Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Deities & Demigods

After watching Young Justice, I felt like I'd reached a critical point in terms of superheroes.  A number of things had come together to bring this about.  I've always loved superheroes, of course, but Young Justice added a new character, Wonder Girl to the mix.  She wasn't necessarily an important component of the cast, but I'd long been a fan of some Wonder Woman material in particular because of her connections to the DC Universe version of Greek mythology.  Marvel, too, has often had a long history of reinterpreting mythology as super-heroes, with Thor being one of the very early Silver Age characters and a founding member of the Avengers.  Hercules and Ares of Greek mythology were also Avengers for a time, and I still have the issues of a story-arc in which the Avengers must go to Olympus because Zeus is ticked off at injuries Hercules suffered in his capacity as a superhero.  Marvel also had the Chaos War in which all kinds of pantheons contributed to the story; and in the run-up to Thor #400, back in the 80s, Set, the Serpent God from Egyptian mythology invaded Asgard.  And Snowbird, a character with strong relations to Inuit mythology, plays heavily in Alpha Flight.  Although both comic book companies are not at all immune to concepts that are rooted in magic and mysticism, by and large, the mythological elements are often coated in a superficial technobabble of pseudo-scientific stuff.

This angle was later more explicitly explored by Jack Kirby first in the New Gods series for DC, which was cancelled after a short time, then in The Eternals for Marvel which explored many of the same themes.  In both cases, the New Gods and the Eternals were meant to be stand-alone stories, unaffiliated with the greater continuity, but in both cases, they were eventually brought on board, and some characters, such as Darkseid, becoming recurring characters in the continuity.  This was somewhat confusing, as it was the explicit conceit of at least the Eternals, that they were the source of legends about gods, but now they existed alongside the actual gods that they were kinda sorta based on themselves.  DC also retconned some history of the universe with the invention of the Godwave, a power called The Source that swept through the universe creating gods, then bounced off the edge and created superheroes on it's way back, and which now was bouncing back outwards yet a third time.

Other sources besides comic books have had mythology and modern times intersect, including Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, in which Odin and a few other Norse mythological creatures and whatnot make appearances (and its rumored that the next volume, coming out at the end of the year, may focus heavily on Greek mythological themes.)  My kids have been big fans of Rick Riordan's work, which includes two 5-book series on modern day demigods--New York teenages who are the counterparts of Theseus or Perseus.  He also has an unrelated series that has ties to Egyptian mythology, and it's rumored that he's also working on an all new series with ties to Norse mythology.  In fact, there's a new Percy Jackson movie due out this weekend, which no doubt we'll see, because the kids are all interested (and frankly, so am I.)  There's other ones out there that I've seen here and there, but haven't quite managed to get into yet, too.

Frankly, I kind of like the more pseudo-science interpretations, with Von Danniken-esque interpretations of where "gods" came from.  This just "feels" really comic-bookish to me.  I also like the notion of mythological characters are more like superheroes than anything else.  In the Supreme Power stories, for example, Power Princess (Princess Zarda) has (apparently) both an extraterrestrial origin, and a history as some kind of ancient Greek goddess.  This ambiguity between science fiction and "typical" mythology is desireable, in my opinion.  It's also important to not allow the super-powers to get carried away into craziness (a problem that most typically belongs to Superman rather than to the mythological characters, but y'know... you still have to watch it.)

Anyway, I'm going to continue to explore this concept for a few more posts, using the tags MYTHOLOGY and SUPERHEROES simultaneously.  The "world-building" itch has struck again, and rather than being focused on my normal DARK•HERITAGE topics, it's wandering a bit further afield. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Young Justice

