Of Campy Futures and Ancient Literature

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Watched Red Dawn a while back. What of it? Just enough unbelievability in it to make it a less-than-serious movie, but a great mind-sink to just lay on the couch and wander. And as I half-watched, I realized why I kinda don’t like it. It’s not because of Patrick Swayze – though I will admit the ‘dislike’ factor there *is* coloring my judgment a little. It’s because that even if you suspend your disbelief and buy into the premise…..the movie is disjointed enough that it really doesn’t tell a good story. Or flesh out the characters enough so you’d actually care. It’s just a two-hour trip…..to nowhere, really. With a jacked-up quick-set epilogue to “make you feel better.”

I wonder how the novelization read / would read. Would it be as good as Orson Scott Card’s Empire, of which I am reading now? Or just as bad as Hubbard’s Battlefield: Earth?

Ugh. I need a shower now, and I suspect you do as well. We’ll reconvene here in a moment and switch to more…refined tastes.

Ok, we’re back, yes? All clean now? Good. Suffice to say in review that I’ll hold Red Dawn up as an example of how NOT to write for my own personal reminder.

So we’ll flip thoughts to Troy and the Iliad. Yes, I’m quite feeling the literati today…

Troy was entertaining, but as a friend once commented to me said, “without the gods as characters, it loses it.” I think Wolfgang (the director) was going for a more “historical” bent, relegating the antics from Olympus to the mystical religiosity side, rather than the goofy Clash of the Titans-esque romp —

[Sidetrack: I loved that movie as a kid – don’t ask me why. I think I was hooked on the Kraken. Even had the Kraken playset, who usually ended up pulling the wings off of my brother’s Pegasus and devouring Perseus whole as he tried to rescue Princess Leia. Good times, good times….]

–which explains the ambiguity of Achilles’ “power” in battle (Wolfgang portrayed him as a superior war-crafting warrior, rather than a demigod impervious to harm). If you take it from the historical viewpoint and then “mesh” the myth to it…you can see how it fits. Sorta.

Anyway, I’m a sucker for movies featuring large-scale warfare and this didn’t disappoint. And I thought, personally, Agamemnon’s portrayal was spot on by actor Bryan Cox.

So regarding the Iliad – folks, remember, I’m an English degree holder. My specialty (after I forwent the final educational requirements for a teaching license) is classical literature as well as writing. I’ve read them all: Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost (and Regained!), numerous Shakespeare plays, Canterbury Tales…. and by and large, most of these in older English or translational.

[Sidetrack: I actually enjoyed Canterbury Tales in the Old English, as I did reading Beowulf in the same…]

I still have most of my old texts from college, even. However, I’ve not read the Iliad in well nigh 20 years now… I have a battered copy of the Odyssey, but alas, no Iliad. And as I remember, the last time I read it was for high school honors English lit class…and it was the first time I was subjected to a straight-translation copy, which was one horrendous nightmare to my then-fourteen-year-old brain.

Hence, after watching Troy, I realized there was an entire part missing (the interaction of the gods) and desired enough to re-read it that it’s now got this hold on my brain. Seems I’ll be needing to locate the library nearest our new home and borrow a copy.

Huh. Seems I went well off whatever point I was trying to make. Which is probably some variation of: “Read the book, it’s always better than the movie could hope to be.”

Yeah, that about sums it up.

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One thought on “Of Campy Futures and Ancient Literature

  1. You should really read the Fagels translations of Homer. I find them as reinvigorating as Haney’s recent Beowulf.

    Totally agree on “Troy.” When will Hollywood learn not to demythologize mythology? It turns the exercise pointless. “Clash of the Titans” will still thrill schoolboys when “Troy” has vanished down the memory hole.

    I will say this for “Red Dawn,” however; I love the bit where the downed pilot recounts the fates of Europe and Britain, and says that the only ones on America’s side are “500 million screaming Chinamen.”

    “I thought there were a billion Chinamen.”

    “There WERE.” (Throws the cup in the fire.) Classic! =)

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