Something new! (And my second post in two weeks!) I’ve written about movies before, but those were called Learning From Movies. Reason being, they were movies that had some good or worthwhile aspects, but overall weren’t ‘good’ movies. With those posts, I briefly reviewed the movies, then talked about the good in them, which one can use as inspiration for their writing. Even the worst movies have what we can use (most of the time, at least.)
Today, however, we’re going to look at a genuinely good movie in all respects, so this will be a more straightforward review. I don’t plan to do this too often (reviewing every movie I watch would glut up this place with more movie reviews than I’d like.) What I will do is post reviews and comments on smaller movies that don’t see wide releases, primarily movies whose Kickstarter’s I donated to. Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is the first of these. (There is one other movie I’ve Kickstarted and should be receiving within a month or two I believe.) More will follow as I see and donate to them. The Mythica sequels will all be discussed here, that much I can say for certain.
So, to begin. Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is the first in a series of 5 planned movies (3 are already filmed, 2 more planned) made by Arrowstorm Entertainment, an independent film company based in Provo, Utah (as an aside, I’ve noticed over the last decade or so a lot of great, creative Sci-Fi/Fantasy content coming out of Utah and the Midwest in general, from books to movies. I love living in New York, and the only other place I plan to live lies over an ocean, but I feel like I’m missing out.) Mythica is their eighth film, and from my understanding their first attempt at a series. All of them have been funded via crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Personally, I feel like these are the kinds of things Kickstarter was made for, and I’m happy to see that companies like this are able to get otherwise prohibitively expensive projects funded this way.
Mythica tells the story (or rather, begins the story) of Marek (Melanie Stone), a young slave with a club foot who has magical talents, and has been receiving some instruction secretly from a local wizard Gojun Pye (Kevin Sorbo), and thirsts for adventure. When she discovers a greater magical talent that she can’t quite control, Marek escapes her abusive master and seeks to find a job as an adventurer. Unfortunately, she is not taken seriously by those at the local adventurer’s tavern, until the priestess Teela (Nicola Posener) seeks adventurers to help her rescue her sister, kidnapped by orcs. Unfortunately for her, she has little money to offer as payment, so Marek is her only option, though she has doubts as well. Marek then recruits two men she’d previously met; Thane (Adam Johnson), a former soldier (the party’s warrior), and Dagen (Jake Stormoen), a thief (the party’s rogue). From there they travel to rescue Teela’s sister, a plot which encompasses the rest of the move, though it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, both for the quest itself or for the characters.
Unlike my book reviews, I’ll shy away from spoilers, since I find it easier to do so with movies for some reason. Also in lieu of breaking things down like in my book reviews, I’ll simply discuss separately what I felt worked well, and what didn’t work quite as well for me.
The acting was top notch, at least as far as I’m concerned (though I’m admittedly not any type of expert on movies). Our four core characters are all distinct; each actor does their part well, and all have their moments of awesome and strong character moments. In particular, however, I’ll single out Melanie Stone’s Marek as a standout. She is the one who really carries the movie, which she should, as the protagonist. The character is most definitely a strong female character; nobody’s victim and not just there to look pretty, but at the same time doesn’t fall into the easy trap of essentially becoming a male role played by a woman. I don’t want to spoil anything, but she gets some great scenes, and really gives the character a depth that I hope will be explored more in the sequels.
The setting and visual effects were great as well, to my untrained eye not too far off from what you’d see in a ‘mainstream’ film (and I’ve definitely seen worse in major films). The sets look great as well, always with enough detail to give it life, and lots of scenes were shot on location (I watched what behind the scenes stuff there was), surely a benefit of being in Utah, where there are from my understanding many great natural locations to shoot at. The action scenes were on the simpler side (this was made for less than $100,000), but well done and exciting, even when fighting a CGI enemy, where things easily could have looked awkward. There are also some hints of depth to the world that don’t get too much time in this film, but with 2 to 4 more in the series I hope get explored some more. It’s definitely on the simpler side when compared to the worlds crafted by my favorite novelists, but given the type of tale this is, and the budget (less than $100,000), I won’t nitpick.
The only aspect of the film that I will offer some criticism on is the story itself, and I suppose, by extension, the writing (seeing as writing’s the only aspect of movie making that I have any experience with, though I have never attempted to write a script or screenplay). It might be a bit inaccurate to term the coming comments as criticism, rather more a combination of critique and my personal taste (and me coming from a book-heavy perspective).
I gather from the behind the scenes stuff I watched that a significant part of the inspiration for Mythica was roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, as well as video games. This itself is fine; there’s plenty of cool and interesting things worthy of being inspiration from these sources; a good deal of my own inspiration has come from video games. As far as the world itself goes, this works fine, and the world has some depth to it already with the potential for much more down the line. However, the story suffers slightly, in that it does feel a bit formulaic and predictable. We start with a prologue of an orc attack, which sets up the story’s principal quest. We have our lowborn protagonist with a magical talent, who then strikes out on her own and finds a small band of friends that fit together to make a standard ‘party’ of a wizard, a warrior, a rogue, and a cleric. They set out on the quest, and as the stakes rise they quarrel and the person in it for personal gain decides to leave, until our heroine manages to pull things together and they succeed in their quest, and become a true group of friends, and the movie ends with an ominous figure watching them–setup for the sequel.
None of this is bad, really. As I said at the very beginning, this is a good movie. The only thing I’d wish for is for it to make the leap from good, or even quite good, to great. The fantasy books I love to read (and write) have stories that feel less bound by some of these perceived tropes, and feel, for lack of a better term, fresher, from a story perspective (I also have more or less had enough of elves, dwarves, and orcs, things that feel derivative of Lord of the Rings, but that’s a minor thing). Of course, with a low budget film like this there is a better argument for playing it safe, and it’s also quite possible that in the sequels the story will depart from the conventions it seems like it’s tied to now that things have been set up, and become the great, original, and awesome fantasy epic that I strongly believe it can be.
All in all though, despite my slight issues with the story, it’s an enjoyable little story with a lot of potential for the future, and it’s clear that those involved in the making of Mythica really do have a genuine love for the genre. In an age where we still see very few true epic fantasy films (and all but none that aren’t generally subpar adaptations of books, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films non-withstanding–shut up, I liked the Hobbit movies), it’s nice to see original stuff (even if I would kind of prefer a bit more originality in the story and perhaps some more risks taken). Definitely a group that I, as a fan and creator, would get along with and one I can wholeheartedly back.
On a slight tangent, I would also wonder if this sort of crowdfunding could be an avenue to see the works of authors who aren’t George R. R. Martins or J. R. R. Tolkiens made into films. Just a thought to put out there.
To conclude, definitely check out Mythica and Arrowstorm Entertainment. The more funding they can get, the higher quality production they can make (and more of them too, I’d wager.) Their website is arrowstormentertainment.com , and you can buy or rent each of their already released movies there. And that’s not to mention their kickstarter for Mythica 2: The Darkspore, the sequel to Mythica: A Quest For Heroes, which is going on right now! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arrowstorm/mythica-2-the-darkspore-starring-kevin-sorbo I think it is unlikely to be a shock for me to say that I have already made a contribution. (They also have a Patreon, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/arrowstorm )
So I think that’s about it for now. This probably ran a bit long, but there was what to say, and it was worth the space. Expect a review of one of Arrowstorm’s older films here some time soon Did Mythica first because I’d seen it first, plus the timing works well with the kickstarter for the sequel. So until next time, keep on reading, keep on writing, and keep on supporting quality sci-fi/fantasy productions!