The Pillars of the Earth

Have you seen any online ads for this mini-series?  It’s got Donald Sutherland in it, that guy from Deadwood, that guy from Dark City, and a bunch of other people from a bunch of other stuff.

I ask because I’ve seen the ads a dozen times on unskipable ads before videos I’ve watched online, and I’m struck by just how ineffectual it is.

A typical movie (or TV) advert gives you a series of clips that, when shown together with a good musical score, gives an often inaccurate but exciting sense of what is yet to come.  Shows the major characters, shows some action, and a sound bite or two to draw you in, along with the narrator saying something.

Now, picture this.  You have the following narration: “In Faith.  In Love.  In War.  Nothing is sacred.”  complemented by a low sweeping brass musical score and showing clips of a priest, two people kissing, and two armies clashing.  All set in a medieval kind of period setting.

Not a bad start.

Then it shows Ian McShane say, “I swear by all that is Holy…”

Alright, then.  Lovejoy is going to mess you up, medieval style!  What’s he going to say?

Then he turns around and walks away “…you will never build your church!”

Um… what just happened there?  Did he just walk always whining like a girl?  I think he did.  He did!  The hell?

“I swear by all that is Holy, you will never build your church!”  The hell kind of threat is that?  It didn’t even sound threatening.  It sounded like he was going to CRY.  I swear he held his hands up at belly length and pranced away

That was one of the weakest promos I’ve ever seen, and it’s all because of that last bit.  I mean, it doesn’t make sense on its own!  Well, it makes sense, but it doesn’t seem compelling.  Maybe with some context, sure, or if I knew what the book had been about, but as it is?  Oh no, I’ll never get to build my church.  My feelings are hurt!  I’m sure in the book it’s absolutely vital that church gets built, but, damn I just don’t care.  Not based on that.  Now that I think about it, are we talking about a physical church or a new branch of religion?  Never has 15 seconds told me so little, or made me more confused.

Keep in mind I saw this about a dozen times before it even registered on my radar.  After the twelfth I’m thinking “wait a minute.  I’m pretty sure I just saw a trailer for something that was supposed to be interesting, but wasn’t” and made a point to pay more attention at the thirteenth, but learned only what I mentioned above.  So I did some research and it turns out, yes, he IS talking about a physical church.  According to Wikipedia:

The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the twelfth century, primarily during the time sometimes called The Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket.

The book traces the development of Gothic Architecture out of the preceding Romanesque Architecture and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time. Although Kingsbridge is the name of an actual English town, the Kingsbridge in the novel is actually a fictional location representative of a typical market town of the time.

Alrighty then.  At least I have a better idea about it.  And that info is just about the setting.  The story, as any good novel should be, is about the characters involved in this.  Love, power, greed, betrayal, etc.   It seems like an interesting book.  I might check it out.

Interestingly enough, it is set in the same historical era that a book/roleplaying adventure I am working on deals with.  The Anarchy is a fantastic setting for medieval stories, in part because so little is known about it compared to others, and so much happened.  The politics behind it is interesting and tragic, and the stage is easily set for any number of would-be tyrants and usurpers to exist for a fictional story to occur around… though there were plenty of REAL ones you could use too.  I’ve just revisited the era for the campaign I’m working on, and am reminded how this would work really well for a novel as well.

But dang, “I swear by all that is holy, you will never build your church” will go down as one of the weakest threats I’ve ever heard on a trailer.  About as weak as something as “As God as my witness, you will never get ice cream again!  BEGONE!”