Thursday, January 02, 2014

Welcome back!

Well, Merry belated Christmas, everyone!  I had a nice holiday, and I will presume any potential readers to stumble across this post did too.  Needless to say, I was busy with things other than updating my blog, which has not had a new post in about two weeks.  For most of that time, I was out of town.

A few things.  Rather belatedly, I finally saw The Hobbit part 2.  I liked it well enough.  I still think, as I expected to think, that the whole Tauriel angle was kinda silly.  While many people will say that movie-makers must use some discretion to make changes to successfully adapt a printed work into a movie format--and I don't disagree with that concept--I believe that many such changes are based on arrogance or committee rather than any need to successfully adapt the work from one medium to another.  Many of the changes Peter Jackson's team have made to all of the (so far) five Tolkien movies fall into this unfortunate category.

That said, I continue to mostly find the adaptation of The Hobbit to be preferable to the adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.  Possibly this is because after seeing the latter, my expectations for the former were substantially reduced.  Possibly, it's because The Lord of the Rings is, to me, a much more serious volume of work, and I take liberties with it much more seriously in turn.  Probably, a major portion of that is that Bilbo is simply a much more charismatic main character than is Frodo, and Martin Freeman is a similarly much more charismatic actor than Elijah Wood.  Between the two big jumps in charisma (as well as a greater focus on a single protagonist character) this combines to create a significant increase in how enjoyable it is to watch the movie.  Also, The Hobbit being largely much more whimsical in tone than The Lord of the Rings anyway, requires less gratuitous and grating comic relief.  This was very irritating in The Lord of the Rings, especially the portrayal of Gimli, whereas in The Hobbit, it's mostly the cozy kind of Bilbo-comic relief that was inherent in the source material to begin with--although some ridiculous dwarf-as-juvenile-boys jokes continue to make their way into the movies here and there.

I also quite liked a few small touches.  Gandalf (and later Radagast) exploring the broken open prisons where the Ringwraiths had been entombed was a very cool moment, and one that I'm not really familiar with at all from the work of Tolkien himself (and I'm pretty familiar with the work of Tolkien.  Not to pull of the expert opinion card or anything.)

So, I enjoyed the movie.  I continue to not buy the first one, operating under the assumption that once all three are released, there'll be extended editions out on DVD (as there were with the previous trilogy) that I'll want to own instead.  So, when I feel the need, I rent the first Hobbit and when available, will do so with this one too, and I continue to anticipate the third and final movie in the series.  Although I continue to remain skeptical of the need to split The Hobbit into three movies, and am convinced that the desire to do so was more based on anticipation of greater revenue by doing so rather than on any artistic need or belief that the movies would be better because of it, I have to admit that so far Peter Jackson's team have not quite yet made me regret their decision to do so.

Not really fond of Bolg as depicted in the newer movie.  I presumed that with Azog being presented as the Pale Orc and main villain of part I that they had simply coopted his name instead of Bolg's (although I wondered at why they would do that.)  Now, seeing that they're attempting to use them both, I'm still scratching my head a bit as to why that's necessary, and Bolg looks pretty ridiculous--like the ugliest S&M leather bar patron ever in a leather thong.  Azog at least looked kinda cool, most of the time.  I also wasn't thrilled with the depiction of Beorn as a rather rangy fellow rather than a big, broad, manly fellow, like I had imagined him (and how he's described.)  Loved the look of him as a were-bear, though.  That was right on.  Can't wait to see if they keep to the source material and have him show up at the last moment and kill Azog (or Bolg) in personal combat.

Anyway, enough about The Hobbit and on to a DARK•HERITAGE related topic.  It occured to me this Christmas season, as I had time to sit and think about it, that my view on the source material for the setting had changed slightly.  I didn't so much see the setting as influenced by the Western genre as I see it influenced by the pre-Western... which, sadly, is not a genre, but which is a historical reality.  The Voyageurs, cours-de-bois, mountain men, and other explorers, trappers, and such of a time before the West was largely settled by western civilization, and the period in which it was still a post-apocalyptic wilderness, recovering from the decimation of various European diseases which caused the collapse of major civilizations such as the Mound Builders and the Anasazi.

This analogy isn't meant to be taken too far.  The post-apocalyptic state of the Baal Hamazi territories owes more to political collapse and the sweeping invasion of barbarians that have as much in common with the Huns or the Mongols as they do the Plains Indians, for instance, rather than societal changes and adoption of nomadism due to societal collapse at the hand of changing climate and spread of communicable diseases.  But the feel of the area is similar.  Folks from hamazi, Terrasan or other cultures traveling through the area will be more like Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Lewis and Clark, in some ways, rather than cowboys, ranchers, or the Pony Express.

This may seem a bit odd, given the history of the region.  But in reality, I'm attempting to posit a post-Imperial world, in which the shells of former empires are islands under siege, surrounded by wilderness, either relatively uninhabited altogether, or inhabited by bandits, brigands, highwaymen and barbarians.  That's not quite the Old West, but the period that immediately preceded it is a bit more my speed.

Plus, the Old West is as much defined by the six-shooter and gunfighters than it is anything else, and I'm still going with single-shot muzzle-loading firearms as the default for this setting.  I don't imagine any type of repeating firearm is going to make any kind of appearance in my setting until some point in the future that I have no intention of developing.

With a more fur-trapper like feel in the interior, and a more Golden Age of Piracy feeling in the sea-going areas, I've homed in a bit more on the exact feel of DARK•HERITAGE as I envision it.

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