The Elves at Helm’s Deep

So here’s a question. What happened to the elves that fought at Helm’s Deep?

Did they go home? Did they all die? Did they do a runner?

When I first saw this, I loved seeing the elves join the humans. It was something I wanted to see as a kid. More elves, more dwarves, fighting alongside the human race.

But here’s the thing. That was entirely against what Tolkien was writing. When I was older, I got that. Seeing the elves at Helm’s Deep cemented my understanding.

The simple truth is that Tolkien’s trilogy isn’t a simple tale of good versus evil. Not in the sense as we’ve come to understand it in fantasy literature. By the time I read the Lord of the Rings, I had read many stories of elves and they were entirely good guys. Same for dwarves and other creatures really. Fantasy stories were often clear in their make-up. Good was GOOD and evil was EVIL.

This isn’t Tolkien’s world. Here, it is made very clear that good is easily tempted, and so very corruptible. Most of the baddies in this world are actually from the ‘good’ races originally.

But then there are no ‘good’ races. Men, elves and dwarves are just like humans in real life. They can be afraid, greedy, ignorant and prejudiced. They are even more so in the time we are reading about. They were more noble in the past. Now old alliances have crumbled. This is not meant to be about races uniting to defeat a common enemy. They did that before. No, this is about the end of an era, whoever triumphs. It is about dwarves hiding in their underground kingdoms, elves sailing away into the west, and the human race divided into those resisting Sauron and those serving him. Even the Ents are unbothered by the world’s events until it effects them. The eagles have no interest too. There is no common good. Even the hobbits, our true heroes, do what they do for each other and for the Shire. They have no understanding of a world which they had never even seen until recently. This is not to diminish any status as heroes or good guys, just to explain that most are compelled from much more understandable and relatable drives.

So when you think about it, the elves showing up at Helm’s Deep is all cool and whatnot, but goes against everything Tolkien’s world is about. It makes no sense. Again, they don’t go with the Riders of Rohan to Minas Tirith, so whatever became of them, their assistance in the war is at an end. That would be like the USA helping Great Britain out in the Battle of Britain, then sodding off and never getting involved again. Fortunately, that was never the case.

Mind you, originally Arwen was going to be there too. I suspect that was the main reason the elves were brought back into it. But that subplot was discarded (rightly so I suspect) so we’re left with elves who show up, fight well, die well and then vanish. Kind of cool, but now I just feel bad for the dwarves. Bunch of no-shows.


Hanzo the Razor

So I’ve been watching my box set of Hanzo the Razor. I got it back in 2007 I think. Somehow won a competition on an anime forum. It was weird and surprising; I think I was entered automatically by joining it. Either way, I was given this, watched it, and have only just watched it all again.

There are three movies. Sword of Justice. The Snare. Who’s Got the Gold?

They follow back to back, with the events of the earlier ones showing up later on. For example, Hanzo gets a scar on his face in the second and still has it in the third. The movies all deal with him, as a police officer in Tokyo under the Tokugawa Shogunate, fighting corruption in the highest levels. Rather than watching him fight the scum and downtrodden, he uncovers plots by people in power. He openly detests rank. Each film is an individual thing, with only Hanzo, his chief and his two sidekicks reoccurring, but they do fit together very easily. Same themes, same concepts.

You might be thinking: wow, he sounds like a non-nonsense cop, taking risks and doing what’s right. He sounds like one rough, tough mother. Bit like Shaft!

Well that’s pretty much what Hanzo is. The Japanese Shaft. The samurai version. Complete with funky 70s music. Yeah, that’s not a joke. It has a soundtrack a blaxploitation film would enjoy.

That’s what I want to talk about, rather than the movies themselves. The plots are okay, the acting fine. I particularly enjoyed the police chief’s comedic antics. But I just have to mention what an odd experience it is watching these movies. It feels so wrong at first but you kind of get into it. It seems such an odd blend, forced together just so Japanese cinema can latch onto what was currently cool. But, to be fair, Hanzo is still a samurai movie at heart. He feels just like so many others I have seen – strong and stern, but giving a damn about those less fortunate than him. This isn’t a carbon copy of Shaft.

