Film Corner: Gathering of Heroes

Gathering of Heroes

Today we have GATHERING OF HEROES: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SWORDS, a name which might be one of those neural net outputs from the people who use computers to name shelter animals. "In the mystical realm of Ryntia, forces of the underworld are aligning to unleash a plague of evil. Bre'gwen forges an alliance with an unlikely human who holds the secret to acquiring a powerful artifact that will allow them to summon and control an army of undead warriors from centuries past. An Oracle gathers seven heroes to wield the legendary swords of Draconus against them."

How can such a long summary leave us with so little information?? WHO IS BRE'GWEN? I love how Amazon movies are like "Thor, God of Thunder" because you might have missed that memo but just expect you to roll with "Bre'gwen" without context. WHATEVER, it doesn't matter, fuck you if you want context, here's your context: undead bad, must sword them all, yum yum. ...I wonder if any of the seven heroes will be women.

Ooh, the prologue has animated stills, like that PRIEST movie I like. We have a demonic villain lady with...How do I describe...her bra is made of two skeletal hands cupping her boobs, middle finger strategically placed over the nipple. Do cis men know that nipples can have huge surrounding areolas, that it's not all just snow white skin up to the little tipple? I mean, some of y'all know. But are the other cis men ok?

ANYWAY. There used to be a bad guy named Xanthias (Sauron?) and he had two demonic minions named Tyranus (the Cuddly) and Sinder (the Compassionate). I'm just guessing on the titles. FANTASY NAME OVERLOAD. I like how the male demon has, like, face tentacles and shit, while the female demon is just a human hottie with purple skin. Obligatory and very not safe for work Oglaf comic.

Ok, we have Bre'gwen sighting! The druiding Silverglimmerwoods elves opposed Xanthy and he infected the "weak minded" among them, including their queen Bre'gwen. Not sure what qualified the leader of his opposition as "weak minded" but let's be real it's because she's a chick. Xanthias' evil turned the pale elves "gray skinned". Christ on a popsicle stick. How about you don't world build like this!! They're opposed by the Grayraven forces and the mystical Ebony Knights who have awesome combat powers. I... I don't know whether this makes it better or worse, but any bets on whether the Ebony Knights will all be white actors?

In updated nipple news, Bre'gwen is using some kind of spiral metal affair now that she's evil. I'm not sure she even has nipples, actually.

My god, there's SO MUCH BACKSTORY.

Knight Galeron seized a magical shield that needs to be destroyed, but it pulled a One Ring and corrupted his King instead. Galeron, white male leader of the Ebony Knights, rebelled against the corrupted king, took the evil shield, and...destroyed the shield? Huh. Ok.

"And now the story continues." I...ok. Was any of that going to be on the test?

Two apparently white men dressed in Ebony Knight uniforms discuss tactics before one of them Leroy Jenkins on ahead. I think. It's night and I think they actually filmed at night instead of day-for-night.

Someone is captured by the Deep Elves, who are white actors with pale blue skin-makeup, and that's honestly probably for the best. (Better would've been NOT tying moral decisions to nonwhite skin color, but here we are.) Some of them seem kinda hesitant about this whole "evil" thing, so that's possibly interesting.

Leroy Jenkins is running around in the dark, killing elves. He has magic to make his hands purple. Unsure yet what that accomplishes. Oh hey! More Ebony Knights show up and one is a white woman and one is a Black man. I'm rooting for these two-- WAIT I THINK THERE'S TWO WOMEN. WOW. Two whole women. That's very unusual for low budget Amazon fantasy movies.

One of the Ebony Knights is kneeling to Queen Breggy, but only because he "respects royalty". I.......what. Y'all are the fantasy equivalent of a terrorist militia group, albeit one that works for the side of Good (TM). Why the fuck would you arbitrarily respect royalty? Your organization betrayed ITS OWN KING because he made bad choices!!

I guess it got the hostages released, so that's something. Feels very weird, though. Oh, and apparently Queen Breggy is giving them a tome and her insufficiently evil sister, who seems shocked by this revelation. Leroy Jenkins is as confused as I am.

A second Black man exists! Apparently as one of many knightly advisors to the king. It's really fucking frustrating that actors of color are so rare in fantasy movies that I get excited to see any in human roles. This should be standard, and yet *gestures at entire LOTR series* He...hasn't been allowed to actually talk in this scene, so that's annoying.

We have a Princess. *checks bingo square* She's an actor from the RiffTrax Star Raiders I just watched on Tuesday, so that's disorienting me quite a bit. She asks to join the battalions; her dad says no. "The day I send a woman into battle is the day I renounce my throne." How about you fuck off, dad. How about that. And he knows women can fight!! The enemy elves AND the Ebony Knights (apparently also an enemy??) all have women! Apparently she has clerical training? There's such a fine line between organic worldbuilding and just not fucking caring if the viewer knows what's going on.


