes are suppose to pretty much fail at anything of long term substance striking back against evil.

If the PCs give up and try to become guys that work to line their own pockets, and give up on being heroes . . . they are doing it wrong, and the really evil guys get to squish them.  They are suppose to remain heroic and die doing something that barely helps.

"Well guys, we delivered the stolen bread to the village so that they won't starve next week, it's totally worth it that we have to fight 100,000 orcs now, even though once we die, those orcs are probably going to raze that village we just fed for a week."

Setting problems aside, the movie itself is plodding.  There is a vague curse that is the main story, and there are multiple vague prophesies that remain really vague despite a whole sequence with the standard old crone oracle.  There is some crime boss that is in power that is sort of helping the good guys and some villagers that joined or want to join and . . .

It's not worth it.  It might be somewhat decent with a half hour cut out as a TV pilot, if the series went against setting conventions and resolved a few things, but as it stands, too much time and effort for a really pointless payoff.  Watch only if you want to see orc makeup that doesn't look that bad, on guys that mainly stand around waiting for orders.

I love this movie.  The Warrior's Way is a movie that several of my gaming group have told me I should watch.  I hereby apologize to all of them that I didn't watch this sooner.  I think this has catapulted to one of my favorite movies . . . period.

Kate Bosworth is still too skinny, but she was cute enough in this movie that I can almost forgive her for being a shitty Lois Lane.

This thing was crazy over the top, and I expected it to be crazy over the top in a cheesy way.  But it actually worked, and worked really well, to tell the story it was trying to tell.  One thing that has sunk in to me over the years is that, despite a lot of RPG tropes being based on literature and fiction, an RPG session has a lot more in common, when it comes to good storytelling, with movies and comic books than when novels.  It is a medium composed of scenes that must have some kind of impact to be of value.

The deaths are over the top and completely unrealistic . . . which is short hand for "the person that just made that kill is bad ass."  One of the big villains is a scumbag of a human being, and you would probably hate him to begin with, but to cement him as a visually bad guy, he's scarred and wears a mask . . . well, you'll see if you watch it.  It becomes shorthand for "this is a bad guy, a really bad guy."

Another thing, related to gaming, that this movie reminds me of, is that sometimes you really need to let your players pull of really crazy schemes.  As long as they have to do something  (make plans, make checks, work together), there is nothing wrong with letting that plan significantly thin out the herd of bad guys.  The key is to make sure that it doesn't replace the big scene  (i.e. the fight with the BBEG or guys as the case may be), and it has to feel like the PCs earned their success with the plan.

But, getting back to the movie.  This movie is a story that really utilizes the visual media to tell a story with images.  I don't know a better way to sum up why I liked this so much, other than to say that asian swordplay and westerns seem to mesh really well.

Anyway, I don't know how lucid I am at this point, but I'm feeling a bit better, and perhaps I should get some sunlight.

1 comment:

  1. Warrior's Way is beautiful visually. Even more impressive is the attention they paid to sounds. My personal favorite is the fight scene in the hallway towards the end where the noises of the fight actually make up the fight music.