Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is There Anything Geekier Than A Centaur

Allow me to give you a little Piper background.

I played Dungeons & Dragons growing up. I collected figures and multiple-sided dice. In short, I was geeky. But I loved the game and the images it created in my head of characters and different worlds and oh my God, there I go again... being geeky. I can't help it. A 12th level Paladin with a 24 dexterity, and somebody please stop me before I kill again!!!! I enjoyed that time and there's no doubt in the world that it helped me with my creativity, but I'm all grows up now and have placed it neatly up on a shelf as one would with a nicely painted Minotaur figurine.

So the family and I went to go see Prince Caspian, the latest installment in the Narnia Chronicles. I have enjoyed the books and because of my Dungeons & Dragons background, I have always enjoyed stories involving alternate worlds where Goblins lurk and giant buffalo creatures roam the earth on two legs with gigantic double-sided axes. When I talk of the Rings Trilogy, I still get some eye-rolls from friends saying they don't really dig fantasy movies. And to me, describing The Lord Of The Rings as a fantasy trilogy isn't doing it much justice. It's just a really good batch of movies. Dress up the bad guys how you like, but these were classic good versus evil movies. And when I defend or just discuss the Rings Trilogy, I do it unabashedly. Without guilt or fear of judgment. I don't make excuses for it saying "well, you have to like fantasy movies." You just have to like well-made movies on an epic scale. When the trilogy came out, the parallels between it and 9/11 were uncanny. And let me say that I hate drawing parallels such as this, but it was unavoidable and is a testament to the timelessness of these stories. There will always be good and there will always be some big fucking monster trying to kill all that is good.

Prince Caspian is not very good as a stand-alone movie and as the second installment in a franchise it's even worse. What makes the Rings Trilogy so good is the reason why Prince Caspian fails. The story could not transcend the mythical lands or the creatures. About halfway through the movie, the Narnians have lost a major battle and had to retreat. There's a quick exchange of glances between a couple Centaurs. The male centaur looks at the female centaur as if to say "things didn't go well." With this news, the female centaur begins to cry and all I could think was "man Centaurs are geeky looking." Like something an anti-social kid in early Jr. High might be drawing on his notebook instead of listening in his Math class. A special "character" in his imaginary world that he dreams about every single night. It's like a Liger in that it's a combination of two un-geeky things that when combined together becomes the pinnacle of geekiness. In the Rings Trilogy, you could dress the characters up as you like. They could be Hobbits or Wizards or gigantic trees, but they were still human in how they were presented in the movie. The Centaur scene was supposed to be emotional as two stoic man/horses delivered reams of dialogue in a single look and the result was pure hokiness. Not a human story, but just a geeks dream come to life on the big screen.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

I was a paladin too!!!

Although I think I spent more time talking about the game and creating characters than actually playing it. In the couple years of playing, I was only in a few games.

PIPER said...

That about sums up my experience. Not sure that I ever really played a game. Just collected a lot of stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Is There Anything Geekier Than A Centaur?"

Oh, I don't know, maybe a movie blog?

Anonymous said...

Both Narnia movies seem to suffer from two elements:

1. Everything is too damn clean. There isn't a speck of dirt, grime, or blood on anything, even in the thickest battle. Contrast that with LOTR, where everything felt lived in.

2. Both films are seriously lacking in warmth, personality, and whimsy. Read the books, and you will hear wonderful voices of character and charm. Those books almost beckon you back like an old friend. The films, on the other hand, might as well have been made by a computer entirely.

PIPER said...

Art Howe,

Actually, I think commenting on a movie blog might be the geekiest thing I can think of.

Anonymous said...

I like Ray's second point. I've never been able to put my finger on why I didn't care for that 1st flick. It's soul-less. And I was a huge fan of the books growing up, as I was of D&D. Only problem with D&D is my older brother and his friend would turn on my characters. killing them every time we got to the end of a map and taking all the my booty. I hated those M-Fer's for ruining D&D. SHUT UP PIPER. I can hear you laughing all the way in Texas.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

"Both films are seriously lacking in warmth, personality, and whimsy. Read the books, and you will hear wonderful voices of character and charm. Those books almost beckon you back like an old friend. The films, on the other hand, might as well have been made by a computer entirely."

Exactly, Ray.

I haven't seen the new film, but the first had no magic to it. The books are wonderful, yet the films are indeed soulless.

In the hands of another director they could have been amazing. Maybe Alfonso Cuaron.

PIPER said...

While I enjoyed The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe very much, I couldn't get into the other books. I remember them from my childhood as being very good, but revisiting them hasn't been so good.

PIPER said...

I am laughing Bird Flu.

Anonymous said...

piper -

Well played, dear sir. Well played.

And while I haven't seen Prince Caspian, I do have a fondness for the first film. It's not perfect, but it was a nice escape unlike that crap The Golden Compass.

Well, got to go. It's my turn to roll the twenty-sided die.

Marc said...

I personally felt a geeky confusion when I happened to watch Stardust. I enjoyed the story, but I couldn't get into the new mythos posed. A fallen star that manifests itself as Claire Danes, mixed with lighting pirates and witches (hocus pocus style) weren't things I was willing to accept at first. But I eventually gave in and found value in the kidnapping/eternal-youth-for-Michelle-Pfeiffer plot device.

I couldn't get geeky about it, though. In movies that have source material that pre-dates moving pictures (LOTR, Narnia) those common wizards/ogres/knights etc. have a certain amount of awesomeness that comes with them. -sidenote: centaurs have simply never had a sense of humor. see Fantasia (they can party, but they can't laugh at how geeky they are)

I haven't seen Prince Caspian, but I think what's been said about what is positive in LOTR and what is lame about this particular Narnia series is accurate. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe definitely relied on a visual feast of fantastic fantasy creatures...but left its dedication on a visual level. I think the next Narnia flick should take cues from the Indiana Jones series and use mainly practical effects. Get some fancy centaur costumes. Get Claire Danes to play a centaur so that the tears from battle will be paired with a runny nose almost every time. In general, the series should probably take itself a little less seriously. A rousing 'improvised' song with 20 verses almost always balances out how geeky a fantasy character should or shouldn't be.

It works in print, or on a D&D mission anyway.

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