Classic Fantasy: The Princess Bride


The Princess Bride has not been on my radar for a while. I’ve seen it several times (we own the DVD), and I read the ‘abridged’ book it’s based on a few years ago, but haven’t actually thought about it for a while- in fact, until just now, when I googled looking for images, I had no idea that S. Morgenstern was a pseudonym. Derp. In fact my first thought after watching the movie again five minutes ago (which prompted this post) was that the original ‘going out in a blaze of glory’ ending would have been much better.

So, first things first, I’m going to assume you have seen the movie or read the book. I may give away minor spoilers, and don’t want to have to proofread myself. The novel is from the 70s, and the movie from the 80s, so you know it must be good. Starts off what I consider a bit dully in the movie, but they have to start somewhere and the dull bit is over soon. The book differs here in that it really goes into detail with the beginning, really thickening out the relationship between the titular character and (main?) protagonist. It seems to make an effort to present them as ‘jes folks’ before getting into the main story, which I like. The book gives you some backstory on the prince, which I like. It begins the long trend in the story of somewhat comical NPCs. This trend is continued a little later when you meet these guys:

Not kidnappers. Really. Just circus performers.

I like these guys. The boat scene is where the trend of uncertain protagonity (word?) begins, as the story is largely seen from their eyes for a while. This is where my first heavy gripe with the movie comes in, too: Eels. Eels that shriek. They’re a great concept, they’d make a good D&D monster, but it is supposed to be sharks. In the book, it was sharks. Deadly sharks, and the villain cut his wrist and threatened to dump the blood in the water- and I wouldn’t have minded the eels if that had been the scene, but they just don’t do it for me. Even with the shrieking.

Oh yeah.

So, in comes the next scene. The Cliffs of Insanity. This scene is excellent, it builds the tension between the group and their pursuer, and when the lone swordsman is left to kill him once he finishes scaling it with his bare hands, it starts to blur the lines between protagonist and antagonist. Watching it again and trying to remember what it was like not knowing who this guy is or who this guy’s deal is, and hearing from their pleasant before-duel chat that they’re both pretty nice guys, was excellent. The following fight scene was extremely good, speaking as someone who has taken  two years of fencing classes, in other words, just enough to groan at every ridiculously impractical move. This fight has its share of showmanship, but the action in between is excellent, and the whole fight is filled with dialogue of sorts. Again, I think I might have managed to grasp some of the feeling of seeing it again for the first time, and found “I’m not left-handed either” better than I remembered it. I always groan at easy knockouts but, I was willing to let this one slide.

The fight with Fezzik is also filled with dialogue, and serves even better to show the general character of the characters, and once again neither of the fighters has been nailed down as a protagonist more than the other (which is about half-way). All one can do without a priori knowledge of the plot is watch in amusement and wonder who’s the good guy.

The fire-swamp, with some changes, has been stolen for my sandbox campaign.

Skipping ahead further, we revisit the ‘villains?’ at Miracle Max’s, continuing the trend of comedic NPCs. I love Max and Val more every time I see the movie. This scene is especially interesting to me because it demonstrates non-groany use of Raise Dead. It might be even more so in an actual game, unless you happen to have piles of spare cash just laying around, which you won’t if using money spent instead of money earned (I actually use half-and-half, so even if you don’t or can’t fritter away your cash you get half XP).

The scene where Wesley dies under torture is tremendously magnificient. I felt shivers down my spine in a movie where all the scenery look like plastic and the music is played on synthesisers. They did a better job on that howl than LotR did on the Nazgul shriek.

Then of course the ending, where everyone rides off into the sunset and the star-crossed lovers share a passionate kiss. As I have said before, I would have much preferred the ‘everyone dies’ ending. The story had a beginning, it had a middle, there’s nothing more to be told. And do you think the prince is just going to let them get away? But of course, nobody asked me.

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