Of course, when talking about Hanzo we have to mention one thing in particular. One big thing. Our hero has a rather large appendage, which others talk about and we catch odd, distorted glimpses of. We also see him honing it. He beats it with a stick and then thrusts it into a straw container of rice. You see, he uses it in interrogations of women to get the truth from them, so he needs to work it over. He is not only a renowned swordsman but famous for his effective member.

So that’s where the most uncomfortable aspect lies. Obviously the film doesn’t depict it as such, and the women involved are criminals or at least helping them, and he knows this. He also tortures men, at least this is stated in the films but never seen. He does, however, go through torture himself to understand what it does. This is the underlying premise. He knows the pain and its effect so finds sexual interrogation of women to be the better path. In one film he does torture a priestess who was selling girls to rich men, but then changes course. To paraphrase Hanzo’s words to her, she experienced hell, then she saw heaven.

But dress it up all you like, our hero essentially rapes women. Yes, they love it. They beg him not to stop and so confess all, and he treats them well and protects them afterward. But it is that typical, tired concept of the damsel falling for the rogue, despite – or because – of his rough treatment. I don’t outright condemn it because it was made in a time when this was a common idea and because it portrays it in a way that explains, almost justifies, what is done. Hanzo is certainly not a bad man and repeatedly protects the weak against the strong. But it is really uncomfortable watching him ‘have sex’ with them. Not least because they are often tied up, due to having been arrested.

So these films are very much products of their time. Our hero is a real macho type, who can love women physically and also care for them, and yet doesn’t become bound to any of them. He can defeat those who do wrong, either by killing them or exposing them to justice. He is meant to be an anti-hero, and yet that sexual edge is something I could really do without. Watching a woman bounce up and down on his lap while bound in a net does not create a romantic scene, no matter how much light music you play over it. It is a 70s exploitation movie and then some.

One thing I will add in defence of Hanzo. When he arrests the priestess, she is overseeing a girl in the hands of a man who has paid for her. This girl is drugged and the man has her bound while standing, then beats her bloody. Hanzo bursts in and takes over. He then forces the man to grab a pillar and beats him with the same stick. In another movie, he surrenders to a group of killers to save a lowly maid, who is held hostage by them. He values women and hates seeing them mistreated. There is a reason he does what he does, to how he does it. Still, that doesn’t change what he does. It is non-consensual sex, justified by the women’s enjoyment.

So, if you want to know what a more kinky, Japanese version of Shaft would be, check out Hanzo. I won’t pretend that the movies are that great. I find the action a bit slow and clunky. Some obvious edits. I’m pretty sure there is a sense of awareness about how over the top it is at times, but it is hard to tell. Hanzo being buried in a graveyard so he can sneak into a temple is fine. The fact he is dressed up in funeral robes is either very funny or bizarre. Either way, Hanzo the Razor’s trilogy is a decent set of samurai movies, mixing in some funky tunes and outdated eroticism. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch them again. They’re not in the same class as Lone Wolf and Cub, despite being made by the same company. But they are the type of movies that, having watched again, I felt the need to talk about them.

Mixing Genres

So I’ve been thinking about the movie Predator a bit recently. This is mainly due to having watched it the other night. I have seen it lots of times and have it on DVD (with an excellent director commentary) but this was the first time for some while that I’ve sat down and watched it all from start to finish.

I love this movie. It has great atmosphere and music, as well as engaging characters and intense action. But the thing I had forgotten a bit was how much of a horror movie this is.

First, let’s be clear. Predator is a scifi action movie. But it is also part horror. Possibly it is more horror than action, as the action itself is restricted to a few sections. Most of the film is this group of soldiers prowling through the jungle, going deeper and deeper into dangerous territory, growing more uneasy as things develop, before they find themselves being outright hunted. There is a lot of talk of the jungle, of the jungle coming alive to claim Hawkins, of how dense and tough to get through the jungle is. The environment is a threat to them.

