Saturday, June 2, 2012

Centurion (2010)

One of the nice things about Netflix, is that occasionally I get a couple of days off to watch it! I'm a fan of the 'bad-good' movies where I can shut my brain off and try to enjoy some violence and blood shed in the name of killing a few hours.

Up to the plate Centurion, a movie about the massacre of the 9th Roman Legion. the costumes and makeup are pretty good but the special effects? It's like they saw some exploding blood from some of those Japanese and Chinese martial art and samurai movies from the 90's and said, "We gotta get some of that!". It's funny in its own way.

Plot wise and story wise? Its pretty thin but there are things you can drag out of it for your own gaming. I'll be discussing some of the spoilers and other bits below so if that sort of thing blows your mind, look away now! Save yourself!

1. Its The Military Life For Me. One of the things that being in the military does, is provide a quick framework for adventurers and campaigns. In adventures that meet every few weeks due to the dreaded real life issues, the game master can provide a few quick things that the military needs done and send the players off to take care of it. In a longer term campaign, the players may find themselves rivals of other members of the military, may brush up against nobles who dislike their rising star, and even come to the attraction of the gods like Ares, the god of war! Their rise in the ranks and in the social sphere can be played up as much as the game master likes.

2. Behind Enemy Lines. So what happens if you're part of a huge group of soldiers and your army gets wiped out? Try to rescue any senior officers and failing that, run like hell eh? In this movie, Olga Kurylenko best known for her role as a 'Bond' girl among other roles, plays Etain, a mute hunter whose hatred of Romans is unquenchable. She is a master ranger and wielder of spear. She is the 'Nemesis' factor here. She also has a lot of help and a few other 'named' characters who would be worthy of past minion status.

3. Betrayal. Speaking of Etain, she's initially sent with the 9th to scout out the positions of the Picts. Turns out that as a child her village was destroyed, her mother raped and put to death and her raped and her tongue cut out. She survived, found allies, became super bad ass and then went to work for the Romans. What? How? Well, it's seemingly an old trick. In Dreadstar, a similar thing happens where Dreadstar suffers a tragedy and then joins the army that did it so he can get in nice and close and take care of things personally. Of course by that time other things pop up as they so often do but it's old hat. The interesting thing here, is it's not the the only betrayal. See, the Romans aren't necessarily painted as the bringers of salvation and civilization here. No, rather, they are... well, a growing empire that does thing such an empire does, especially the soldiers and the politicians. See, when the main character makes his happy way back to camp, his thanks is that they try to kill him so that the fate of the 9th can be a mystery. This leads us to...

4. Exile. During the escape from the Picts, the Romans come across a 'witch' woman who helps them. She does this despite being a Pict herself because her own people have put a cut on her face and marked her as exile. She trades with the Romans and the Picts tend to avoid her, especially as she goes out of her way to 'goth' up the place with skulls and skins. The Roman himself? Well, after you've killed a few guards and beaten a noble's mistress, what else is there for you but exile? In a role playing game, especially a campaign length one, well, there's potential for a return of the exile and perhaps even opportunity during the initial betrayal to take things to the finale right there. In terns of the Pict exile though, when you place your NPCs around and thing about their motivations, for some, loneliness can be a powerful factor. If they see in the PCs equals or potential allies, there may be the chance for long term relationships to blossom.

Centurion isn't the best movie I've ever seen but for a gamer, well, it's grimy. The characters have scars. Everyone is dirty. The 'good guys' get their asses handed to them several times. It makes for an interesting change of pace. If you're a gamer and can shut the old brain off for a few hours, it might be worth your while.