Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Movies: Nice And Messy

Spike TV, the channel that brought you "Whacked Out Sports" and Pamela Anderson as an animated crime fighting stripper, brings us the "historical accuracy of battle" with it's series "Deadliest Warrior". (Yes, I know the title says movies and technically we're talking about TV here but you can now rent season one on Netflix and I think that counts for something.) Look at the abs!

The whole point of "Deadliest Warrior" is to round up "experts" and have them throw around the weapons of various legendary fighting men while thumping their chests about how awesome their guy was and what a pansy their opponent must have been. Afterwards, a doctor comes in and tells you how very gruesome the damage to the ballistics gel dummy or pig carcass is. At the end a computer takes over and generates 1000 theoretical meetings of the two warriors to determine who would win in "real life". The match ups are right out of an historian's fever dream: Spartan vs Ninja, Samaria vs Gladiator, Viet Cong vs Nazi SS, etc. It's crazy good guy stuff all around.

Last night, seemingly out of the blue, Spike served up "pirate night" with two pirate-centric "Deadliest Warriors" back to back. Though I watched them both, I'm only going to discuss the first one here - Pirate vs Knight. The second one - Medellin Cartel vs Somali Pirate - seems more like a terrorist skirmish than a meeting of warriors so we'll just reveal the outcome to that one (spoiler alert!). But first, the Caribbean Freebooter meets the French Soldier of God.

The pirate in question is your classic Jack Sparrow-y pirate of the Caribbean right down to his buckled shoes, Louis XIV-esque coat and tricorn hat. He is also the cleanest pirate you will ever meet this side of Jean Laffite. He is referred to by the experts representing him as a trained naval specialist, warrior and go-getter of the first order. We are told that the 18th century pirate is the equivalent of a modern Delta Force soldier. He's an expert in shock and awe and he would like nothing better than to kick the snot out of a sissy boy knight and take his candy from him.

The knight, on the other hand, is from 15th century France. Sealed in plate armor he is unrecognizable under his thick helm. His armor shines in the sun and never a dent is seen. The experts on his side make sure we are aware that he is of the nobility, highly trained and fighting for honor and God. He is the Green Beret of his era. In reference to his opponent, he might as well be going up against a rat. Pirates are just the sort of godless vermin a knight would love to wipe the floor with.

Now that the initial insults have been exchanged, it's time to trot out the weaponry. On the knight's side we have: the morning star (that club with a spiked ball-and-chain dangling from it), plate armor, the crossbow, the halberd (a lance with a pike and axehead at the end) and the broadsword. For the pirate: the grenado (filled with shot, nails and black powder), the flintlock pistol, the blunderbuss, the cutlass and the boarding axe. Yes, Brethren, many a pig carcass suffered mightily in the ensuing tests.

Although at the outset the experts make a show of the fact that "pirates love things that go boom", the whole issue of superior technology in the form of guns is downplayed in favor of the knight's impenetrable metal skin. At no point - other than one very quick mention - does anyone point out that the reason the era of knights in shining armor passed into oblivion was black powder weapons. There is also never any talk about the knight's inherent immobility and his helmet's overt restriction of visibility. It's all about the armor, baby!

Then we are treated to actors performing the results of the computer generated battles. The pirate is stabbed, quarrelled (in the thigh - ouch!) and generally knocked about but, lo and behold, shooting the knight directly in the face with that flintlock seems to do the trick. The computer, evidently, saw all the things the experts didn't. The pirate prevailed in a surprisingly high 63% of one-on-one battles.

See the entire conflagration for yourself on the Season 1 DVD of "Deadliest Warrior" which, as noted, is now available. Or check it out at the "Deadliest Warrior" webpage. It's good fun for the most part. I just couldn't help feeling a little smug when they revealed that the pirate won. On the other hand, I was surprised to see the Somali pirate best the Medellin Cartel, although by a much slimmer margin of 53%. Maybe it was the AK47 and the rocket launcher? Who can say.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! This is a fun show, despite it's many flaws (as we have previously discussed). As usual on this show and as with most things in life, the more advanced the technology, the better the odds of winning. As one of the commentors pointed out at the end of the episode, the Knight was really just "bringing a knife to a gunfight"... Huzzah for pirates!

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! The show definately has it's moments. Some unfortunate assumptions seem to be made, at least on occasion, based on the pure adrenaline rush of swinging a big, choppy weapon around, however. But then the computer seems to have it's head in a dark place sometimes, too. I just wish they'd quit matching guys with spears against guys with guns. Still, I'm looking forward to Viking vs ? in season 2.

Charles L. Wallace said...

I particularly enjoyed the episode where William the Wallace bested Shaka Zulu [obviously, eh?]. Really, though, I could imagine them sharing a nice campfire and telling tales of whacking the Ainglish ;-)

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Charles! I love this show even when my guy doesn't win. I'm hoping (but not holding my breath) for Francois L'Olonnais vs Vlad the Impaler. That's all kinda crazy right there!