"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, July 16, 2004

Quote of the Post: "The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper." - Thomas Jefferson

Random Playlist Song: Liszt - Mephisto Waltz No 1

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After watching King Arthur, I was not quite as aghast as I was after watching Troy, but I came close. Mainly this was due to the movie's claim (or implication, at the very least) that it was presenting the TRUE story of King Arthur, based on the latest archaeological evidence.

First, there's the problem of the timeframe and location. Given that the last Roman legion was withdrawn from Britain in 410AD, I find it hard to believe that 42 years later, Roman Britain was still running like a normal province of the Empire, with Roman soldiers still guarding cities (or remote outposts in the north of England, as the case might be). Also, from what we know, the real "Arthur" operated in southern England, not near Hadrian's Wall.

And then there's the nonsense about Arthur's knights being Sarmatian horsemen who were indentured to the Roman Empire for 15 years is bad enough, but for some reason, 6 of the said horsemen are posted all the way to the other end of the empire, in Britain. Let us put aside the fact that the furthest the Romans ventured into Central Europe was Dacia under Trajan, and that Sarmatia was considerably further north/north-east than Dacia. Now, raising a legion in Sarmatia and posting it to Britain, I can accept. Raising a century of Sarmatian auxiliaries and sending them to Britain, I can still accept, despite its unlikeliness. But sending at most 20 (for that looked like the maximum capacity of the Round Table) Sarmatian horsemen to Northern England and not replenishing their numbers even after more than half of them are gone? Besides defying historical fact, that also defies logic (though maybe not movie logic).

What about these Sarmatian "knights", then? I see two distinct possibilities: that they were either trained as Roman heavy cavalry/cataphracti or Sarmatian medium cavalry. The evidence in favour of the former theory is that the "knights" were taken away when they were boys, and trained under the Romans instead of Sarmatian warriors. Their battle tactics also seem to resemble those of cataphracts more than those of Sarmatian medium cavalry, with their seeming eschewing of spears for broadswords (though of course, they are most similar to those of Dark Age knights). However, this would not explain why the "Sarmatian Knights" were held in such high esteem (viz the Roman cavalry), nor their practise of mounted archery. In favour of the latter theory is the knights' possession of sets of vaguely Scythian-looking armour (which they for some reason only use during the final battle, preferring to use brigandine, adapted segmented armour (Lorica Segmentata) or scraps of various types of armour for normal errands. Perhaps it's more convenient if you do not need the protection) and the fact that they were considered so much more special than normal Roman cavalry. With the conflicting evidence, my conclusion is that the film makers got themselves into a historical mess with their attempts to bring medieval knighthood (complete with elements of the chivalric code, even) back in time to the early Dark Ages (what's new?).

And of course, there's my usual pet peeve - stirrups. Considering that stirrups were only widely used in the time of Charlemagne, and the Persians only knew about them in the 6th century, seeing stirrups in 452AD was extremely disturbing (though not as disturbing as seeing them c. 180AD in Gladiator, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius). [Disclaimer: Some say the Huns brought stirrups in, but I'm not entirely convinced] Not to mention that the heroes, as usual, often go about sans helmet. After all, they all have tangible halos around their crowns, so head protection is unnecessary except in extremis (ie the final battle).

The portrayal of the Saxon invasion also leaves much to be desired. The first Anglo-Saxons who arrived in Britain came at the invitation of the British, and were not an invading horde. There's also the question of how on earth the Saxon chieftain managed to overcome the logistical and practical problems involved in shipping an army of thousands all the way north of Hadrian's wall. Maybe the film makers confused the Saxon invasion with the later Viking incursions.

Other puzzling things:
- Crossbows (the handheld versions of which were only used towards the end of the first millennium)
- Celts with Trebuchets (no, they were not using mangonels or onagers. It was clearly a Trebuchet due to the hanging counterweight)
- The good guys' archers' Bows of Accuracy and Piercing and Arrows of Multiplication (a skyful of arrows came from maybe 10 Celtic Archers' bows)
- How slashing blows to chainmail-clad opponents could fell them, despite chainmail being very resistant to slashing blows (if the slashes were so powerful that they penetrated the chainmail, then we should have seen or heard the armour's sudden collapse)

And a few saving graces: Bucklers and Celtic Torcs

Finally, how can an evaluation of any historical or fantasy movie with a warrior heroine be complete without a comment (or two) on their ridiculous fighting outfits? Whereas the males wear armour to protect themselves, the females like to bare their bodies, hoping that the sight of a half-naked woman will befuddle their enemies, making them vulnerable to the swing of a sword. Another review puts it best: "[A] Xena the Warrior Princess figure: Guinevere, who is not only an excellent archer but is also apparently impervious to the elements. In the dead of winter she fights in a kind of sleeveless nightgown, and for the climactic battle she wears a revealing Thierry Mugler-style S & M outfit." As a side note, Guinevere's swordplay was all wrong - women, being on average 30% weaker in their upper bodies, simply cannot practise the hack-and-slash style of swordfighting, as they will surely lose to men. They should instead rely on speed, skill and agility.

The sins above will probably not be held against the movie by normal people. After all, visual spectacles and stirring cinematics are what film makers aim for, not logic and historical accuracy.

I'm quite sure I got one or two things wrong, being rusty, and I also had to leave out some qualifications and explanations for brevity's sake. Anyone else cares to shed some light on these matters?

***

MDA has this poster about the "new" movie ratings system which gushes about how parents can now make informed choices about which movies are suitable for their children and how the movie ratings indicate which movies are suitable for which viewers, so you can now let ratings guide you in your choice of them.

There is no word, of course, of how people will be banned from watching movies which are "unsuitable" for them. Indeed, from the poster alone you'd think that they expect that patrons under 21 will obediently stay away from the movies deemed "unsuitable" for them.

Bah.

***

Interesting.

To fill up the seats for the GEP reunion dinner they got:
- teachers and other school staff
- GE branch people
- primary school GEP alumni (it's unlikely that they invited those currently *in* primary school GEP)

So much for a last minute 50% discount on tickets.
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