This is a nerdy blog, so even Christmas must be nerdy here. I’m stealing this from a Facebook friend, SMK. In Christmas of 1977, when I was 9, I received this as a gift:
As with most gifts I received, it was really a gift for my brother, but I managed to have a lot of fun with it until he felt it was too nerdy for him. At that point, I was ridiculed for playing it until the Satanic Panic kicked in. Then I was forbidden from playing it, and it was destroyed. No worries, though. I have a close, personal relationship with my lord and savior, eBay.
I played from 1977 to 1981. Other than my sporadic flirtation with the FASA Star Trek RPG in the mid to late 80s (I had no way to connect with gamers back then), there was no RPG gaming until 2005, which is when I started playing Living Greyhawk with the D&D 3.5 crowd. That’s how I met almost all of you, and for better or worse, that’s how most of you got (had?) to meet me. I recently stopped playing, but you represent an extension of the Christmas gift that kept on giving, even if it took a long hiatis.
Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today it’s a meme shared on Facebook, and it isn’t silly. It’s a serious commentary as far as I’m concerned.
A while back, I threw out some wild speculation about the lawsuit filed by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman against Wizards of the Coast. Yesterday, I learned that they withdrew their suit. This could mean two things (generally): 1) Weis & Hickman never had a legitimate shot at winning in the first place; or 2) Weis & Hickman won behind the scenes. My suspicion, based in no small part on the arrogance of WotC’s legal department, has always been that the suit was likely solid, so I would assume the latter is much more likely. Adding to the strength of my assumption is the following tweet by Margaret:
Assumptions are always reckless when dealing with lawsuits, so we’ll just have to see how this plays. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
For reasons I explained in that last post, I really wish WotC would just give back Dragonlance to Weis and Hickman. A man can dream.
Replica is yet another movie addressing the nature of the human mind, and whether we could transplant human consciousness from one mind to another. There are a lot of problems with this movie. Disconnected writing, terrible special effects, and cheesy dialogue plague it. To make matters worse, the story needs to cover far more ground than it can in 1 hour and 45 minutes. As a result, characters accept without question revelations that should be mind-shattering. There’s no time for them to come to terms with this information.
All that said, I’ve learned to focus on the ideas that these movies raise rather than how they address them. Who cares if the movie doesn’t handle an issue thoroughly (or even correctly)? My brain does a pretty good job of considering those issues, at least to the extent of my own knowledge base. That works for me.
So, I guess that means I liked it. Replicas is streaming on HBO Max. As always, YMMV.
I have a lot of streaming services. This week, I shifted back to HBO Max to watch a couple of movies. First up was Richard Jewell.
First off, this was a great movie about how the FBI railroaded a hero, Richard Jewell. Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story, and the fact that this was true (more or less) makes it all the more impactful.
I don’t ever want to get political on this blog, but every so often it’s unavoidable. Being a cop is hard work, and being a good cop cuts against human nature. Only those people capable of living up to a heightened standard should become cops, and that occurs only with training. If you’re not capable of putting the public’s interest in catching the bad guys ahead of your own career goals, you aren’t living up to that standard. It’s frustrating knowing cops like that are out there, but it’s important to acknowledge and address it. It also makes for good storytelling.
But cops aren’t the only ones under the microscope in this movie. So are the rest of us.
Richard Jewell is streaming on HBO Max. As always, YMMV.
Deadline is reporting that Chris Pine will star in the next Dungeons & Dragons movie. Unsurprisingly, I have an opinion on this.
Chris Pine is a good choice. The fact that he’s even in the mix means they’re willing to spend some money. Money talks, so that could be a good sign (though not necessarily). The prior D&D movies ranged from “sucks” to “low, B-level but tolerable if you’re already a fan.” I wouldn’t say any of them are good movies. This is, at least in part, the result of spending too little, but the source material certainly isn’t the problem. There have been too many movies (e.g., Lord of the Rings) and TV shows (e.g., Game of Thrones), some award-winning, that could easily have been considered “D&D movies” to think that the source material has a significant, inherent disadvantage.
In other words, it could be good, but . . .
I don’t know why everyone else doesn’t like them, but I can tell you one thing that annoys me, and it doesn’t bode well for any future movies. All three of the prior movies overtly made D&D mechanics part of the dialogue.
“I’ve prepared only two teleport spells today and have already used one of them.”
Yes, we know. You’re subject to Vancian magic. Don’t beat us over the head with it.
“Cool your barbarian’s Rage.”
But she gets only three a day! She needs to make the most of it!
“I need a frost sword.” “Heroic or paragon?”
Can you imagine people having this conversation even in a world of magic?
Dialogue like this stood out to me and annoyed the hell out of me. However, if you don’t have dialogue like this, in what way is the movie a “D&D movie”?
Campaign Setting Material
First, it’s got to be about the storylines and characters. In other words, it’s got to be about the campaign settings. Despite having the second one on DVD, it’s been a while since I saw any of those movies, but I don’t remember mentions of Elminster, Anauroch, or anything that was proprietary to a D&D setting. Perhaps they were mentioned in passing and I forgot, but making them the center of story would be critical to making this a “Dungeons & Dragons movie.” Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough.
Second, it’s got to have the right monsters. At this point, dragons are trite, which is problematic because it absolutely has to have an intelligent dragon in it. Fortunately, D&D offers a hell of a lot more than dragons. How about mind flayers? No, wait. Those really belong to Lovecraft. Orcs? Tolkien. Goblins? <yawn> What about beholders?
Do you see the problem? If you choose an iconic monster from D&D, either other writers have beaten you to the punch, a prior D&D movie has ridiculed it, or it was “borrowed” from elsewhere, opening it to criticism (both fair and unfair). You can certainly find some untouched creatures that are proprietary to D&D — the third movie did that — but will slaadi play well in Peoria? I doubt it. Any D&D movie will have to rehabilitate whatever monsters they choose to incorporate. Xanathar, to name just one, could certainly work for me as the BBEG for a trilogy, but as the test audiences in Blade told us, most people prefer a human villain. Note well that, for this movie to be a success, it must appeal to more than its sycophantic base; non-D&D players must be interested, so “most people” have to be the focus. But I’ll leave those details to the professional filmmakers who’ll have the benefit of market research.
Plus, We Suck: We Really Aren’t Sycophantic
You always want to grab the largest audience but must start with your base. To win the hearts of as much of your base as possible, you have to throw each of the subcultures a bone. The problem with that is that far too many of us are edition warriors. If you throw 4th edition lovers a bone, it will downright offend others. It doesn’t matter how much you give them; giving any love to 4th edition will be seen as a deal-breaker to some. There’s just far too much nerd rage. Lord of the Rings doesn’t have “versions,” so if you make a good LotR movie, the material itself won’t alienate many potential viewers. I don’t know how to avoid that with D&D.
Between a fractured base and a horrible history, I’m afraid that any D&D movie will devolve into low, B-movie status, and not necessarily “so bad it’s good.” And before you say, “What do you know about it, Rob? Are you an expert?” No, but I’ve seen every effort they’ve made to date. They were all below average. I also remember having a Twitter conversation with someone (@Bartoneus, I think) while we were both watching the premiere of the third movie. He gave up on the movie about 10 minutes in, and he wasn’t alone. History suggests I’m right. By all means, prove me wrong. Clear these hurdles and make a good movie for once.
I’m still glad they’re going to try. My fingers are crossed.
Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today it’s a completely unverified quote from an anonymous source with respect to the Mandalorian. Maybe Giancarlo will see my mention and verify it. Doubt it.