Since it just very recently got released on DVD, I finished watching Young Justice season 2 last night.  This joins a long list of superhero animated shows that share a number of features:
  • Complex characterizations and plots--although it works as such, it's arguable if the show's creators are really targeting kids for these shows so much as they're targeting adult and subadult fans of the comics and characters.
  • Combination of some humor, ensemble cast, and a fairly dark premise.  Maybe not Dark Knight dark, but certainly not the old Superfriends type bright n' polite either.
  • Mostly (although there's an exception to this) packed with pretty solid action that avoids the rather obvious "let's not show the kiddies any violence" syndrome.  This doesn't mean that they're bloody and gruesome, just that you can tell that these characters are actually fighting in their action scenes, and that they actually hit each other and stuff.
  • They all ended on cliff-hangers, and then were cancelled before being able to continue.
These features all held forth for Young Justice (as well as for Spectacular Spider-man, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Wolverine and the X-Men.)  In Justice's case, it was especially sad to see, given that they teased as at the very end with Darkseid, who we'll now never see anyway--at least not in this show.  In the case of some (Spider-man, Avengers) it was because the IP owners wanted to reboot and do something different, or award the contract to someone else, so it's not a total loss--but it's still disappointing because the show that was cancelled was quite good, and the show that replaced it is... well, maybe it is and maybe it's not.

An interesting comparison can be made, especially with the second seasons, of Young Justice and Avengers because both primarily deal with a covert invasion of Earth by aliens, and how the superheroes deal with that.

It also managed to put most of the actual Justice League members out of pocket for the entirety of the season, which made the fact that the teenaged (and early 20s) "Team" of Young Justice and Teen Titans style members having to solve all of the problems more believeable.  It also managed to do away with the inconvenient (from a story-telling perspective, anyway) fact that Superman is just too good, and therefore automatically "kills" any story in which he appears as a major character (luckily, writers tend to mostly conveniently forget that he is at least as fast as Flash when he wants to be.  They also tend to forget his ice breath, and just make him a really strong, flying, heat-vision blasting hero.  To make this official would bring Superman down to Thor-like levels--still one of the "big guns" of the League by any stretch of the imagination, but not so completely over-the-top that he ruins everything that he's in.)

And finally, for someone like me who's not terribly invested in (or knowledgeable about) the DC Universe, it is an interesting arena for me to get to know more characters--both heroes and villains.  Some of them are kinda silly (Toymaker?) but still--it's nice to see the others who aren't.  It's also funny to see the obvious correspondances between Marvel and DC characters in many ways. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Q is for Qaserum

Located on the border between the Baix Pallars hill-country and the Sahir savanna, on the shores of the Nijat River, Qaserum is a far-flung outpost of the al-Qazmir nation, and the furthest (so far) that their control extends formally to the south and west.  Far from the population centers of the Golden Peninsula and beyond, until very recently, it was a rather sleepy outpost town, with a small fort and a military contingent made up of a handful of out-of-favor soldiers who were exiled to the butt-end of nowhere for falling out of favor elsewhere.  This started changing about thirty years ago when the fur trade starting passing through Qaserum from the green mountains and forested hills beyond.  But in the last five years, this change became rather dramatic when veins of gold and silver were located beyond Qaserum.  Suddenly growing to boom-town status, merchants, soldiers, and more from al-Qazmir have flooded the poor, dirt streets of Qaserum.  Quickly constructed buildings and crowds of both the unwashed and the professional now rub elbows throughout town, and the poor garrison has seen a dramatic increase in recruits stationed here (and the garrison commander is no-longer an out-of-favor cast-off, but a highly trained professional who commands the ear of the sultan of Masqutan, the nearest (although not near by any objective measure) major city, beyond Qila Safah Lake and the Chaman Hills.  Only the great difficulty (and distance) in crossing the Sahir savanna (and all of the intervening region in between) has kept Qaserum from becoming even more flooded with entrepreneurs and con artists looking to make a quick fortune in precious metals.

Qaserum is thus nicknamed the City of Sin in al-Qazmir gossip, due to its percieved lawlessness and strong element of get-rich quick rogues.  This perception, over the last year or so, has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The riches to be found beyond Qaserum have also turned the Caliphate's eye to the lands beyond, Baix Pallars which is nominally (although only on paper) part of the Terrasan Empire.  This has also sparked a period of intense diplomatic activity between agents of the Caliph and the Empire, although Terrasa's de facto abandonment of the province means that effectively they don't have much with which to stop Qasmiri expansion into the region.  Nationalist sentiment amongst the Pallarans runs high, and many are turning to very questionable tactics to protect themselves from the percieved threat (see the entry on Baix Pallars for more detail.)

