Amazon in Middle Earth?

Alright, if you don’t know that Amazon bought the rights to Middle Earth and plan on doing a pre-pre series to both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; have you been living on Mars?

Amazon/Middle Earth

For those of you who are not informed, that is a link to an article covering Amazon purchasing the rights and some speculations.  I’ve got mixed emotions about the whole thing.  When it comes to the two sets of trilogies, I do get a kick out of them.  That’s only because my sister sits next to me and we decide that Boromir, Merry and Pippin need a motor boat to get to the Falls of Rauros, and the balrog is now Billy Bob Balrog.  That aside, I enjoy them, but I am aware of when they have deviated from the book.  Tom Bombadil, for instance.  The character is a jolly, but powerful individual that Peter Jackson left out!  They left him out!  Him and his beautiful and equally resourceful wife, Goldberry.  Gone!  Cut from the universe!  I’ll start ranting if I continue, so I will move on.

Anyway, Amazon said they planned on doing a prequel series to even The Hobbit, which probably means they will attempt to do The Simarillion.  The Simarillion is even longer than The Lord of the Rings, which makes it perfect series material.  Of course, that also depends on how Amazon decides to represent it.  Will they follow verbatim what Tolkien put down?  Or will they follow in Peter Jackson’s footsteps and take creative license?  The epic story tells the tale of Beren and Luthien, the two characters upon which Tolkien built his universe.  Many fascinating characters live within The Simarillion besides Beren and Luthien.  There is Huan, the Hound of the Valar and companion of both Beren and Luthien.  There is Tevildo, the feline cohort of Morgoth (the Valar have hounds and Morgoth has cats), and arch-enemy of Huan.  Carcharoth, one of the wolves in the service of Morgoth, and the creature responsible for biting off the hand of Beren that was holding one of the Simarillions.  Loosely based off the Nordic myth when Fenrir bit off the hand of the god, Tyr.

The story as a whole is a long romantic tragedy, that just manages to have a happy ending .  Beren, a mortal man, falls in love with Luthien, and elven princess.  Her father doesn’t want him to marry her, so he says in order for him to grant his permission, Beren must retrieve one of the Simarillions from the crown of Morgoth.  Basically a suicide mission.  But being a determined woman, Luthien escapes her father and joins Beren and Huan on their quest to steal one of the powerful stones.  The Simarillion has enough plot for Amazon to make a series out of it.  Now, let’s just see if they make a good one.

And on that note, it’s been real!

Troy: Why It Almost Worked

I’m sure most people recall the movie Troy when it came out in 2004.  It was one of those big, ancient pieces.  And yes, while the event is based off an actual time in history, we must remember that it is most famous for Homer’s rendition of it in his very large book, The Iliad.  The movie was entertaining and featured plenty of action and a tragic love story; heroes, bold and brave; and a marvelous movie score.  However, it lacked a key element that would have made it very successful, and gone on to continue Homer’s work in The Odyssey.  It was missing the gods!

If you’ve read the original epic, or have a basic grasp of Greek mythology, you will remember that the whole war did start over a woman.  Three Greek goddesses were arguing over which one was the fairest: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.  They went to the fairest man alive, Prince Paris of Troy.  They asked him to be the judge, and each offered him a reward for choosing them.  Hera offers him political power; Athena offers him victories in war; and Aphrodite offers him the most beautiful mortal woman.  Paris turns Hera down because he is already a Prince of Troy; he turns Athena down because he prefers love making to war mongering; and he accepts Aphrodite because he is a man fooled by appearances (Helen is taken back by her husband and makes comments about her adulterous relationship with Paris in The Odyssey).  He then steals Helen away from Menelaus, and flees to the safety of Troy.  Menelaus goes to his brother, King Agamemnon, and together, they rally the soldiers of Greece.  From there, the Greek gods take sides in the fight: Apollo, Ares, Aphrodite, and Artemis fighting with the Trojans; while Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, and Hephaestus fought for the Greeks.  Occasionally, Zeus would waggle a finger to aid this person or that, but he never took an official part or side.

