Monday, October 18, 2010

Inaccuracy Means Mediocrity

Sorry, I have been in a bit of a slump lately and haven't been inspired to blog. Yesterday, though, I watched a movie that should have been just the type of movie I love, but due to a common problem in movies I ended up disliking it very much. The problem is directors being purposely inaccurate in how they depict things, most likely playing to what they think the audience wants rather than what is actually true.

The movie was called Centurion. Now, I am a great lover of Roman history, and I snatch up all movies and books on this subject as long as they look at least halfway decent. I liked the series Rome, for instance, and Colleen McCullough's huge series of historical fiction novels about Rome is one of my all-time favorites.

I so wanted this movie to be good (dare I even imagine one that could be great?). They did do quite well with the way they made things look in the movie. However, the director committed one of the cardinal sins of movies with combat in them -- he made the combat utterly unrealistic.

This movie reminded me of other recent ones that did the same thing -- Troy and 300. In each of these films the directors had the combatants set out to fight as individuals. For some reason they each had their Greeks or Romans put in a brief appearance of a proper formation, but this was just for show and as soon as actual combat began the men all sprang out of place and fought one on one. This is NOT how Greeks and Romans fought. They fought in shield walls, maximizing their strength of organization against the often superior numbers of their foes.

I can't explain just how appalling it is to me to see supposed Greeks or Romans fighting in a manner that is diametrically opposed to everything they believed in. To read about how they truly fought, I highly recommend Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire, perhaps the most awesome historical fiction novel I have ever read.

Would it truly hurt a director someday to make a realistic portrayal of combat during Greek or Roman times? I think it would be like fantasy movies, where every director did mediocre low-budget tripe until Peter Jackson came along and showed everyone just how great such movies can be if done properly.

In my fantasy novel The Shard, I attempted to be as accurate as possible with combat while still hopefully making it interesting for the reader (and not be overly gruesome!). A couple of examples are in this post and in this one.