Qaserum is located smack dab on the Nijat River--in fact, the bulk of the city is located on a series of islands connected by a bridge right in the middle of the river (although as the town expands, the north shore as "mainland" Qaserum is where most of the growth is.)  Here are a few areas of interest in Qaserum:
  • The Palace of Gilded Delights--a long-running bordello that has become a center of illicit activity in the last few years; even as its owner attempts to clean up its reputation somewhat and establish it as a "legitimate" cultural location, where opera, art, theater, and more can all be sampled.  There's as yet little to differentiate the actors from the harlots, but give it a few more years, and it may yet pull itself up from debauchery to respectability.  Arshyan Kara is the proprietor, a man who was exiled from the capital of al-Qazmir, wandered for a time in Sarabasca before getting himself in trouble, and settling in Qazerum, tyring to turn his luck around.
  • The Garrison, commanded by Nizam ibn Omar, a respectable noble sent specifically to curb the percieved excesses of the populace and protect the interest of the Caliphate in the region.  He is young and cunning; and he needs to be, because he's undermanned and faces substantial challenges.  The garrison is located on a separate island from the rest of the city, after a deep channel was dug to separate it, making it very defensible.  Nizam has been petitioning for more soldiers for months now, and while he occasionally gets reinforcements, he's still not anywhere near enough to pacify the Baix Pallars countryside, which would ensure that miners and furriers could trade their wares in peace.  As the situation with the native Pallarans deteriorates, ironically, he's finding it easier to gain important ears to his pleas, which is likely to accelerate the Qazmiri expansion into the area.
  • The Sacred Flame.  The reason that the Qasmiri established this village in the first place is that it has a vent to a volcanic magma chamber under the ground.  Heat, and shimmers of flame occasionally dance above this vent, and the superstitious Qazmiri believe that they can commune with the afrit through the fire.  This does mean, however, that the area is prone to occasional earthquakes, and may indeed be subject to a devastatin quake or eruption.  Since the arrival of boomtown status, this has been nothing more than occasional minor quakes which, at most, are an inconvenience, but many years ago, before it became a trading center for furriers, a major earthquake hit the area.  Fallen trees and still be seen outside of town, and a few old timers recall the complete destruction of almost all of the (admittedly few, at that time) buildings in town.  It's only a matter of time before it happens again.  And, of course, while it hasn't ever been directly confirmed by reputable sources, it may indeed be that afrits or other elemental creatures do indeed live in the magma chamber below town somewhere.
  • Qaserum is surprisingly caste-driven, as the wealthy new arrivals have little desire to mingle with frontier adventurers, slaves or laborers, and the military presence is also generally cut off from the rest of society by social barriers.  Because of this, a series of walls separated Qaserum into various small districts, including the Barracks, Hightown, the Slave Quarter, Tanner's Lane, and the Market (not meant to be a comprehensive list necessarily.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Trip summary

Before I'm ready to tackle another DARK•HERITAGE post--which I'm sadly delinquent on doing--I wanted to do a quick trip summary.  As I said yesterday, this will no doubt interest absolutely no one, but I'm going to do it anyway, then start back up on my A to Z series.

The first three days of my vacation--Thursday through Saturday--were actually a pioneer trek reenactment activity.  My wife and I took on the roles of a "Ma and Pa" for about 10 teenagers.  Although no handcart pioneers ever trekked through the woodlands of Michigan up near Bay City, it was still a fun and meaningful activity for everyone involved.

After that, we got home, slept in, went to church, and packed the car for our "real" vacation which started first thing on Monday morning.  We spent two days driving, which was fine.  My wife had looked up locations of places to eat that we can't get in Southeast Michigan, so we got to do a "nostalgia food tour" while we were at it.  First up was a Chick-fil-A in Indiannapolis.  It turns out that it was actually in a mall food court in the suburban town of Fishers, but we did it anyway.  We spent the night in Springfield, MO.  After passing through Oklahoma City, we saw the area that had been hit by a tornado, still strewn with debris and fallen trees and stuff.  It was pretty glum, even several months after the fact.  That part of the drive, until about Amarillo, was pretty miserable--so windy that it was hard to keep a straight course on the freeway, and surprisingly busy with traffic.  Once we were well into the Texas panhandle, it was easier going, though, and we made it to Lubbock, where my folks live, easily enough early on Tuesday evening.

