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Hollywood’s Greatest Sword Fights by @MrMeyerhofer + Wytchfire #review

Before I get to the Sword-fighting, because I know all you people want to read this part of the post, I am going to get into a short review. Stop laughing, I can write a brief and concise review without rambling. Hey! Stop laughing! I can! Especially when dealing with such an epic and fun fantasy novel! I said stop laughing! But let me introduce to you today’s victim..err guest, Mr. Michael Meyerhofer! Make sure you also check back on Friday because he is here with a fun Fourth-Wall Friday peek into the world The Dragonkin Trilogy! 

Wytchfire-Feature

It has been quite sometime since I sat down and invested in epic fantasy. I love epic fantasy, but like everyone else I want my entertainment spoon fed and I want to be able to read more than one book for three weeks.  Well, Wytchfyre is an epic fantasy, with the feel of the tomes of the late 80’s and 90’s, the humor and the darkness likened to R.A. Salvatore‘s  style and the wondrous symbolic nature found in many of Tad Williams‘ works (told you, late 80’s early 90’s!) .  I found myself fondling my bag of die and wanting to role play as I worked my way through this… in two days.

You read that right, I seriously tore through this a couple weeks ago in two days, about 7 hours of reading… EPIC, baby! It grabbed me right off and whisked me away. I fell in love with Rowen and the trouble he got in from the get go! It is fast paced, completely horrifying with a complex world build but not so much as you had to keep a chart next to the bed but complex enough to not make you feel it was dumbed down to the masses.

All of the characters are believable, which for me was a major bonus for fantasy. Sure you suspend belief but you still want to feel the guy casting Magic Missile with a reasonable saving throw (fingers crossed you did your skill points right)… but you still want to feel like this is a guy who you could have a cup of coffee with if he was going to show up in say Erica Lucke Dean’s Suddenly Sorceress with his shirt ofg and asking for his beverage to be a half-caf with 2 shots of vanilla. The thing is, a human is a human, and when he is not, well… ?

A halfling rogue, a half-orc cleric, a human ranger and an elven ninja walk into (a bar.. lol.. no sorry) an orcish castle. The halfling, in an attempt to prevent the group from being ambushed by guards, makes a Spot check and rolls a nat-20.

I say “Oh hey, natural 20″. “What do I get?” he asks, and I reply with “X-ray vision”. He then asks what he sees, and I tell him with a perfectly straight face “Naked orcs.”

Oops sorry I lost my way there for a moment. But I am making a point, it was fun, at times light and not to off the cuff deep and brooding like many dark fantasies. At the right moments it’s so dark and horrifying (let’s just say I would not want to deal with the “NIGHTMARE” in any of my RPG campaigns) I felt my heart race a bit! I do not have a decent saving throw at all to get me out of that one, and my chance to crit-hit with my measly collection of spells? … crap where was I (putting the dice away). Oh ya, Wytchfire and Michael (so much for my short and sweet.. dang it all!)

The book is wonderful! It even has stuff for the Japanese Fuedal era enthusiasts! I asked Geoff (my resident expert) after I read on a few scenes how spot-on and his commentary was quite complimentary, “considering it is a fantasy book, not bad!” which is pretty damn good from him.

This is one for your summer reading list with your teens too. It is not to long, certainly not overwhelmingly complex, yet complex enough but not so much as I need to create a Powerpoint chart or drag out my white board to keep track of everything. I could enjoy and also be impressed enough to recommend it to the “kid” (my 25-year-old fantasy fan) who is re-reading Sword of Truth series right now knowing he would love it too. I easily give this book a 9 out of 10 strips of perfectly crispy Cabin Goddess bacon and anxiously wait for the next in the Dragonkin Trilogy.

Hey you, stop laughing! I think I did a pretty good job! Review was under 700 words, 670 on the dot! *pokes you with her sword* here is a bit about the book and following is the Best Sword Fights of Hollywood, at least seven of them, an excerpt and a fun giveaway! Leave a note and tell me how I am doing and let Michael know to get with it, we need book two!

about-the-book

Hollywood’s Greatest Sword Fights by @MrMeyerhofer + Wytchfire #reviewWytchfire
Series: The Dragonkin Trilogy #1
by Michael Meyerhofer
four-half-stars
Pages: 362
Published by Red Adept Publishing, LLC
on 2014-06-22
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, General
Amazon • • Goodreads •

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been
many things: orphan, gravedigger, mercenary. All he ever wanted was to
become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of
grown horrors his childhood knows all too well.

