Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Guillotines (2012)

So at Best Buy the other day looking over computers. My desktop has always been a piece of crap. Second Dell I've had that has been plagued by issues and well, it'll be the last Dell I have outside of those provided by corporate.

After deciding I'm too old and stupid to know what any of the new computers actually mean in terms of horsepower and monitor resolution, I wander over to the movie section. Man, it's been a while. The movie selection is terrible and takes up a small footprint in the store. Probably for the best though as people have Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Prime among other bits.

I saw this cover for the Guillotines and was like, "Man, that looks bad ass."

I then went home and watched it on Netflix.

Overall it has some nice scenery, a few good fight scenes, some fantastic costumes but what starts off with a tremendous high energy ass kicking winds up a morality tale about the Emperor of China. In that aspect it reminded me of Hero. Yes, I'm the Emperor and I've done all these terrible things but hell, it'll be worse without me so let me kill you now. Ugh.

If you enjoy movies for the fighting and other bits I've mentioned, enjoy the first say, thirty minutes and then take a nap or something. After seeing this, I want to see Rise of the Guillotines or something where we get two hours of awesome flying guillotine action!

Below I'll be discussing some of the things I enjoyed about the movie.

1. Style. When the Guillotines are first introduced, it's like a super hero team. They have unique weapons that launch flying weapons that resemble something between Krull's flying weapon and Xena's chakram. Their uniforms are also very stylishly designed. This gives them a unique and powerful look.

2. Obsolescence: Time marches on. The ability of the Guillotines to kill someone at ten paces is nothing compared to the new firearms that China has started using. In a role playing game, I would expect that the players would be some of the top notch users and that the average rifle user would be a mook. Here though, because it's about China and the Empire and it's rise to modernity, well, the Guillotines who were so viciously bad ass at the start of the movie are completely punk'd.

In a role playing game, playing against type, playing against the rise of technology, is a part and parcel of the game. For example, one Osprey book I'm reading, English Longbowman 1330-1515 put the decline, but still in use and still dangerous longbowman, in an era where guns are, if not common, at least on use alongside cannons. It's the skill set that the characters bring to the game that make it interesting. One of the more popular shows on television right now is Arrow and that's a guy with a fancy longbow in the modern era of automatic weapons showing he can make a difference.

There is also the role of the individual. Military is great for well, military action but not necessarily as useful in going into tombs and fighting against weird monsters. Specialists are useful for those types of things.

4. Specialized Group: The Guillotines are the fist of the emperor and his private assassins. The movie wavers a little in why they have to die. In most places you'd figure, "Hey, we've got these new weapons so we're going to upgrade you." or at the very least retire you. Giving the government the going to kill you to cover up your existence while sending out even better trained killers is a bit silly but sending them out because the players know something and are somehow dangerous to the government? Now that's something that can easily be done.

This can happen in a few ways. The players could be prophesied to kill the emperor. They could be local heroes and the emperor is jealous. They could have failed some subtle test that another power group that wants the character's spot put into place.

5. The Enemy of my enemy... When the movie starts, the Guillotines are hunting down a cult. They capture the leader by the name of 'Wolf'' but in a daring escape sequence that involves explosions and an excellent display of throwing knives, he escapes. The Guillotines are sent to recapture him, but during that same time frame, are written off as obsolete so as the Guillotines are punk'd by farmers and riflemen, the two that escape wind up working with Wolf. Roles can change rapidly when the tide moves against the characters.

6. Role Reversal: While I did not like the way the Guillotines were beaten down, I have no problem with the idea of it. Adventurers that have a guild or an actual social standing losing that standing is a long held part of story telling. Characters change roles and positions often. For example, Spider Man has gone from a solo hero who was essentially too broke to own a car to a top rated scientists and well, to other elements that might not be well appreciated but show the character and individual struggle against the elements arranged against him.

For example, when there is a reward put on the Guillotines and the common farming folk turn on them, well, I can't imagine a group of player characters getting butchered like sheep as the movie cast does. However, if there was say a Paladin or other good aligned character in the party, I can't imagine them just chopping and hacking their way free from the crowd either. The challenge of how characters deal with the change is what can propel the game forward.

A useful thing to keep in mind though, is what is the final result? In a role playing game, say in Baldur's Gate during 1st edition, if the players were members of the Flaming Fist and that group was outlawed, would the final goal be to restore the Flaming Fist to legitimacy in Baldur's Gate? To accept that their time there was ended? To fund a new organization somewhere far away and start anew? To tear down the city in a final blaze of glory?

The few action scenes we have, the awesome unique style of the weapons, the costumes and scenery along with the sets provide some great visual inspiration but the movie is not where I would have liked it to wind up in terms of type of movie. Check it out on Netflix and let me know what you think.