At the Ebony Knight headquarters--which had a distressingly high number of indefensible floor-to-ceiling windows--the last six ebony knights patiently wait for their leader to explain his bullshit. He's allied them with their greatest enemy (the Deep Elves) because otherwise the order will die out and this will help in some nonspecific way. Leroy and the woman are appalled in a very restrained way.

"You're talking about a full scale war," says one woman in the exact same inflection I use when pointing out that the office water cooler is getting low.

Ok, so here's the plot as best I have so far. The Ebony Knights are still bound to the Grayraven king (somehow) in a way they consider detrimental to the order (somehow), so they've allied with the Deep Elves (why?) and plan to attack the king while his forces are spread thin against the elves. This is a betrayal of their entire calling, which has apparently always been service to the Grayraven king (with the previous little rebellion over that whole One Ring thing being just a one-time deal), so naturally everyone agrees with this treasonous plan except Leroy Jenkins. Everyone else agreed that Gary's evil plan was a new and innovative direction for the company to take.

This annoys me on a deep and fundamental level because I assume we'll now never see the diverse Ebony Knights again except maybe as minor villains, and this will instead be Leroy Jenkins' story. You know what would be actually interesting in one of these movies? One of the marginalized people speaking up about how TERRIBLE Gary would be as a replacement king and no fucking thank you. I find that more interesting than "blah blah blah honor". These people live and work with Gary and have for years; I guarantee they've seen him at his worst.

Gary goes to visit the Deep Elf he bought from Breggy, and-- ah, there it is. He and Breggy are gonna force this girl to marry him so that he can be a king. "I wasn't born into nobility. If I want to become king, I must marry a royalty [sic]." Sure, that's how this works. The HUMAN civilian populace will accept you as their king once you marry one of their ANCESTRAL ENEMIES. My god. This! Is not! How anything! Works! Do you know it's controversial which *mistresses* a king takes? Because they might influence him to favor the wrong country? MISTRESSES! Let alone WIVES.

I'm also incredibly confused why Breggy wouldn't prepare her daughter (not sister, sorry) in any way for this plan that Breggy is on board with. How is anything helped by this being a "surprise, you're my captive now!" situation??? My god, I could sneeze a more coherent plot than this.

Elf Princess is just straight up reading him a You Suck speech, so it's time for domestic violence because villains are always villainous in ALL the ways rather than just SOME of the ways. Leroy Jenkins bursts in to interrupt the violence but not to actually, like, save her or help her leave. The bar is so low for white cis male heroes, I swear to god. Meanwhile, if the protagonist is a woman and especially if she's a WOC, it's like, "oh I won't support that movie because I heard she has the wrong tone of voice in one scene when she's talking to a man, and I don't support that kind of violence.

Back home, Breggy's outfits are getting progressively closer to an inevitable nip-slip. I just want to point out that none of the Amazon summary so far has had anything to do with the plot we're getting. We were promised:

- undead army artifact
- oracle
- seven swords for seven heroes

Breggy plans to kill the sexist king and I'm all for that, so I hope that wasn't supposed to be a dramatic "oh no" moment for the viewer. Oh no! The elf assassins (three blond ladies) are being stopped by a wizard, a girl in woad face paint, an acrobat, and a pirate. That seems profoundly unfair. And...and this.

WHY. Explain this ENTIRE COSTUME to me. Why the chainmail waterfalls down the breasts? Why the sword-shaped chainmail over the genitals?? WHY IS IT SWORD-SHAPED?? She could've used all that chainmail to cover her chest above her breasts, including her HEART and other important parts, but instead we have breast-waterfalls and genital-sword.

We passed Bechdel! The princess and her (named) maid are discussing her impending decision to run away from home and sword at things. Breggy is killing her failed assassins because if anyone has lots of reserve troops to burn through on a whim, it's elves who famously live forever but reproduce once every 8 million years oh wait. Like, you can do that with goblins because the implication is that it only takes a few years to grow more. You can't do that with elf troops!! Oh why do I even care.

Hang on, I have to go find something with sugar in it.

Leroy Jenkins' much-vaunted opposition to Evil Gary's plan has consisted of moping around headquarters. NOT, as you might expect, rallying the others to his side or leaving to warn the king about Gary's plans. I think this is the fundamental divide between bad movies and good ones: good movies understand that a hero needs to DO something. There needs to be a goal and they need to work towards that goal--and the audience needs to understand the stakes if the hero fails.

The goal, action, and stakes do not need to be earth-shattering! They can be small and humble. But they need to exist. There needs to be a choice to act. The reason this isn't done in low budget movies sometimes is, I think, a matter of set economy. Movie makers can fall into the trap of thinking that "action" means a bunch of sets they can't afford. But that's not what action means. If you can't afford for Leroy to travel to warn the king, write Leroy hanging around headquarters in an active attempt to convince the other members to turn on Gary. Or something! Having him just sit around and pout is boring. It's not a plot.