But that dream crumbled--replaced by a new nightmare.

War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge,
steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a
world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side
he's on.

seven-greatest-sword-fights-of-hollywood

Hollywood’s Seven Greatest Swordfights

#Willow: Madmartigan v. Kael

I have a weakness for swordfights in which the good guy gets his ass handed to him then ultimately wins by trickery (more on that later). If you’ve never seen Willow, it’s basically the story of a midget/aspiring sorcerer who has a pocketful of acorns that can turn things to stone but he forgets to use them until he’s facing the one enemy who is immune to their effects.  However, Willow does have a few things in its favor. One is Joanne Whalley, the cinematic redhead who stole my heart as a kid. Another is Val Kilmer, who looked decidedly badass with long straggly hair.

Near the end of the movie, Val Kilmer’s character, Madmartigan, confronts the evil General Kael in your typical, “Hey, you killed my best friend so now I’m gonna mess you up!” scene. Know all those scenes in other movies and TV shows where the good guy and the bad guy cut a path through the melee to face each other? I think Willow invented that.  Well, maybe not, but it’s still the first one I saw, so I’m sticking to it.

Why it’s a great fight…

Despite being stabbed multiple times, Kael just laughs, slaps Madmartigan around, and proceeds to try and strangle him. The look on Madmartigan’s face says something like, “Hey, I’m Madmartigan! WTF?” Then he wins by—you guessed it—stepping on the pommel of Kael’s discarded sword, flipping it up like a rake, and dragging Kael’s body down on top of it. If you listen, you can hear Kael’s guts sloshing against the steel. Oh, and it’s raining.

Drop down to keep reading

#6 Gladiator: Maximus v. Commodus

As much as I love Ridley Scott’s movies, Gladiator isn’t exactly my favorite. I don’t mean that it’s bad, exactly; just that compared to other Roman fare, like HBO’s Rome, or even other Scott movies like the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven (more on that later), it falls a little flat. What’s great about this final fight in Gladiator, though, is that you get to see a detestable bad guy repeatedly slapped silly.

Why it’s a great fight…

Early in the movie, we see Commodus (played by a randomly oily, shirtless Joaquin Phoenix) practicing with his trainers. Commodus is a blur, effortlessly blocking attacks from multiple opponents. It’s an impressive display but what’s brilliant about it is that it’s completely for show. Commodus thinks he’s learning actual fighting skills but really, he’s just practicing some basic choreography that will be completely useless to him, unless he’s attacked by multiple opponents who tell him in advance what they’re going to do and stop to let him practice.

In fact, Maximus (played by Russel Crowe) kind of snickers as though he realizes this—and in the final duel of the film, you can see the look of surprise on Commodus’s face when he realizes it, too. Oh, and as a bonus, Maximus repeatedly backhands Commodus (who’s dressed in lily-white armor) in front of the entire empire despite suffering a fatal stab wound.

#5 Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut)Balian v. Guy de Lusignan

Speaking of Ridley Scott…  If Blade Runner proved anything, it’s that studio execs need to quit micro-managing Ridley Scott’s movies. He doesn’t do slap-dash action films; Ridley Scott’s movies are big, sprawling epics that need three hours of run-time. Every scene is so essential that when you start whittling them down, the continuity goes right out the window. That was the problem withKingdom of Heaven. The theatrical version showed a dude with five minutes of weapons training somehow kicking everybody’s ass. Characters weren’t developed at all. It was like watching a good movie on fast-forward. But the director’s cut clears up all these problems and, as a bonus, features one of the best swordfights in recent Hollywood history.

Orlando Bloom stars as Balian of Ibelin, a Christian blacksmith-turned-noble trying to save the people of Jerusalem—not from the Muslims than from Jeruselem’s Christian king, Guy de Lusignan. Guy is a pompous ass who just so happens to be a great fighter. Near the end of the film, though, he’s fallen from grace and goes to confront Balian while the latter is trying to rinse off some of the blood and dirt of battle (not to mention the lipstick of Guy’s wife).

