Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lord Protector

Pooteewheet and I managed to make it onto the early adopter program for Netflix's streaming video system. We get an hour of video a month for each dollar we spend on our normal account. While that might sound cool, it has the disadvantage of giving me twenty-four by seven access to crappy movies that I might otherwise never watch. Gone are the days when all three of our movies are in outward rotation, stuck in the U.S. Mail, or Eryn locks down a video by simply refusing to relinquish the copy of Chicka Chick 1-2-3. Gone are the days where I just give up on television because I've already seen all the crap on the SciFi channel...twice. Now I have access to an unending stream of crap, brand new crap. Without careful moderation, I could develop a virtual, digital, crack habit.

For example, the other evening, left to my own devices while Pooteewheet worked on taxes, and tired of reading, I watched Lord Protector, formerly known as The Dark Mist (1996). It's never a good sign when a movie has to change its title just to trick people into watching it again. Presumably the same people who were too stupid to avoid it the first time. It's like when Homer Simpson changed his name to Max Power, but not as clever because Lord Protector is a stupid name for a movie, likely to attract only ex-British history majors who subsequently made poor career choices. Unfortunately for me, I majored in British History and English with a focus on British Literature.

Lord Protector was bad. Look at It doesn't even have any reviews. And that's more than it has under the title The Dark Mist. They can't even be troubled to know it's the same movie. Picture The Princess Bride crossed with Bard's Tale (the video game...if you've never seen it, picture a movie about a wise-cracking bard and you're 90% of the way there), if it were made by humorless Canadians. Toss in a few cheesy special effects, reminiscent of a Buck Rogers episode, or even old-school, Kirkadian Star Trek, and mix liberally with a plot line drawing from everyone else. I offer examples of the poaching:

Dungeons and Dragons: the movie, the game, the Tom Hanks after school special...take your pick. Lord Protector is about a group of "chosen": a leader, a healer, a fighter, a mage, a bard, and an assassin/thief. The lead character is obsessed with filling in all the roles, as they need the character diversity to complete their quest to stop the evil mist, even though it's not entirely clear why they're all necessary. They'd have been better off rerolling dice on the screen until they had a few natural 18's. It would have been less obvious. And if they were going to embrace role playing, maybe they could have dual classed a few roles in the interest of giving the characters some depth. There's also the matter of the magic involved. It came down to a light spell and a cure light wounds potion made out of a weed. Those were the magical forces shaping the world. If not for that high magic, they'd have been trapped in the dark, bumping into each other in unlit tunnels until their wounds left them as lifeless as the movie.

Star Trek: there was quite a bit of Kirk-style fighting. And I mentioned the special effects. I sort of expected to see the glowing ball that ate crabbiness come floating around a corner. That may have been what the dark mist was. It was hard to tell as it didn't really come out of the ground for more than 15 seconds during the whole movie, was just a bunch of smoke tinged with red, and made me grumpy. Scooter angst...yum.

Monty Python: literally, I quote, "It's only a flesh wound."

Star Wars: One of the main characters has a false hand, having lost the original to his Later they whack his brother's hands off, tit for tat. He's concerned that his hand is driving him to kill all his friends, that it's filling him with a darkness. But he turns a corner when the lead character informs him that his hand isn't controlling him, it's only mirroring and channeling what's already inside him, his true desires. Like the force...for pussies. And the lead bad guy shoots crackling electricity out of his hands to subdue people. It isn't purple, so I think they managed not to break any intellectual property laws.

Buck Rogers: Hey, we're not even close to done yet. I already mentioned the special effects. Now I'm talking about the outfits on one of the female characters, Lady Diamond (who runs an animal shelter in California, that sponsors a book by Jinky, who's the dog of a woman whose blog was one of the very first I ever degrees of crap..not her blog, just the path from A to G via me). She wears a tan stretch suit with a thin diamond belt and a peculiar, almost non-existent, except it covers her whole body, gray hunting outfit, waist cut on the side, with tights. All very reminiscent of Princess Ardala, or even Wilma's gray jumpsuit, the one that always made Twiki stutter (trivia: Mel Blanc played the voice of Twiki for many of the episodes).

Willow: The assassin and the fighter despise each other, yet at the same time, love is growing between them as they respect the physical prowess and brash attitude each possesses. Two peas in a pod. Sorsha and Madmartigan, without the real life marriage and divorce (I'm guessing there, maybe the actors in Lord Protector got married, I'm not checking), or little people yelling "wee-low", "weeee-loooow!"

Beastmaster: Ravelle's ferret, per the credits, was played by "Scoot".

Highlander: Donnigan or Dunnigan, or Doneagain, or Dungagain, was perhaps the most accurate, in a supremely shitty way, Sean Connery lookalike I've ever seen in a movie. He was more accurate than Sean's own brother Neil in Double 007, and Neil was hired for the movie because he was a shitty version of his brother. The movie even had the tagline, "Operation Kid Brother is Too Much for One Mother!" Dungagain is a Scottish fighter, with an open shirt, and a hairy chest, the last member of The Clan of the Blade, on a search for a weed to brew the aforementioned light healing potion. I guess I should mention that when he finally does find it, it really looks like nothing so much as a field of pansies - I know because I just called my father-in-law to ask him about bright colored flowers with black markings that make them look like little faces. I'm not sure why he needed to cross the world to find a pansy when he could have just gone to Frank's Nursery and Crafts.

I don't know why they keep screaming about technospawn. It appears that the magic is supposed to be based on technology, but I suspect that was just so they could use sewers for shot locations rather than finding real caves or building a set.

And the funniest bits weren't the copping of plot devices from other movies. That's reserved for the magicians casting their spells. It took forever. You could have learned a new fighting style, just to slap them around in an innovative way, before they hit you with anything they were casting. They would stand there, miming pushing, and pulling, and climbing, and writhing, and trapped in the fucking box for a whole scene, just to create a ball of light that was reflected away and achieved nothing. At one point it took three of them miming around each other in a lame looking mime orgy to create the ball of light to the same wasted end. At one point, one of the characters tried to build energy for his spell by moving his hands up and down and up and down, conjuring a bigger and bigger blue bar of light, only to have it...ahem...peter out. And as a side note to all future fantasy movie directors, having a character actually sing spells like a bard is an idea best left on paper. Paper that is subsequently ripped up and burned, and the resulting ash used to paint a target on the face of the writer who suggested it so that future bad plot ideas can be crumpled up around rocks and pitched at his face.

Which brings up the last item. The narrator in Lord Protector doesn't just sound like Charlton Heston. The narrator is Charlton Heston. I'm not just saying that so I can add Planet of the Apes to the list of poached movies. He offers plot exposition at various points to make sure that if we've fallen asleep, we're brought back up to speed. Maybe he's in favor of all those guns just so he can shoot anyone who knows he was involved in Lord Protector/The Dark Mist. "You released it! You actually released it! Damn you all to hell!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're wrong. This is a great movie.