Fantasy Media Reviews: D&D and Karen Pirie
Watched two really good works of fantasy media within the last week. One was Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This, as many others have said, was a fun, funny, rollicking adventure movie with a great “found family” theme and wonderful performances top to bottom. (Hugh Grant is an especially delicious craven villain) You do not have to know anything about D&D to have a fun time watching this movie, but if you do know something about D&D, it will only add to the fun. Unless you’re one of those killjoys who would point out that this two-hour movie would probably take months to run as a D&D campaign because of how incredibly much combat slows down the game. But I digress.
Fun adventure movies are few and far between. Pixar always wants you to cry, and Marvel somehow got a sense that they’re Important, and so the idea that you can have a good time at the movies watching a bunch of folks do something difficult and heroic seems to have gotten lost. I’m glad this movie found it.
On TV, I watched a really good fantasy show. Karen Pirie (on Britbox) doesn’t have magic or wizards or Owlbears, but it does feature a familiar fantasy trope: the incredibly competent cop who will stop at nothing to solve a case, even if it means taking on the entire power structure of the city.
If you can suspend your disbelief and remind yourself that this is only a fantasy, you’ll have a very good time with this well-acted, cleverly-plotted show. Lauren Lyle is especially winning in the title role, but there really isn’t a weak link in the cast. Of course it’s easier to turn in a good performance when you’re working from a good script, and Emer Kenny’s adaptation of Val McDermid’s novel (I was impressed enough by her 1979 to want to watch this because it was based on her writing) is really strong.
Fantasy media is fun, but it’s important to remember that if you see a guy in a robe on the street, he’s not going to be able to do any actual magic, and, similarly, you shouldn’t expect the folks in your town cosplaying dedicated, hyper-competent, deeply moral characters like Karen Pirie to actually be like that.
[Tangent: I watch a fair amount of British fantasy police shows, and everybody is DS this and DI that, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for a “DS Nuts” joke that nobody has thus far taken advantage of. I hope British TV will get on this ASAP.]