Wednesday we took a sort of "down day" and hung out with my parents, including at their HOA pool.  The high temp was about 110° F, so yikes.  In fact, that was true for three days straight before a cool front and little thunderstorm blew into town.  We also went west to Carlsbad, NM and saw the caves--something I hadn't done in probably 25 years, and my wife and younger kids hadn't ever done at all (my parents went with my older kids about 6-7 years ago, but their memory wasn't great, especially my daughter who was only 7-8 or so at the time.)  The caverns are really fun--a pretty singular experience, I think (although there are two other big national park cave systems in the US, and plenty of other caves in other countries and in other venues in the US as well)--it's just amazing how big and spacious they are.  We spent about 45 minutes going down the "natural entrance" and when we got there, there's an elevator to take you back up.  My kids were about to hop on when I told them that we hadn't even started the self-guided tour yet--all that we had done was enter the cave--the vast expanse of the so-called "Big Room" was still completely unexplored.  There are, actually, a few bigger chambers in the world, but since it's unlikely that we'll ever go to Malaysia to see the Sarawak Chamber.

When I did this as a kid in the mid-80s, you could see the King's Palace (and the rest of that entire tour, including the Queen's Chamber and the Papoose Room) as part of the self-guided trip, but they've since closed that and made it a ranger-guided trip only.  That's OK; the caverns are so big and there's so much to see even without it that you almost start to feel like you're overloaded on scenic limestone cavern speleothems, to the point where even dramatically beautiful and fascinating features start to feel routine.

I actually was almost more interested in the Guadalupe Mountains, which straddle the TX/NM border and under which the caves reside, than I was in the caves.  This part isn't the most scenic (that would be Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which we could see from the parking area) and it had been burned a fair bit in wildfires.  I still drug my wife and older kids (the younger two hopped in the truck with Grandma and Grandpa) on the Walnut Canyon scenic loop, which I probably should have had a Jeep for rather than a minivan.  Although it was only 9.5 miles, it took a good hour to make the drive on this terrible, unimproved dirt road, and I'm sure I'm the only one who appreciated it (my kids fell asleep and my wife got carsick.)  I also saw the trailheads for the Rattlesnake Canyon trail (what a great name!) and the Juniper Ridge trails.  There was not a tree in sight, and even the scrubby mesquite, juniper, or whatever low bushes would normally have grown here was all burned by the fire.  We saw a few blackened branches still poking up into the air, but otherwise, it was all spiky grasses, yuccas and cacti.  I'd love to take a good week or more and really explore the backcountries of these two parks someday--probably in February.  Like I said, it was 110° F the day we were there, and there was not a drop of water in sight.  The views across the mountains were a little hazy too--a ranger told me that brushfires 50-60 miles away were causing smoke to interfere with the normally great views of Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan.

The next day, we went out in the morning to see the Texas Tech Museum which has both a great N. C. Wyeth collection, and some neat fossils (including a mount of (casts, no doubt) a T. rex facing off against a Triceratops horridus, the real classic dinosaurian match-up.  They've also got skeletons of a Deinonychus, Tentontosaurus, Quetzalcoatylus, an adult and juvenile Camarasaurus and a sabertooth, Columbian mammoth, dire wolf, Postosuchus and more.  It really is a neat museum, althought half a day is plenty of time to see pretty much all it offers.  If you're still looking for something to do, the Ranching Heritage center, literally right next door is pretty fun.  I've done it before, but we didn't do it this time.  I met my brother and his family at Double Dave's--another place my wife and I had been excited to eat at again, then we went back to my parents house, at which point another of my brothers and his family had arrived.  Now with three families full of kids (and a few more stragglers still to come) it felt like a party.

We stayed in Lubbock through Monday morning, at which point we went to San Antonio.  It was busy there, but we did the Alamo--a classic experience for any Texan (plus two of my four kids had done biographies on Davey Crockett for school in the past) and the Riverwalk.  Tuesday we did Schlitterbahn--which is the reigning Golden Ticket for best waterpark holder and has been every year running since 1998.