Why it’s a great fight…

Issues of birth and class have been pivotal throughout the movie, with Guy frequently referencing Balian’s questionable parentage. Yet by the time of this final confrontation, Balian is the hero and Guy is some long-haired Frenchy whose wife has left him for his greatest enemy. Guy confronts Balian in the market square. Both are tired, penniless, and dressed in identically dirty, plain-spun clothes. The fight itself is fast and frantic, with slick choreography that’s tempered by their ratty attire.  Despite the fact that the whole movie has been leading up to this, somehow, it doesn’t feel forced or cliché.  And any movie that can turn Orlando Bloom into a believable swordfighter (hint: not the same thing as an archer) is pretty cool.

#4 TroyHector v. Achilles

Yes, it’s kind of a silly movie. But I challenge anyone to watch this particular fight and not be impressed. For one thing, this is a swordfight I shouldn’t like because generally speaking, I like realism in my fight scenes.  Yet here, Achilles (played by an oddly hairless Brad Pitt) seems a bit too good at anticipating every swing from Eric Bana’s decidedly more hirsute Hector.

In a way, though, the unbelievable skill of Achilles is made more plausible by pitting it against Hector’s more realistic style. Throughout the movie, Hector fights—and wins—more battles than anyone, yet he wins each one by the skin of his teeth. Watching Hector fight, one doesn’t get the impression that he’s nine steps ahead of his opponent, like Achilles. Rather, one gets the impression that Hector’s just desperate and willing to improvise. And that’s why he always wins…

Why it’s a great fight…

…until he doesn’t.  Still, it’s close.  Oh, I know that anyone who read the Iliad in high school knows how this one’s going to turn out but whenever I watch this fight, I almost forget. A couple times, for all his grace and ability to anticipate his enemy’s moves, Achilles very nearly gets carved open by Hector’s wild, frantic swings.

Another thing this fight’s got going for it is the fact that Hector is exhausted by the end. Achilles seems only slightly frustrated that he hasn’t killed his opponent in under three seconds but Hector’s gasping like a senior citizen on a porno set. Just that contrast alone sets this fight apart from the Star Wars prequels, which I will continue to ridicule for the rest of my natural life.

#3 Return of the JediLuke Skywalker v. Darth Vader

Ha, weren’t expecting that one, were you? Well, to be honest, it carves out a little bit of my soul to give anything resembling credit to George Lucas. But I have to say, the final lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi is pretty solid—specifically because it does not include any of the dopey flips and showy nonsense that characterize the rest of the prequels.

I very nearly put the duel from Empire Strikes Back on the list instead because, on hindsight, it actually serves to point out the ridiculousness of the prequels, as well.  If you recall, in Empire Strikes Back, Luke attacks Vader with the boyish élan shown by Kenobi in the prequels; Vader answers by dismembering him with the bare minimum of effort.  Yet the final duel in Return of the Jedi stands out because, plasma-swords and deus ex machina aside, it has elements of realism and the bad guy getting his comeuppance.

Why it’s a great fight…

Yes, it’s cheesy when Luke screams “NEVVVVEEEEER!” and comes lunging out of the darkness to beat his father’s ass, but if you watch the actual fight, there’s almost nothing in the way of the implausible, robotic grace of the prequels. It’s just Luke swinging furiously—almost wildly, but with just enough skill to force Vader back and exhaust him.

There’s also an additional element of realism here: when the emperor laughs and says that hate has made Luke powerful, he’s right. Post kung fu Hollywood has convinced us that the guy who wins the fight is the guy who pictures cherry blossoms and tea cups as he avoids the hasty swings of his enraged, imbalanced opponent while simultaneously trying not to yawn.  Obviously, skill matters; but talk to any self-defense instructor and the first thing they’ll tell you is that in reality, you win fights by morphing into a honey badger.

Well, after hours of acting like a grumpy dude who can’t find his surf board, Luke finally goes full honey badger and the result is that he mops the floor with the living embodiment of evil.

#2 Excalibur: King Arthur v. Mordred

At first glance, this fight seems like an odd choice. John Boorman’s gritty, atmospheric retelling of the Arthurian saga is so rife with blood and loins and manly poetry that you half-expect the characters to joust with their penises. Yet the final battle (set against a beautiful, bloody sunset) lasts all of four seconds. No dancing, no parrying. Mordred simply lunges and stabs Arthur clean through his armor; Arthur pulls himself up the spear—driving it deeper into his chest—and stabs Morded (his son by incest) in the neck.

