Monthly Archives: May 2014

Fantasy/Scfi Movie Fights Are Too Ridiculous

If you’ve seen any SciFi or fantasy films over the last 20 years, you know the fight scenes are ridiculous and unbelievable.  When did it become okay for archers to make impossible shots time after time, sometimes with two arrows fired from the same bow at once (Legolas in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings)?  When did it become okay for characters to routinely do acrobatic stunts that defy the laws of physics?  When did it become okay for characters to be struck by something massive, hurled fifty feet, land hard, and then get up as if nothing happened?

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

I’ll tell you when: Hercules, the Legendary Journeys.  I remember first catching this TV show in the 1990s and laughing at the stupidity of Hercules sending someone flying that far and them getting up, no broken ribs, death, or anything else the matter with them.  At least the 50-foot throw made some sense, since it was Hercules.  After several minutes thinking, “God this is stupid,” I realized the producers and directors were well aware of that and exaggerating for comedic effect.  I got over it and laughed with them.  This was part of their genius, I think, as they got us to laugh with them instead of at them.  The smash hit Xena: Warrior Princess soon followed and made that silliness a household thing.

And now we’re stuck with it.

The scenes aren’t an accident.  It takes a lot planning, animation, and actors being filmed after extensive rehearsal.

It seems that no one can get killed except for mindless minions.  What motivates lead characters to develop otherworldly fighting skills if they have nothing to worry about?  They can be thrown 50 feet and be fine, so why learn how to dodge, for example?  That 50-foot impact/throw thing drives me nuts because any blow that could do that would kill you instantly.  You’d be dead long before hitting the ground.

Without risk, there’s no dramatic tension to a fight scene.  Why should anyone care what happens?  The irony is that I suspect the producers/directors are going so over the top in an effort to keep our attention but are actually causing us to tune out.

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The Problem with “The Hobbit” Movies

SmaugI just saw the second installment of “The Hobbit” movies, “The Desolation of Smaug“, and thought it suffered from the same problem as the original, which is no real surprise as they were filmed at the same time.

I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, or if they succeed. None of them have anything to lose, since the dwarves already lost everything a long time ago and Bilbo Baggins is basically just bored before it starts.  In fact, I was bored before the quest started, too, (in the last film) and quite often after it did start.

We know almost nothing about these dwarves, who are a bit annoying if anything. I might enjoy seeing them get eaten by a dragon.  At least it would be interesting.  Unless I wasn’t paying attention (it’s possible I drifted off a few times), none but the main dwarf gets any back story.  They seem to have no family, either, so no one even cares about them.  It comes as a surprise when we learn some of them are brothers or something, but even then, I didn’t particularly care.

Of course, they can lose their lives, or their souls, but the book/movies fail at a basic story problem – the characters can walk away any time  In fact, they did so 60 years ago.  They don’t have to go back.  Wanting to wasn’t enough (for me). There’s no dramatic tension there.  Nothing bad happens if they just give up, so who cares?  In fact, they’re the ones who cause something bad to happen when they disturb the dragon.

Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo Baggins

For Bilbo, the film suffers from the knowledge that I already know what happens to him, so there’s no tension there, though the changes in him are at least of interest.  He’s appropriately the best character (besides Gollum, who isn’t in the second part).

As for Gandalf, I personally have never found him to be interesting, really.  He’s the only one who sees a reason to do anything on the grand scheme and that he can’t walk away, but again I know he survives just fine, so at best his exploits are a passing curiosity.

Even the dragon wasn’t interesting.  I’ve never seen a less majestic depiction of a dragon.  He was all gray and black.  The only time he looked even remotely cool was (spoiler alert) when he was covered in liquid gold for all of two minutes.  His size was impressive, but that was it.  Even his voice didn’t do it for me, as it was so suave and, well, human.  At least the other beings sounded like other creatures.

Coda

I’m glad I waited until this came out on DVD so I could watch it while making use of my time on the computer simultaneously.  I have little doubt the last film will feel the same.  I don’t know that these movies are doing the fantasy genre any favors.  Since fantasy films almost never get made and usually suck when they do, I was hoping for better, but I guess I’ll take what I can get.

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