As much as I liked this, my favorite part of these few days was the drive there.  Once you get off the Llano Estacado, which offers absolutely nothing to look at for mile after mile, you get into some real interesting scenery, starting at about Big Spring, through San Angelo, the Texas Hill Country, and all the way into San Antonio.  The only thing that the Llano Estacado offers is wide open roads with little traffic and speed limits of 85 mph.  The Texas Hill Country, and the preceding Edwards Plateau offers a fusion of Chihuahuan desert and the more forested and well-watered climates to the north and east, and the Texas Hill Country in particular is noted for its scenic (albeit understated compared to some of the other landscapes of the American west) beauty.  It was also an area of particular nostalgia for me; I used to go to summer camps at El Rancho Cima on the Devil's Backbone in the Hill Country not far from San Marcos.  But similar scenic terrain extends far to the west of there; like I said, it started looking "El Rancho-like" to my eyes as far west as Big Spring.  This combination of short Texas live oaks, juniper/cedar scrub, dry grasses, and occasional prickly pears and yuccas, forming a mostly open forest (technically a savanna for much of it--a savanna is a forest/grassland environment in which the canopy does not close.  Most people are mistaken in believing that savannas are tree-less grasslands--those are really only typical of the part of the Serengeti that are in the rain shadow of the Ngorogoro highlands.)  Indeed, to make a quick DARK•HERITAGE reference, I imagine much of the savannas of my setting to resemble the Texas Hill Country--with maybe a little bit less dense tree cover--more than I imagine them resembling the grasslands of the Serengeti.

We finished up our trip by spending a few days in Bryan and College Station (the B/CS area, as it's called) where I lived most of my life until moving to SE Michigan, and where I met my wife, went to school and college, where my first two kids were born, and where my in-laws still live.  We looked at my old house, my old elementary school, my old high school, my old church, etc. and spent a day wandering around the campus of Texas A&M University.  We also spent the afternoon of the 4th at the George Bush (senior) Presidential Library, from where the local fireworks are shot, while accompanied by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.  I left my two younger kids with my wife's parents, who are going to spoil them rotten for a week or two before sending them back home, but I picked up two of my brother's kids, who's maternal grandparents coincidentally live just a few miles from where we live currently, and drove with them (and my wife and older kids) back to SE Michigan, through the totally different route of crossing through Arkansas, much of Tennessee, and then crossing Kentucky and Ohio south to north.  I have another brother who lives in the Memphis area, and we crashed at his place on the way back. 

I had really dreaded the drive through Ohio, because in my experience that's always been a miserable drive, but as it happens, once we got through the ugly, congested and sprawling Cincinnati-Dayton metro areas, it was pleasant.  Ohio was finally--since the last time I had gone through there three or four months ago--put on its big boy pants and joined the non-wussy states by instituting a speed limit of 70 mph on the interstates when not passing through major metropolitan areas.  This is also difficult because by the time we get here, we've traveled so long and for so many miles (literally every single one of which I drove personally) we're just really tired of driving.  After we finally go through Toledo and cross the border into Michigan, we've got less than an hour more until we're home.

I also noted that Mammoth Caves National Park is right off the interstate and only a few minutes from Bowling Green, KY.  Curiously, by coincidence, I need to be in Bowling Green in a few weeks.  By taking the entire day off work on Friday when I need to go down there (instead of just a half day as I had originally planned) I should have plenty of time to stop at the park and do one or two of the guided cave tours that afternoon.  Right on the heels of doing Carlsbad, that should be fun.  I'm not likely to see any of the other major cave sites in the country anytime soon (Lehman Caves, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave, among others, being far away and well off any beaten path I can imagine) so this will be the only major comparison to Carsbad that I'll be able to make anytime soon.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Some movie reviews

Well, needless to say, I haven't made a post in quite a while--nearly a month.  I've recently been on vacation--over two weeks of it, and prior to that, I was so busy getting ready to go that making blog posts was the last thing on my mind.  While all of this was happening, my department moved to a new building at work--again, requiring that I spend quite a bit of time gathering, clearing, packing, unpacking and generally doing stuff with my files and whatnot here at work.  I should actually be going through old emails that I missed while away, but after unpacking, I'm feeling like a need a little break, so here's my first post in a little while.  Later this week, I'll do a day-by-day post of my vacation, which will no doubt interest absolutely nobody but me.