Why it’s a great fight…

Hollywood has convinced us that swordfights are ballerina-style events that last for three days. Historically, though, real swordfights lasted only a few seconds and rarely if ever involved swords clanging off each other. For one thing, the quickest way to break a sword is to hit it full-speed against the sharp edge of another sword!

Besides that, when you have two guys squaring off at close range, the human brain simply can’t anticipate an opponent’s swing then relay signals to the hands fast enough to counter. And if it could, why bother? That’s the major flaw with George Lucas duels. Why block a blow that you can see—and sense—when you could just as easily sidestep and cut your attacker’s head off?

That’s also what’s so beautiful about the Arthur v. Mordred fight. It’s brutal, quick, and completely devoid of grace. In so doing, it maintains the gritty, this-ain’t-no-fairytale feel that the rest of the movie has (especially the infamous rape scene featuring Boorman’s own daughter).

#1 Rob Roy: Rob Roy v. Archibald Cunningham

If you can find a better Hollywood swordfight, I’ll wax your car.  In this one, Rob Roy (played by Liam Neisen) is an honorable Scottish brigand trying to keep it together in a changing world of courtly politics and gunpowder. Sure, he pontificates on noble virtues before his children, but that doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he has to do to win a fight. In fact, Rob Roy pretty much backstabs everybody he kills, right up until the movie’s final duel (in which backstabbing is expressly forbidden).

His nemesis: Archibald Cunningham (played by Tim Roth). What kind of man is Archibald Cunningham? Think Joffrey from Game of Thrones, all grow’d up. Cunningham rapes, lies, and steals without hesitation. Yet he’s the genuflecting poster-child for bombastic wigs and foppish, European grace… especially when he duels. No tricks, no insults. But because he’s devilishly quick, he easily makes mincemeat of his enemies.

Why it’s a great fight…

These two are almost Shakespearean mirrors of each other—so naturally, the movie culminates in a duel that both emphasizes and expounds on their vying personalities. Cunningham smirks as he dances around Rob Roy, effortlessly slicing him to ribbons. Rob Roy’s expression goes from grim-faced alpha-male to panicked bully. And yes, he eventually wins the fight (no surprise, his name’s in the title) but it’s how he wins the fight that will make you jump up and reach for the remote control so you can rewind and watch it again.  I won’t spoil it, except to say that by the end… yeah, Archibald shows an entirely different side of himself (namely, the inside of his chest cavity).

Bonus: pay close attention to how Rob Roy fumbles with his claymore when he tries to pick it up. Even that is totally in keeping with the rising drama and verisimilitude of a scene in which the more skilled opponent loses through justified but dishonorable trickery.

 

meet-the-author

About Michael Meyerhofer

Michael-Meyerhofer-1

Michael Meyerhofer, the author of the Dragonkin Trilogy, a dark/epic fantasy series. The first book, WYTCHFIRE, released by Red Adept Publishing. The sequels, THE KNIGHT OF THE CRANE and THE WAR OF THE LOTUS, are forthcoming. Though he’s always had pretty eclectic tastes, it is rumored and supported with his obsession of blades, to especially love fantasy and narrative poetry.

Before publishing WYTCHFIRE, Micheal was fortunate enough to publish a few poetry books. His third, DAMNATIO MEMORIAE (lit. "damned memory"), won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest. His previous poetry books are BLUE COLLAR EULOGIES (Steel Toe Books) and LEAVING IOWA (winner of the Liam Rector First Book Award), plus a few chapbooks. Recently Michael was also happy to have his poem, "For My Brother," featured in Goodreads' June 2014 newsletter.

Michael Meyerhofer grew up in Iowa where he learned to cope with the unbridled excitement of the Midwest by reading books and not getting his hopes up, Probably due to his father’s influence, he developed a fondness for Star Trek, weight lifting, and collecting medieval weapons. He is also addicted to caffeine and the History Channel.

For more information and at least one embarrassing childhood photo, please visit the links below to his website and other social media hangouts across the web.

Read an excerpt of Wytchfire

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One Comment

  1. Hi Kriss, I’m nominating you for the Very Inspiring Bogger Award. You can link back to me here http://lynnthompsonbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

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