Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly Summary

This week I watched four S&S films and two S&S television programs.
Films included:

Dragonlance (Will Meugniot, 2007)
Wizards (Ralph Bakshi, 1977)
The 13th Warrior (John McTiernan, 1999)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Mike Newell, 2010)

Television included:

Conan the Adventurer (Episode 1, 1997)
Highlander (Episode 1, 1992)

Wizards tells the story of a post-apocalyptic struggle between two brothers (a recurring them in S&S), Avatar (a good wizard) and Blackwolf (an evil wizard).  It is particularly notable for bringing to the forefront a common undercurrent of S&S film: the conflict between sorcery and technology. Avatar is a surly old hippie, drawn and voiced in the style of Robert Crumb's famous "Mr. Natural" character and Blackwolf looks like an earlier incarnation of "Skeletor" from the 1980's He-Man cartoon.  With the discovery of Nazi propaganda and technology, Blackwolf attempts to take over the world, but is ultimately thwarted by Avatar.

The 13th Warrior is also particularly noteworthy for its reinterpretation of the classic tale of Beowulf from the perspective of an Arabian poet-cum-warrior who is swept up in the journey to the help the Danes.  The exceptional thing about this film is the way that it positions the relationship between civilization and barbarism.  The viewer is focalized through the character of Ahmad ibn Fadlan who, hailing from Baghdad, is the most sophisticated character in the film.  He fights with the Northmen (Geats and Danes) against the Wendyl a pre-historic tribe of cannibals who have been ravaging the Danes.  In the film, there are three levels of human civilization represented: Arabic, Viking, and "Wendyl."  The film priviledges the southern Arabic culture, depticted early in the film and continued throughout by the character of Ahmed, as the most civilized.  The northern Viking tribes are depicted as bordering on civilization, and the Wendyl who are depicted as barely human.  It's especially interesting to consider the fact that the head of the Wendyl's tribe is a snake-draped mother figure who's symbol is the Venus of Willendorf, while the Arabic (represented by Ahmed) is patriarchal and monotheistic.  The Vikings seem somewhere in between with a polytheism that places Odin in a priviledged position reigning over Valhalla.  However, the most interesting thing about these representations comes when we see that Ahmed, although he derives from a more sophisticated culture discovers that his time with the less civilized Vikings has made a "man" of him.

Just a few words about Highlander the TV knock-off:  Loved it then, love it now!  I used to watch it with my father and brother and certainly imagined myself immortal when I would go to karate or fencing practice!!!

Haven't thought of anything to say about Prince of Persia, Dragonlance, or Conan yet.  In case you haven't guessed, I'm not one to dismiss something because of cliche writing or poor production values.

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