fight scenes

The Fight is the Story (part 2)

Make sure you go back to the previous FitS post, part 1, and read it thoroughly before you read this one. This is my contrasting example to the pointless fight scene that was in the Phantom Menace. It appears at the end of Return of the Jedi. Here it is:

Let’s look at the basics first: this, like the PM fight, is a master and apprentice vs. a solo opponent. What’s that? Oh yes, it is. If you are under the impression that the Emperor isn’t a part of this fight because he isn’t whipping out a lightsaber, that’s where you’re wrong, and that’s also where you’re falling into the same trap as so many storytellers out there, when it comes to fights. The Emperor is a major part of this fight, throughout. In fact, he starts it.

So. 1): Why here, why now, why these characters fighting? What’s everyone’s OBJECTIVE?
It’s quite clear: Luke’s OBJECTIVE: to bring his father back with him. Vader’s OBJECTIVE: same thing, basically: to keep his son here with him, enjoy blissful life in the Dark Side as a family. And our third fighter in this scene, the Emperor? He wants these two to fight to the death. Remember what Vader seems to have forgotten: there’s only a master and an apprentice Sith at any one time. Now for the Emperor, he’d obviously rather have Luke, as he’s younger and stronger with the Force, but hey, if Vader ends up killing his own son, well talk about Dark side, and he’s been a pretty gosh darn good viscount of terror for this many years. Really either way is fine. And no, you don’t have to have read novels or anything to get this from this fight scene–in fact, if you didn’t see any of the rest of the movie, this would still be clear as day.

So, how about 2)? Lots of clear TACTICS going on here, starting with Palpatine’s biggest TACTIC, the one he’s best at: to seduce. Notice that he’s using mainly words in this fight, up until the end, that is. Why? Because WORDS ARE HIS STRONGEST WEAPON! Palpatine has no need to resort to physical tactics through most of this fight. Why? Because HIS VERBAL TACTICS ARE WORKING. It’s his insidious tease and threat to Luke’s friends that spurs Luke to grab his lightsaber and attempt to kill him. And yeah, it’s obvious that that is what he’s trying to do–the way the first move is choreographed makes that apparent. Vader’s objective? To protect his master. Through the first part of that whole fight, every physical move Luke does (after the initial failed one) is to try and get away from his father, so he won’t have to fight him. Kicking him away, only blocking Vader’s blows, jumping up to the catwalk–all these things are attempts to STOP fighting Vader. Why does he start fighting him again? Well, Vader himself pulls out the verbal tactics, to get Luke to come out of hiding and continue the fight. He finds out about Leia, and threatens her safety. This TACTIC works: Luke is overwhelmed with anger and launches himself at Vader, his attacks now vicious.

This is where we see the fight take a major turn. And this is where the biggest fight scene mistake was made in ep. 2 (the ridiculous Yoda vs. Dooku lightsaber fight), when you compare.

Luke accidentally cuts off Vader’s hand. This shocks him, and makes him stop his barrage, remembering what his OBJECTIVE is and how this attack was NOT a TACTIC to get him that OBJECTIVE. Palpatine takes this opportunity to pounce: still using verbal TACTICS, he reveals his OBJECTIVE to the other fighters. He tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place. When Luke turns off his lightsaber, throws it away, and says, “No,” this is the moment when Palpatine’s verbal TACTICS have run out. Then, and only then, does Palpatine resort to physical violence. And he does so in a way appropriate to his character (unlike Yoda vs. Dooku). Does he whip out a lightsaber and supernaturally become agile real quick? No, of course not, that would make no sense. Instead, he uses a physical weapon much more apropos to him: the Force lightning. Luke has no idea this is even a thing, and has no defense against it–all he can do is collapse, screaming in agony. He does have one more verbal TACTIC left in him, though: he calls for his father to help him.