(I think a big reason why I do Bad Amazon Movie threads is because I can talk about writing-craft without people being emotionally invested in explaining why this blockbuster they enjoyed is GOOD ACTUALLY. Thank you for humoring me.)

Leroy is now challenging Gary for leadership, which is decided by who is the strongest. Always a good sign in an order devoted to morality and goodness. Oh, it's a fight to the death. Really a mystery why their recruitment numbers are dwindling. They're punch-fighting with purple fists. My cat Crisp looks bored to tears.

Leroy failed, but Elf Princess took the opportunity to fry everyone with magic lightning so she and Leroy can escape. Because I definitely want my escape attempt to be hampered by a wounded guy who was only barely civil to me in our one interaction! I know what you're thinking: "if the Elf Princess has lightning bolts, why didn't she use them to fry Gary when he was hitting her?" I can only assume she needed a long rest to restore her spell slots.

Leroy insists on going back to his people, even though they just tried to kill him, so Elfy has to use a command spell on him in order to make him see reason. Ok, she's unfamiliar with the surface world so that makes a sort of sense. She wants to go warn the king, which really should've been Leroy's line. In another scene, god knows how far from here, the human princess tries to save a human man from goblins and gets herself almost captured. But Leroy runs into the scene so it's fine now.

The Oracle has shown up with his band of fashion disasters, and is insisting that everyone get on the plot train now. At the castle, the king learns that his daughter has run away and he's like gosh she's so much like her mother, it would be wrong to squash her dreams. That's.....a major change of character but ok whatever. Glad to have you onboard the plot train with us. The Oracle is like the worst DM ever, lolsob. YOU'RE ALL FATED TO WORK TOGETHER. NO QUESTIONS. YOU JUST ARE.

Gary just used "surpass" when he meant "bypass" and normally I try not to harp on little misspeaks but my god this movie is so bad. Oh my god, there's a whole SECOND backstory about.....I don't know. A dracolich and seven warriors who sacrificed themselves to become magic swords. "Your questions will have to wait" lol omg, it is 100% "Tim's mom will be here in an hour, we gotta move on with the plot."

Gary just revealed to his Ebony Knights that they're going to unearth the Not-Actually-Destroyed One Ring, and they're like "ok, Gary, that's a step too far" and now he's killing everyone I guess. He didn't expect them to agree, so this better be some kind of "I need sacrifices to open up the tomb" or some shit, otherwise all his actions make no sense. Oh, he poisoned their dinner. Ok, then. There goes all the diversity.

The Oracle is getting everyone to kneel for a ritual he hasn't bothered to explain to the new people. Oh...there's the seven swords. Out of thin air. I guess we spent too much time meeting up that the sword quest had to be cut. Each warrior gets to meet their own personal dragon embedded in their blade and this would probably have a lot of emotional payoff if we'd known any of these people. Like, aww the girl with woad face paint got a little fairy dragon! That's so fitting of her personality! Or maybe it isn't! Who knows!

Queen Breggy is organizing a bunch of races we've never seen against the humans and I'm agog that she is actually counting on Gary to succeed and not betray her. I naturally assumed he was a pawn in her cunning plan, given that she's a powerful 300+ year old elven enchantress and he's an abusive selfish human prat in his twenties. It makes even LESS sense now that she didn't get her daughter onboard with her plan, or give him someone else who would loyally keep him on the path.

Gary is trying to recover the one ring from Galeron's tomb, and is hampered by Galeron--a professional Val Kilmer impersonator--coming back from the dead to stop him as a ghost. Normally you'd let your protagonists face the villain in a situation like this, but here we are. Gary has been made successful by deus ex dracolich, and shockingly has betrayed Queen Breggy. No one could've seen this coming. No one.

The Oracle is explaining that he can't go with the party to stop Gary because he's an NPC. The pirate is playing a lute during an actual battle. That's the first unironic use of bard music I've ever seen in a movie. It was as bad as you think. (The best IRONIC use of bard music I've seen in a movie was Dorkness Rising, where the paladin cries "Dash it all, man, HELP US" and the bard wails "I am!!")


"This place reeks of death," the cleric Princess says portentously whilst looking at a skeleton, in a cave to which hordes of skeletons are being drawn, and where they know the Shield of Death and a dracolich reside. Yes, Karen, it does. The magic swords are now straight up controlling the characters; the DM is fed the fuck up. It was probably like:

"A demon appears before you!"
"Can I seduce her?"
"No, she's a boss fight."
"But I have 20 Charisma."
"I said no."
"I'm rolling for it!"
"TOO LATE, YOUR SWORD ATTACKS HER. Roll your fucking initiative, Todd."

Well, that was the most anti-climactic battle I've ever seen. They shot colored sword-bolts at the dracolich until it fell over. The king is giving everyone presents, but only the three characters we care about. Everyone else is just sorta there.

That was dreadful.


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