Predator follows the classic horror steps. A group of characters enter into a situation, often not that unnatural to them, but exciting nonetheless. These characters soon see warnings that things are not as they seem. Soon the threats and warnings escalate. There is often a moment when they realise that they’ve been deceived or lured. Then things get really bad as the monster/killer/threat comes for them. Often the characters are offed, one by one.

This is a broad sweep of horror steps, I admit. Still, Predator follows them along when you look at it. We also have that horror classic of one character losing his mind a bit, even predicting their deaths.

Another good point to make about Predator is that we don’t see the alien itself much at all. It remains a shimmer against the jungle, stalking them, waiting to strike. Because of this, it is always malevolent. This creature could be a demon or something. It is also fun to note how quick and lithe the alien is while this way. Once the disguise is removed and we see this big hulking thing, it becomes slow and clunky, especially in later movies. Put simply, a big man in a big costume can’t leap around the trees.

That brings to me one criticism I have, or perhaps just a wish that would have improved the film for me. If they hadn’t started with the ship in Earth’s orbit, possibly toned down a couple of other scifi things, this film could have been much more ambiguous about what is after them. The characters themselves have no idea and often talk in supernatural terms. The audience could have been sat there wondering if a demon hunted them or a ghost or … ahem … an alien. I just think that would have made the plot more intriguing and the revelation more important.

So yes, I would consider Predator a horror. It is still scifi and action, though. It is all three. It has gory scenes, characters breaking under the stress, and doesn’t really go into the science of the Predator. It could easily have been a demon using magic to disguise itself while casting fireballs. We don’t get an analysis of the alien or the science behind it. Dutch’s team stand little chance against it too. It might as well be a monster hunting normal people for all they can do to stop it.

Alien is a great horror scifi. So is the Thing, one of my favourite movies of all time and currently on tv right now. Cool, huh? I don’t see the need to separate them into one thing or the other. Aliens is more action scifi. But again, it has the horror elements. It is a great thing to watch different genres be combined by talented directors, giving us a cohesive story to enjoy.

What A Summer

So the last couple of months have felt like almost a year. I mean that in a good way, though. In a great way, really.


My fiancée came over and we did a lot of walking and visiting and enjoying ourselves. In doing so, I found out just how fulsome my small home town is, full of little places to have a quiet meal in. I also discovered that the nearby cinema is an excellent place to go watch a movie. We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. The first I found to be a really engaging movie which had a very contrived plot. I didn’t mind it. Like I said to the missus, if I care about whether an orangutan called Maurice is alive or dead, you know the film has done something right. Still, there were parts where my brain was having a good grumble. Also, I would love to watch a movie just about the apes. Humans tend to pale in comparison in these films. Guardians was fun, but flawed. It took me a while to get into it. I think the moment where we have the gang altogether, breaking out of the jail, is when things really kicked off. The character interactions were the best part of it for me. This was also the first time I saw a movie in 3D. I do not approve. Hated wearing the glasses, really put me off, and I gained no benefit I could tell.


Anyway, my fiancée and I got married at Avebury in a quick and sneaky ceremony she designed. Just a few family members bore witness. We think some walkers saw us and went another way to give us some peace, which was very considerate of them. The legal side of things has yet to be sorted, but has very little importance to us. The commitment made by each other to each other is what counts.


I also had one of my best friends visit briefly. That was a surreal experience. I’ve been a loner and shy bloke all my life, and then one day I have two hot women in my bedroom. Just watching movies, mind you.


Add to this my mother retiring, her birthday, my wife’s birthday, my own birthday, along with numerous other little moments, and the summer of 2014 has been a hectic and intense but wonderful time. Now I’m back to the usual slower pace, but this taste has left me knowing that I am ready, and willing, to change my life. I’ve found someone I can comfortably share my life with and have been able to look after people I’m deemed responsible for. The trip to the hospital was a big revelation moment in that regard.


So, back to the grindstone but with more purpose. A friend is beginning to build something and wants my help. Plans are afoot. The future beckons.