The politics and drama between the gods would have added to the movie, making it grander.  Also, it would have explained to those who did not know, the reason why Achilles was killed by an arrow to the heel.  Just saying.

Another fact (which I mentioned above) is that it would have and should have led into The Odyssey, Homer’s tale of Odysseus’ long journey home.  Sean Bean was basically narrating the movie, so it would have made sense for his character to get the spin off he deserved.  The story of Odysseus’ road back to Ithaca is full of cunning and adventure and (yes) sex.  He sleeps with the nymphs Circe and Calisto for pity’s sake!  It would have been epic!  Anyway, I’m going off an a tangent because I really wanted to see that, but he’s too old now (sh*t!).  Anyway, that is why the movie, Troy, could have been better.  If they had modeled it more after Homer’s work, rather than guess at the actual historical event.

And on that note, it’s been real!

Master & Commander: The Far Side of the Theater

As I mentioned at the beginning of this week, Master & Commander had potential for being an epic period masterpiece.  There are five books in the entire series, and approximately four stories per book.  O’Brian’s books are the perfect material for a show.  One season could be two stories and so one.  That would have run for at least 10-11 seasons.  Decent length for a show, at least for one that has actual material to work off of.  But enough of how I could plan the perfect show, I’m talking about how the movie got panned.

Again, I believe some of the reasons it didn’t do well was because many people don’t have a proper understanding of History.  Facts to remember are that the Napoleonic War came about because of the French Revolution.  It was the cause, and Bonaparte was the affect.  The movie itself featured an all-male cast, and that might have been another problem.  Although moves like Expendables that also featured mostly male casts did fairly well, historical pieces are different.  It is usually nice to have at least one female character for us to fantasize getting together with the hero.  Aubrey’s love is hinted to at the beginning of the movie, but we don’t actually see her at all; and Dr. Maturin doesn’t have anybody but his sciences.  In the books, he had a dalliance with a rival, female spy for Bonaparte.  Dangerous and it would have been small screen gold!  Anyway, they did not have a female character at all.  Of course, we also have to take into consideration that they are on the far side of the world, literally!  They were a war ship, so they would never have been transporting civilians.  That, and no noble women would have been around, so for accuracy’s sake, they didn’t put a woman in; but that might have cost them some good publicity.

Another factor: the men might not have been good enough?  Now, for me personally, I liked the men they picked.  Russell Crowe was accurately cast in the lead.  Aubrey was described as a slightly heavy-set but capable man.  Maybe he wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea?  As for the secondary lead, Dr. Steven Maturin, Paul Bettany played the acerbic but thoughtful doctor to a tee.  He challenges Aubrey whenever he thinks he’s caring too much about his duty and not enough about his men.  Captain Aubrey is a man with a moral code, and that means following the orders he was given.  Maturin has to play conscience every once in a while.

If you have seen the movie and/or read the books, you would know that they left the movie open for more.  Unfortunately, nobody understands or appreciates History, so the movie did not do well, and no continuations were made.  However, I would fully condone a remake, as a series of course.  I would have Charlie Hunnam as Capt. ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey, and JJ Feild as Dr. Steven Maturin.  Their adventures would grace the small screen like a well played battle maneuver!

And on that note, it’s been real!

Vikings: Nordic Fact & Fiction

Whoever at the History Channel headquarters decided to make a show about the Vikings, was a genius.  The Vikings was a success and has been a fixture on their channel for several seasons (going on six now).  It has several characters we have all come to love and follow and many fronts on which to fight.  The series is based loosely on the actual viking, Ragnar Lothbrok, who was the first viking to begin raiding in Great Britain and Frankia.

The series quickly grew a cult following for its array of interesting characters, violence, adult content, and historical intrigue.  I believe that people are more captivated by the desires and ambitions of ancient kings than they are with modern politicians.  Kings maybe seem more human, and possibly unselfish in their reasoning’s.  Example: King Ecbert wants to be king of all Britannia in an attempt to end the constant power struggles taking place across the island.  Unselfish… right?  Ambitious?  Definitely!  Ragnar raids in the name of exploration.  Their world had been so small until he sailed west.  Rollo just wants to be thanked, to be appreciated for what he has given to the viking community.  None has been forth coming, so he made a strategic decision, married a Frankish princess, and became Lord of Paris.  He goes from nobody to somebody in a hurry!

