Monday night I introduced two of my friends to the oddly enjoyable mystery-adventure movie The Brotherhood of the Wolf. At least, that’s what I thought would happen. Instead, we suffered through an interminable introduction, nonsensical pacing, a piss-poor mystery plot that was never explained well enough to make the reveal make any sense, and some CGI that has aged a little harder than I remembered. It was a train-wreck of a film, and I’m not sure who exactly signed off on releasing it. I was at a complete loss and repeatedly apologized to my friends, because the movie that we watched was not the movie that I remembered seeing years ago.
It turns out that it wasn’t the same film at all. Oh, the actors were all the same, and the footage was clearly all collected at the same time. I doubt that the CGI aged any more gracefully in the version that I do remember, but at least the rest of the movie would still be there to back it up. The problem, you see, was that we watched what we could only guess was the edit intended for UK theatrical release. It was atrocious.
The version of the film that I first saw, and the one which I would recommend to my friends, is a lovely action-mystery-thriller which features slowly building tension surrounding a series of wild animal attacks, culminating in a wonderful set of reveals and some good old ass-kicking. The protagonists gradually piece together that the mysterious beast responsible for the local deaths is no natural creature, and recognize that there are connections between the beast’s killings and a secret society which appears to be trying to supplant the King’s authority in the land. The film is still a trifle weird, but it has pretty costumes, fun action scenes, and a rewarding reveal of a conspiracy plot. It has inspired several of my own RPGs, and I would consider it decent background material for anyone looking for adventure ideas.
And thus we come around to the importance of editing. I was already aware of how much influence editing can have on others’ impressions of your work, but I’d never seen such a painfully clear example of it with something which titillated in one form and disappointed in another. The experience reminded me of Alison J. McKenzie’s good article on drafts, an intimately related topic, and to be honest I’m quite glad that I have chosen an art form in which the overhead costs for creating and prototyping new drafts are so low. The costs and scheduling associated with film make it far less forgiving.
Unfortunately for the version of Brotherhood of the Wolf that I just watched, I can’t really bring myself to forgive it. The experience that I wanted to share with my friends, the one that I thought I was sharing right up until the film started to diverge from my memories of it, was effectively ended by the bizarre editing choices that went into that version of the movie. It was bad enough that I can’t really blame my friends for not wanting to find and watch the version that I remember.
I would still recommend Brotherhood of the Wolf to you for all of the same reasons that I wanted to show it to my friends, but be sure that you’re watching the more standard US release. Otherwise, you may be sorely disappointed.