And boy does that TACTIC work: Vader then uses a physical TACTIC to stop the barrage. Because of this balance in the fight scene, it’s my professional opinion that Vader didn’t predict that he’d die from the lightning. It sure doesn’t look like he expected it, but once it was happening, he changed his OBJECTIVE into killing Palpatine, because he knows he won’t survive to collect his previous OBJECTIVE. And thus he succeeds. All of this is crystal clear, not from obscure back story, but FROM THE FIGHT ITSELF.

Not a whole lot of spinning in this fight scene, but what a more compelling, interesting, gripping, and exciting fight this was than the one in Phantom Menace. Well, the music in the other was pretty cool…..

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Outrageous Fortune

ofbwtherapy

Rehearsal for Outrageous Fortune. The Dr. Ruth-type Prospera coaches we Tragedians Anonymous into embracing our tragedies and moving forward…

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Stage Movement begging session to praise to the skies a theatrical project I’m a part of: Viva’s Outrageous Fortune. Viva is a company connected to Boulder’s Society For Creative Aging, and as such, its large cast is quite diverse both in the age and the experience areas. The Boulder Weekly has a thoughtful article on some of the philosophies behind it, which you can read here. Basically, it’s Shakespeare’s tragic characters in group therapy in an attempt to find closure with their tragic lives, and things go rather amuck when some characters try and change their Outrageous Fortune to make one of their own.

On a personal level, I’ve had a lot of fun cultivating my Valley-Girl-Desdemona character, but also in choreographing the second largest fight scene I’ve ever had to tackle. An extra challenge in coordinating this giant fight scene is knowing that around 85% of the players are of an advanced age, such that certain moves are not only difficult, but dangerous and even impossible. But I am very happy with how it’s turning out, and the show as a whole should be a heckuva lot of fun to see.

Outrageous Fortune opens this Saturday and runs two weekends. Find your tickets here.

Fight Clip Club

I’m bringing to the Fight Clip Club the duel scene from stellar TV show Firefly, as it has a nice way of showing skill vs. raw ability but no skill. I’d categorize it as Realistic/Swashbuckling, with the one caveat that there is the dreaded Throwing a Sword trope here, which I despise. The closing dialogue is terrific, though: “Well, maybe I’m just a good man…”

Actually there’s another great fight scene in this same episode (“Shindig”), at the very beginning: a simple bar brawl that’s actually quite beautiful. Not sure I don’t like the bar brawl better than the duel, actually…

http://www.sciencechannel.com/embed?page=3258

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“So…you two have met.”       — No, this isn’t the duel scene. It’s yet another favorite fight scene from Firefly. It’s rare to find a fight scene between a male and female character wherein both are actually scrappy and both indeed want to hurt each other.

 

 

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Fight Clip Club

This selection from The Four Musketeers is a favorite one of mine and many of my compatriots in the stage combat profession. The main reason for this is twofold: 1) you can see it’s mainly the actors doing the choreography, not stunt doubles, and 2) it’s one of the more realistic sword fight scenes you can find in cinema.

Normally when you’re talking swordfighting, particularly The Three Musketeers, you think Expressionistic / Swashbuckling, right? Sure you do–we all do. This isn’t that. It’s arguably Expressionistic because of the length of the fight, but I’d actually call it Realistic / Dramatic instead. Can you see why I do?

(For a detailed rundown on my two-tiered classification system of stage combat, here.)

(Also: it’s period-realistic more than most, as it’s actually rapier-and-dagger, not just rapier, not random-pirate-y-sword-we-thought-looked-old-timey…)

Fight Clip Club

Fight Clip Club is a thing I used to do with my Stage Combat students–it was a chance for them to look closer at the fight scenes they enjoy in their favorite entertainment. There were certain prescribed analyses I had them do to show me they were able to see what was really going on in the scene based on the things they’d learned in class.

