2005-05-20 : Master and Commander

Ben Lehman is totally right about Master and Commander. When you rightly recognize that Maturin's the protagonist, everything falls into place, the unlikely coincidence loses its offense, and the movie rocks really quite a lot.

Thanks Ben! I woulda gone the whole rest of my life missing the point of a good flick.

Now I have to find a new example of a movie that screws up its own theme. Fortunately, there are many...

1. On 2005-05-20, Emily Care said:

Me too! I saw it for the first time last night, and I'm glad I went into it with that expectation. Really, I think they mismarketed that film. I was expecting something very actiony, and though there are many explosions in the film, it's a character driven film on the whole. Aubrey's story is one among several.  The young officer who loses his arm gets good development. But, then, the director is Peter Weir. It was very much not in the vein of a produced by Bruckheimer type action flick. If so, it'd have been Crowe's show for sure, and his change of course would have rung hollow.

"Now I have to find a new example of a movie that screws up its own theme. Fortunately, there are many..."

Here's one, speaking of Bruckheimer, how about the Rock w/Nicholas Cage?  A friend of mine would always complain about how the danger was averted in this film because the villain (Ed Harris) wimps out of dropping a ton of poison gas on the city.



2. On 2005-05-20, Valamir said:

I like that movie well enough.  But I'll take Hornblower over Aubrey anyday.  And the A&E movies are actually pretty decent even if they do play fast and loose with the plot of the books...but then so did Master & Commander.


3. On 2005-05-20, Gordon said:

Master and Commander - well, it's a failure of the movie that it doesn't make it quite clear that Maturin's the "true" protagonist, but I do wonder what the reaction of someone with NO knowledge of the Hollywood star system and Crowe's then-current place in it would have been.

The Rock - I always thought the failure in that film was not that Ed Harris wimped out, but that his opposition amongst his associates became entirely cartoon-villians eager to kill-Kill-KILL for its' own sake.  That, and the obviously added-after-the-fact " . . . but first it melts your face off" aspect of the poison - 'cause movies are a visual medium, and dying via intensely painful, bone-breaking muscular spasm and/or diaphram-failure asphyxia just isn't gruesome enough.  Jeez.


4. On 2005-05-20, Sydney Freedberg said:

> When you rightly recognize that Maturin's the protagonist, everything falls into place, the unlikely coincidence loses its offense

Does it? [scratches head] Because Maturin ends up on that hill looking down at the Acheron and having to choose between (A) his friend and his military duty (B) himself and his scientific duty, and bites the bullet and chooses (A) at real personal cost?

Still the movie gives me that "bizarro world" vibe you talked about in your first essay: "A person portrayed as a strong commander suddenly abandons his mission and turns around his whole ship to save a personal friend? WTF?" But then I cover the Pentagon for a living, so I may be too immersed in modern military culture to appreciate it.


5. On 2005-05-20, C. Edwards said:

In 'Tears of the Sun', the similar decision by Bruce Willis' character, a Navy SEAL team leader, rang equally ridiculous to me. It was incredibly far-fetched for a man in that position to make the decision he did. A decision that the rest of the movie was built upon.


6. On 2005-05-21, Brand Robins said:

So far as Master and Commander goes, the only way I was able to like the movie was by seeing both Maturin and Aubrey were equal protagonists. If either one is, and the other isn't, then the movie is structurally flawed.

However, if both are then you get a nice little theme of "a sacrifice made for a friend will result in friends willing to sacrifice for you." Which, while not so intense as something like "if you chose friendship you will fail in your duty" is still a very definite statement. (Especially when you consider the movies secondary statement about the selfish nature of duty. Much as it is ship porn and naval-military porn it still follows the movie convention of ?its only good so long as you are nice? that caused such a shit storm elsewhere.)

Anyway, to turn this back towards RPGs, I did like the movie for the dual protagonist setup because, unlike most movies, it made for a structure somewhat more applicable to RPGs than most solo-protagonist works. When you have one protagonist whose decisions directly play into and off the others, and both of whom are very much more central to the story than the distant and faceless antagonist, you start to move towards something that I?d like to see in a game.

As for the idea of 99.9% of military men in that position not making the choices of Aubrey or Bruce Willis?s character (though I haven?t seen Tears of the Sun, despite it having Monica) ? I have to think that is part of the point. If the character is going to make the obvious choice, why should I care? The problem with such movies, generally, isn?t that the character makes the non-typical choice, it?s that the reasons and pressures behind the choice aren?t developed well enough. Which is why I?m starting to look into game mechanics that don?t just let us show what our characters chose, but why they chose it. (So far ?With Great Power? has a decent system for developing this.)


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