Floki, a complicated (and insane) character, who has always lived to serve Ragnar, but he has his doubts throughout the series.  He picked on Athelstan because of his Christian beliefs and when they raided Britannia, he revealed his hatred for all things pertaining to Catholicism.  He murders Athelstan, claiming he’s protecting Ragnar.  I’m not going to lie, I started to dislike Floki a little more after that.  And then he began to harass Rollo for almost every decision he made.  Annoying!  Anyway…  The character of Floki has gone from being a ‘good’ guy to being a very morally ambiguous person.  He kills all Catholics with sickening glee and revels in their blood.  Not what you would consider normal or right.

Lagertha has gone through a transformation of her own.  She went from being Ragnar’s housewife (with a warrior’s background), to a warrior chief in her own rite, and finally, the Queen of Kattegat.  However, she can’t seem to find happiness with another man outside of Ragnar.  She left him of her own free will because he asked her to share her power and his affection with Princess Aslaug.  Lagertha is a proud woman and refused, so she left.  Lagertha has always stood up for herself and has gotten herself so far.  But now, she faces a war, a war for her position in Kattegat.  We shall see this season if she keeps her life and her throne.

Once more, a series has proven that through time, production money, and view-able characters, people can enjoy a period piece, and not even know they’re learning some history.

And on that note, it’s been real!

Tarzan: King of the Cinema?

Alright!  Who remembers the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books called Tarzan?  Okay, let me rephrase that…  Who remembers the Disney animated Tarzan movie?  Got your attention now, didn’t I?  Now, I’m not going to lie to you; when my dad made me read these books, I wasn’t overly interested.  The first book was pretty decent.  It tells the story of a British aristocrat and his wife getting set adrift in a boat after the sailors on their vessel mutiny.  They land on a jungle island not far off the coast of Africa.  From there, Lord Greystoke builds them a safe haven in the trees.  Afterward, his wife gives birth to a son, but dies shortly after.  He follows her, and their baby is discovered by an anthrapoid (Burroughs made it up) ape, adopted, and given the name Tarzan.  From there, he has to carve a place for himself in the family group of apes.  He faces his challenges and grows up to be a powerful man-ape.

Enter Jane Porter, an American girl and daughter of a Professor Archimedes Q. Porter.  Tarzan saves her from a rouge ape and obviously takes an interest.  However, there is another man who also likes Jane.  Say hello to John Clayton, the ‘heir’ to Tarzan’s fortune.  They were cousins or something like that.  Well, Jane Porter and her father and Clayton eventually leave the island, and Tarzan misses her.  He rescues a Frenchman from cannibals and learns to speak English.  When they are rescued, the first thing he does is journey to America to see Jane.  The book ends without him getting her, but Burroughs wrote several more and they did get married and had a son.  However, Jane Porter needs to be saved so many times, it’s nauseating.

In the original movie they did, Tarzan has been living in England as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke.  Jane and he still do not have children, and are upset over a miscarriage.  However, a cunning Belgian, Leon Rom, tricks them into coming to Africa and kidnaps Jane in an attempt to lure Tarzan into Mbonga’s clutches.  The movie was entertaining and the banter between Tarzan and George Washington Williams (Sam L. Jackson) tickled my funny bones.  However, it did not do well at the box office.  My theory behind that is that many of the people who went to see it had never read a single Tarzan book.  I read two (hey, at least I did that!).  Although, who doesn’t appreciate a strong, tall, and handsome, and shirtless man swinging in to save them?  Not like you see that every day anymore.  And for the guys, there’s Margot Robbie.

And on that note, it’s been real!

The Tudors: The First of Its Kind

Most people know about The Tudors when it comes to historical shows.  It was basically the first ever big retelling of an historical era.  And, it was very successful for the duration of its running time.  But, what made it so successful?  What was its secret?