I’m going to start doing my own version of the Fight Clip Club for you, lovely lurkers. This first one was shared by one of my random Facebook friends in the field, and I commented that it was “way too long, and also glorious.”
I’m sure you’ll agree that this fight would fall under the “expressionistic” and “swashbuckling” categories in my fight-styles system, and what makes this that much more fun to watch for me is the vast difference in style. You’ve got the Old School Movie Kung Fu vs. Classic Western Boxing, and it works very well.

UPDATE:
I’m noticing that the video may show as private? Here’s a link just in case. https://www.facebook.com/190816697621587/videos/949993588370557/

The One-Shot Hallway Fight

Many folks, both fans and professionals, have been talking about the two most famous hallway fight scenes in recent cinema; mainly because they are shot ostensibly in one shot. The side-scrolling hallway fight in Oldboy and the clever hallway scene in Daredevil have been on fight folks’ minds quite a bit lately (especially since Daredevil came out; many people have returned to Oldboy to re-view the skill).
As an example, here’s a video of a comparison of the two hallway fight scenes I came across online today. Please to enjoy.

Links That Are Link-esque

Here’s another linky list, lovely lurkers (oo, alliteration!), for your brain food happiness.   ~Jenn

Two articles re: William Gibson / Neuromancer supplied to me by Friend Harold, as I am now reading its sequel at his request. A Global Neuromancer and this one from Wired magazine.

This podcast ep done by  Friend Jason M. during which he and I hash out the “Genre Wars.” Many more linkish

This meme is about logical fallacies, which is one of the things I taught my Comp students about recently.

This meme is about logical fallacies, which is one of the things I taught my Comp students about recently.

links on the podcast’s page, too–all stuff we discuss during the ep. It’s not a new one, but I had recently re-shared it to my other social media, so.

Friend Ian’s new book is out soon, and I wrote him a Foreward. I was a beta reader for this one, and I highly enjoyed it. It’s called The Lion and the Five Deadly Serpents.

I will be helping Friend Corbin out with his latest film (coordinating stunts, natch). Here’s his film production site, and the insane 48-hr-competition short called “Spinners” for which I also supplied the fight scenes.

Did you hear the big news about Patrick Rothfuss’ brilliant not-quite-completed trilogy?

Have you followed the other websites/blogs to which I contribute my writings? There are three: Your Boulder, Nerds in Babeland, and Sherlock’s Home. All three are worth following, not just for my work alone.

Fiction Selection

I came across this clip from an unpublished story that’s the first of 5 I need to get my butt in gear with and edit, proofread, revise, and freaking publish already! Or, at least I think I do. What do you think, lovely lurkers?

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From Sweet Revenge, 2000 (unpublished)

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“Take that, spawn of the devil!”

Thwang!

I whirl around. Protruding from the mast, inches from my right shoulder, is a sextant, the sharp end embedded into the wood. It trembles with the impact. I turn back around to face my assailant.

Three rigging-lackeys lounge on barrels, ropes, the rail. The man in the center, one Arbitor, curses at his near miss. The other two laugh.

“Here’s the instrument to stick in a pretty walking map!” the mustachioed pirate on the left jeers. The right-hand lackey, lounging on the rail, grabs his trousers and gestures lewdly. I frown. Jack O’Napes is nowhere in sight. Meeting my uncle the Captain, no doubt. The rest of the crew is far from us. Arbitor fidgets. He looks uncomfortable; he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. His two flanking cohorts advance on me, leering, muttering under their breath. I catch a few phrases: “Tie ‘er up and hang ‘er,” “Our treasure…” “Nothing but a little girl.” At that, the right-hand lackey clutches himself again and replies, “I’ll make ‘er into a woman, Skrike. You hold ‘er.”

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The main characters from a sequel to this story. You can see Gemma on the far left labeled as “Cap’n.”

I tense, every muscle on the alert. Arbitor backs up slowly, biting his fingers.

“Now!” shouts the right-hand lackey, and lunges at me.

