Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Under the Hood: Quest of the Delta Knights

Now this time on 'Under the Hood' (an irregular feature in which we examine how to remake and improve MST3K staples), we'll be looking at a movie that gets more airtime on the Sci-Fi channel than 'Stargate' repeats and made-for-TV movies about giant animals combined: Quest of the Delta Knights. For those of you who haven't seen it, this is a movie about a young boy/man/quite-possibly-girl who's mentored by a wise old David Warner until he's of age to find the Lost Storehouse of Archimedes (because this really all takes place in the real world, honest) with the aid of Leonardo da Vinci (because again, this really all takes place in the real world, truly) before the evil David Warner and the wicked queen he's pledged his service to (queen of where? Of somewhere in the very, very real world, because that's what this takes place in) can find it and use the Doomsday Device Archimedes apparently invented. (Oh yeah--the whole 'Delta Knights' thing is a secret society that all the good guys belong to.)

We've got our work cut out for us today, boys and girls.

In terms of production values, this one actually ain't too horrible. They filmed it at (possibly several) Renaissance Fairs, so it has somewhat of an authentically medieval look to it. However, we can use some serious acting upgrades, since they blew their entire budget on David Warner. In fact, they blew so much of their budget on David Warner that he winds up playing both the good guy and the bad guy--yet there's no reason for it in the script at all. So our first step is, charisma transfusions to both our leading men, stat, and toss out one of the two David Warners (probably the villainous one, because Warner does amazingly well at playing the Wise Old Mentor role.)

The next step is, actually ground this sucker in some history, or else give up the whole "historical setting" idea. In the movie as it's currently constituted, the name of the kingdom/state/country/land/place they're in is never given, no ruler is ever named, and the only things that wind up being from real history are Leonardo and Archimedes. Oh, and their "journey" to find the Lost Storehouse looks like it takes about fifteen minutes, because they don't have the money for two units' worth of location filming.

So let's see--if Leonardo was a young man, that'd put this at about 1470. During that time, the English were involved in a nasty and protracted war between the descendants of the House of Lancaster and the House of York, known as the Wars of the Roses. Sounds like a good starting point for a bad guy. Henry VI, who was Lancastrian, was unpopular, hung out with unpopular nobles, and was mentally unstable to boot. Sounds like a better point. So we've got our evil monarch, Henry VI. Our hero is raised and mentored by the Delta Knights (still not crazy about that name) to go find the Lost Storehouse of Archimedes and retrieve its knowledge for the enlightenment of mankind (since this is after all the Renaissance, and rediscovering the knowledge of the ancient Greeks was huge back then.) Leonardo, who's also secretly a member of the Knights, agrees to help him on their trek to Greece. But Henry captures the Wise Old Mentor and extracts the information from him. He then sends one of those aforementioned "unpopular nobles" off to trail him to the Storehouse, and seize anything good out of it.

From there, it's a good old-fashioned road movie. There's loads of real estate between England and Greece, and travel back in the 1470s was the kind of thing you did if you were rich, crazy, desperate, foolhardy, or some combination of the four. We can ditch the horrible subplot about the barmaid/whore who turns out to be the Princess of Thieves (which didn't make it into my above summary because, well, it doesn't have a goddamned thing to do with the plot) and focus more on our heroes' journey, and on the people who aid/hinder them along the way. Eventually, our heroes find the Storehouse which contains anachronistically high levels of technology, the evil noble (who we won't bother making historically authentic, because let's face it, who cares about every single minor noble?) realizes that this can turn the tide of the war, and our heroes have to make a choice--give a mad king the power over life or death for an entire country, or destroy discoveries that could revolutionize the world?

They choose the latter, blow up the Storehouse and the noble with it, and Leo goes on to paint seven Mona Lisas and write backwards, while Henry the Sixth dies in the tower of London in 1471.

It's still a little vague, but compared to the original, it's Waterford fucking Crystal.

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