Over the last few weeks we've seen several movies.  Two of them I was actually really excited for.  One of those two was quite good--the other was not.  Man of Steel takes Superman, a character that I often struggle to empathize with (and writers often struggle to challenge him meaningfully too, which is why there's a rash of really stupid Superman stories out there--see this link to see a little bit of what I mean.  So, perhaps my expectations for Man were a little on the low side.  As it turns out, I greatly enjoyed it.  I think it may have been a little long, and the flashback storytelling style was an experiment that worked, but I can't really say that I preferred it.  It was perhaps necessary to set up the conflict that came later when General Zod and the rogue Kryptonians showed up to threaten Earth.  Although I've gotta think by now that retelling the origin stories of well-known characters like Batman, Superman or Spiderman is superfluous, and I hope that future "reboots" forego it and just move on to us already accepting that the superhero is a superhero without having to show us all (again) how that happened.

Unlike in Bryan Singer's tepid Superman Returns, the titular character actually manages to be likeable and charismatic, as well as not a brooding social outcast (that probably says more about the writers than anything else that Garfield's Peter Parker was changed into a somewhat sociopathic, irresponsible, social outcast who rebels against authority and structure rather than simply a bit of a shy nerd, as Stan Lee wrote him as originally, for instance.  The same could be true for Singer's version of the Man of Steel.)  This makes watching him much more interesting, although a few changes felt more like deja vu than they probably should have (why does Clark's earth-father have to do an Uncle Ben and die, after encouraging Superman to not use his powers, for instance?)

However, when the movie really gets going, it has some of the best superhero on supervillain action we've ever seen on film.  So much so, in fact, that my 11 year old son bizarrely told me that the movie had too much action (I didn't agree; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  But he's not the only one to make that claim.)  If The Avengers really raised the bar on what we can expect to see in terms of wild and crazy superheroes banging away at each other and blowing things up and smashing things, then Man of Steel seriously raised it even further.  Makes me wonder what Thor 2 is going to accomplish this fall, since in many ways, Thor is a comparable character to Superman (in terms of what he can do and the "yahoo" factor in action scenes that feature him, anyway.)

Now, The Lone Ranger, on the other hand, was a movie that I hoped would be good and which wasn't.  Kinda the opposite situation, in a way.  Not only was it too long and fairly slow and tedious at times, but it just got it all wrong.  Pundits and analysts can't ever seem to figure out why folks don't like certain movies (according to some post mortem I've read on this movie already, which is also already considered a bomb after one weekend) but for my money, the problems were as follows:
  • Like I said, slow and tedious for most of the movie.
  • I have a pet peeve about characters who know what needs to be done, but who spend most of the movie (or book, or whatever, as the case may be) refusing to do it on principle only to come around finally near the end.  The Lone Ranger as a reluctant hero--a pacifist nearly, in fact, who refuses to carry or use a gun--is just stupid.  It also seems like the kind of story that someone would write who knows absolutely nothing about guns and has an agenda around them--probably a poor choice for the writers of a movie about cowboys.
  • Is it not tiresome to see this ahistorical reenactment of appeasement and white guilt?  The Comanche were represented as totally friendly innocent bystanders to white manuevering, which is absurd--there was no living with the Comanche.  It wasn't just the Spanish, Mexican, Texan and American forces who were consistently raided, killed, kidnapped and tortured to death by the Comanche--the Apache, the Kiowas, the Utes, the Shoshones, Tonkawa, Blackfeet, etc.--all of them hated the Comanche because of the violent and barbaric practices that they had.
  • Lest you think I'm simply being "sensitive"--there was one scene in which Tonto, after waking up from being unconscious and finding himself surrounded by Chinese rail workers, says something about John Reid being a "stupid white man" and the Chinese all nodding knowingly.  This movie actively set out to offend and insult the majority of its audience!
  • The characters of Tonto and the Lone Ranger are nothing like the prototypes from earlier works that they supposedly resemble.  What's the point of making them the same characters if you're going to change almost everything about them?
  • The love interest was uncomfortable.  A love triangle is a fine situation for a movie plot to resolve, but when two of the principles are brothers... yeah, nobody wants to see that.
  • My in-laws also pointed out that the action was cartoonish and silly.  Knowing that this was the same team that did the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, that didn't surprise me (also--I actually saw the trailers for the movie, where they showed some of it.)  It's still something to consider.  This is a far cry from a gritty New Western.
So, although I liked one movie and disliked the other, I did just order the soundtracks to both (both by Hans Zimmer) on Amazon.  Nice music.