I draw my sword so quickly, he runs straight into it. The point pierces his abdomen. He gasps in pain and fury. I wrench the sword free, and whirl to face my other opponent, who whisks his sword out of its scabbard and squares off with me. Arbitor drags his bleeding, cursing other crony downstairs, calling for the Captain. I do not hear him. Skrike swipes a cut at my left side, which I parry easily. He is already breathing too heavily, in anticipation. I can see his next move in his eyes.

I thwart his expected thrust and bind his blade around, surprising him with my strength, and exposing the left side of his back. I cut quickly towards his kidney, but he somehow twists out of his awkward position and beats my blade away. I hear running feet belowships and on the hollow-sounding stairs, but all my thoughts are on my man, my breathing, my footing. His blade, my blade.

His next thrust is far too sloppy, he being still off-balance. I tack aside the off-center miss, and aim this time for his right calf. He won’t expect a blow so low.

Just as I thought: the cut draws blood. He sucks in a ragged breath and falls to his knees.

He’s not through yet, however. He shoves his blade straight, like a battering-ram, towards my solar plexus. I parry the blade, and this time envelopée the sword right out of his hand. It circles, out of his control, and clatters to the deck. It flings itself across the floor and lands at the feet of Jack O’Napes, who has appeared from belowships. The Captain stands next to him. I point my sword at the hollow of Skrike’s throat. He, panting, sweating, eyes me with awe.

“Apologize,” I say between clenched teeth. When he does not respond, I place the point of my blade right up against the depression at the base of his neck. He swallows, with difficulty.

“A-po-lo-gize,” I sing to him. “Say you’re sorry in front of the Captain–” my vision widens, and I notice that the whole crew has assembled like a theatre crowd. “–and all the crew. Then,” I lower my voice and move a step closer, “kiss my foot and promise you shall never try me again.” At the word ‘never,’ I prick his skin ever so slightly. He tenses.

“I…am sorry.”

“That’s right.”

“Cap’n Jonquil, sir, ye crew, I behaved like an ass.” This makes the crew growl in malicious laughter. “I’ll never threaten the Gem again, to ye all do I swear.” His voice seeps with humiliation. I move the sword away from his throat. A tiny bead of blood wells up from the spot. We look into each other’s eyes for two heartbeats.

Then, he bows to the floor and brushes his mustache against my left foot. I smirk. The crew bursts into a roar. Captain Jonquil picks him up by the scruff.

The crew quiets.

Captain Jonquil speaks, holding Skrike by the back of his neck.

“Know this. If any one of you ever so much as dreams of touching our Gem with unclean intent, you shall be fodder for the sharks, understood?” A murmur of assent. “She is my child, more than my brother’s, and is no devil’s whelp. She shall get her share, you scurrilous son of a pig,” this last comment is directed at the wounded and gasping rigging-lackey I skewered. “and she’s a better seaman than you, Arbitor.” The man bows his head.

“For you, Skrike, to be this badly beaten by a woman should be enough punishment for you, yet the proper punishment for the attack of a fellow crew member, according to our code, which you dutifully signed when you boarded,” the crew murmurs again. “is nineteen lashes with the cat o’ nine. O’Napes, take him and bestow the honors upon him.” Jack hoists the sagging Skrike by the arm and drags him away.

Latest Theatre Event

Check out this article I wrote over at Your Boulder, about the latest theatrical gig I’m involved with. It’s The Five Fifths of the Princess Bride, and it’s going to be…as postmodernly insane as you can imagine. An excerpt from the YB article is below, and for the rest, go to the above link. And come see me on Saturday!   ~Jenn

The artists assigned to tackle each of the five facets of the Princess Bride are (in order):  Stories with Spirit,The Band of Toughs, Al Stafford Productions, Mandy Greenlee, and Jaryd Smart. Tickets can be purchased on the event’s Facebook page or the Boulder Fringe website. $25 will get you admission to a cocktail hour, silent auction, and of course the show itself. All proceeds go to the Boulder International Fringe Festival. It’s a Boulder event not to be missed, to support another Boulder event not to be missed!

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