It’s secret was having a decent dose of adult content (sexual), violence, politics, characters that kept us guessing, drama, and a dash of history.  I also think that even though the show was mainly about Henry VIII and all the changes he wrought in his kingdom (and the rest of Europe), most people watched it to see what happened to each wife.  Yes, we all know that he divorced Katherine of Aragon, beheaded Anne Boleyn, lost Jane Seymour, divorced Anne of Cleves, beheaded Katherine Howard, and died before Katherine Parr.  The actresses who were selected to play each wife were all beautiful in their own way, and acted them superbly.

As for the politics, they perfectly discussed each problem and revolutionary change that took place in England.  The dissolution of Catholicism and the beginning of the Anglican Church.  We watched the Act of Succession tear England apart, and in a way, destroy the family that helped set it on that path in the first place: the Boleyns.  We all saw how the Pilgrimage of Grace was brutally and cruelly crushed.  As a student of History, I was impressed by everything they did.   What was the secret?  They presented a complex time in history in a digestible and enjoyable manner for all to admire.  Series and shows are more capable of doing that than a movie.  That’s why I’m contemplating adjusting my Scarlet Pimpernel screenplay into a series instead of the movie format it is currently.  We shall see.

And on that note, it’s been real!

Period Pieces: A Dying Breed… or Are They?

People with more refined cinema viewing have watched at least a few black & white movies and/or period pieces.  I was very glad that when I was growing up, my dad made me watch historical movies for certain periods in history.  Way back in the day, I watched Alexander the Great, with Richard Burton as Alexander.  We then watched Quo Vadis, with Peter Ustinov as Nero, and Deborah Kerr.  I learned to appreciate these older movies, and while I do like the modern movie, I know the older movies (and historical pieces) should not be cast aside.  Sadly, they are.  Why is that?

Well, first of all, public schools do not teach history.  They teach a watered down bunch of crock they call ‘social studies’.  Every time somebody says social studies, I want to vomit… but I digress.  That is one of the reasons that period movies don’t do good at the box office, and they are sadly underappreciated.  However, period series get a cult following.  Vikings has many followers (including myself) that look forward to its return every year (even though they did kill the lead character [spoiler alert!]).  Downton Abbey drew audiences in from all over the world and was a huge success.  Turn also has become quite popular with American audiences and presents a pivotal time in our history in such a way that most viewers can understand and value it.

So, why do period series do better than period movies?  A puzzle indeed!  My theory is because a series presents an extended time frame, during which, the audience develops affinities with certain characters, good guys and bad guys.  Anybody remember Master & Commander with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany?  That was unsuccessful at the box office, but it had so much potential.  I feel that they need to remake it, but instead of doing a movie remake, turn it into a show.  Patrick O’Brian had so much material for writers to work with.  If you read the books, the characters go through roller coaster adventures.  Capt. ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey goes through financial troubles, and it is revealed that Dr. Steven Maturin is actually a spy for British Intelligence.  You see for a snippet in the movie how good a swordsman he is.  If they had made more, we could really have seen the good doctor show his stuff!

Another reason why this lack of historical appreciation bothers me is because I love The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Back in 1982, Anthony Andrews played Sir Percival Blakeney and he did a superb job.  In 1999, the BBC did a mini series for The Scarlet Pimpernel and they had Richard E. Grant play the dashing British aristocrat.  It has been 10+ years since the Pimpernel has been seen on screen.  Plus, British actor, Tom Hiddleston, has said that he would love to play Sir Percy.  If you’re wondering where/when he said it, it was during an interview with Zachary Levi on Nerd HQ for Comic Con a couple of years ago.  He had three choices: Captain BloodScaramouche, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I was so happy when he said The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I believe the copyright for it is up as well, so if somebody wanted to say… maybe… want… to make the screenplay I wrote for it into something, I would be all for that.  Although, I will probably expand on it and make it either a mini series (like the 1999 BBC version), or turn it into a full blown season.  Don’t know, but will figure it out.

I will probably do more posts about the sad loss of period pieces and how they are under appreciated.  It just breaks my heart that most people my age don’t get that type of entertainment.  I think they need to be educated.  Time to get your history on!

And on that note, it’s been real!