9 thoughts on “The Limits of Magic”

  1. It is a pity the movie didn’t make more money because it is not only a well crafted fantasy, but also works as a comedy and a caper action story.
    With a higher gross, we might have gotten a sequel or two.
    It’s already out on digital.

    The linked video disects the fantasy craftmanship nicely but a similar video could be made of the caper genre aspect. It hits all the required beats as well as, say, THE ITALIAN JOB.

    • This was an excellent find, and a new channel I can add to my line-up. I have also been reading Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories that the vlogger is quoting in the video, and I’m glad to see it promoted. “Fantasy is a rational, not an irrational activity,” Tolkien said, when he was contrasting fantasy with dreams. Anyone can just say a world has a green sun, but a true fantasist can make you believe in a world where a green sun is natural.

      As for the movie, it’s unfortunate that Wizards of the Coast went out of their way to annoy the natural audience for this movie. And it didn’t help when the filmmakers used the anti-pattern of disgusting their audience with their claim that they enjoy emasculating male heroes. Fans thought that’s what the movie was going to do. Turns out it didn’t, but the damage is done.

      In one of the early Xanth novels, there’s a situation where the the main characters have to deal with goblins. Turns out, goblins used to be normal, but then they were somehow cursed so that the female goblins only went after the more brutish male goblins. The more ugly and stupid, the more the femme-goblins loved them. Till the whole species was wrecked. It lately seems entire industries are run by people who have been cursed to be as ugly, hateful, and stupid as possible toward their customer base. You’d think the aliens from They Live were in charge or something.

      It’s too bad, because the movie sounds like it should have been a hit. The whole time I watched this video I had fun speculating, “are they going to get a rogue stone to do a gemjump spell so they can teleport without error?” D&D fans will know why I was in suspense about that potential plot point 🙂 I’ll have to catch the movie when it starts streaming.

      • One of the subtle points in the movie is “in a world of magic, how do the non-magical survive?”
        With limits on the magic, as the OP recommends.
        The same question was the launch point of Piers Anthony’s XANTH.

        The movie D&D party is fairly classic: a bruiser, a sorceror, a shape shifter, and a Bard instead of a Paladin. Though one does show up. So no, the movie doesn’t emasculate the leader, it just chooses a less common party configuration but one that is required for the caper plot. The story is loaded with D&D easter eggs and tropes but they never get in the way for non players or even non-fantasy folks. Unfortunately the movie’s accessibility wasn’t played up.

        The movie is going to have serious legs on streaming, much like STARDUST. With which is shares a lot of traits, particularly the extent of humor.

        Another recent movie that failed to find an audience (at all) that got interesting reviews is KNIGHTS OF THE ZODIAC. That one I’ll keep an eye for on streaming. SHAZAM 2 is another good movie ignored by the masses despite its quality. Very watchable. And who doesn’t want to see Helen Mirren doing wirework? 😀


      There is only one right answer to this question.

        • Interesting link even if I don’t have to accept the value judgements. Its conclusion is a bit perplexing: Which Italian Job film is better? It has to be 2003. It’s a much better movie. But which is more enjoyable, well it’s 1969 undeniably!

          Hence my problem with the author’s judgements. I watch heist movies – and indeed most others these days – for enjoyment, so what value of “better movie” produces the less enjoyable result? Plus 1969’s open ended conclusion is much better, if only for the problem solving opportunity it presents.

          • As an object of study: 2003.

            It hits all the proper caper beats, has a better structure, proper character arcs, and tighter focus. And no creepy Benny Hill. 😉

            Which is why I linked it to the OP and HONOR AMONG THIEVES.

            2003 is enoyable enough and a good reference for writing capers. The same can be said about the OCEAN’S XX movies, especially the Sandra Bullock version.

  2. One point I see, is that not every movie theatre is open. The ones here in Santa Fe are still shut down, so if people are depending on “box office” to rate a film, that is not going to happen for a long time.

    My friend has refused to watch many films that he should like because he made the mistake of looking at “box office” totals, and deciding that “they must not be very good”.

    • Theater attendance is way down and unlikely to approach peak. And peak was not 2019, but 2002.
      Much like corporate publishing, theater attendance has been mostly stagnant all century, disguised by shifting sales from low end (mass market) to premium screens (hardcover) like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Movies have become a Pareto business and not only do 20% of theaters provide 80% of the box office, the biggest performers are becoming seriously front loaded, with 60-70% drop from 1st weekend to 2nd considered good, 50% great, and anything lower than an outlier. (SUPER MARIO BROTHERS, 2023).


      Likewise, theatrical runs are shorter than ever with 45 days before going to digital emerging as the new baseline but with shorter delays, as short as two weeks, common, often on digital while still in theaters. One recent release was streaming “free” on PEACOCK despite an excellent box office, although it was a special case (PG13 horror/comedy in theater, full R release for genre core audience in streaming to boost subscriptions).

      Box Office gross is no longer a clear indicator of movie quality or even success. Movies now have a long tail, just like books, and the secondary markets (digital sales, rentals, and subscription licenses are now added–or displacing–cable on-demand, cable broadcasts and network revenues) can outpace the theatrical numbers, which are mostly useful as hype for most releases.

      Their business has changed, Hollywood is adapting.
      Book retailing faces similar challenges but it hasn’t adapted; it’s still “stock it and they will come”. Maybe.

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