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[personal profile] heron61
So, I recently saw both The Adjustment Bureau, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and both (in very different ways) made me think of the old White Wolf RPG Mage: The Ascension . However, before I go into that connection, I think it's worth mentioning that The Adjustment Bureau is moderately well acted, beautifully filmed, and vacuously empty. The clich├ęd man barging in to see the woman he loves minutes before her wedding, to convince her not to marry the man she is about to marry was old and tired 30 years ago, and now is laughably dull and more than a bit offensive. It has some interesting points, but is mostly dismal and more than a bit offensive in a variety of ways (not least of which being the fact that literally the only woman in the film is the protagonist's love interest).

In thankfully vivid contrast, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is quite a good film. It's also a very odd film, in addition to being the only Disney film I know of where the protagonist a syphilis lesion on his face (or at least that's what Johnny Depp claims the sore is), it's also significantly more brutal than the previous films. Back in the 80s, I read and loved Tim Powers' novel On Stranger Tides and it's my second favorite of his novels (after Last Call). I can also definitely say that with the exception to two brief, but lovely visuals, this film has absolutely nothing to do with that novel. Yes, both are about a journey to the fountain of youth, but the fountain, and everything else are all very, very different. If you see a nifty concept in the film, it came from the people working on the film, not the novel, they are impressively unrelated. It was also a good, if somewhat odd film. Captain Jack Sparrow's motivation was pretty darn murky, but everything else worked fairly well. No, where were not enough women or people of color in the film, but it was fun fluff and avoided being stupid.

The Adjustment Bureau provided the single best vision of what a high powered operation by the Technocracy looks like that I've ever seen. Obviously, if the agents in the film are Technocrat Mages and not say the hosts of heaven, they can only be using that amount of time and power on a tiny number of their most important operations, but if you assume that David Norris has a major role to play in the Technocratic Union's plans, then I could see the Union using that amount of power to insure that his political career goes as planned. The film contains all manner of really nice coincidental effects + a whole lot of Space 3 teleportation that they do their best to make Vulgar w/o Witnesses.

I was also struck by how the agents in this film were all white men, except for the token black guy, which gave me an idea for a Technocracy campaign. If I was to run a campaign where the Union actually was responsible for much of the impressive modern advances, I'd have the PCs be technocrats. They wouldn't just be new hires, they'd be women, people of color, gays and lesbians who were recently hired as part of a big diversity push by an organization that has been largely fostering diversity among Sleeper power structures, but has mostly been ignoring their own power structures. So, you don't just have lots of white guys in the Unions, many of the mid rank ones grew during segregation or before women could vote, and when gays and lesbians were routinely killed, and the older ones grew up when women were effectively property and black people were slaves.

So, you have an organization that mostly does a whole lot of good, but in addition for it being personally hard for operatives who aren't white men, you have a few of the older ones still dreaming of racial holy war or rolling back women's rights and a disturbingly large number of older members who don't investigate claims of prejudice or even of exceedingly scary plans as much as they should, because they've known the crazed bigots for the last 50 or even 150 years, and the crazed bigots have never acted unpleasantly towards them. So, both dealing with being minorities in the power structure, while also trying to stop horrors from happening because there are a few crazy people and lots of others who don't believe the crazy people are really that crazy.

Fairly obviously, the Pirates of the Caribbean film is all about Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade (here's a bit more about M:SC). From my PoV at least, the 2nd and 3rd film contained a contest between the forces of the mythic age (ie the Pirates) and the forces growing Order of Reason (personified by James Norrington), where the Order of Reason lost very badly. OF course, at least from my PoV, if you are working to stabilize the world and root out magic and freedom, having your big play being taking control of a monstrous mythic sea-beast and using it for your own ends means you've lost before you even started.

This most recent film lacked that particular conflict, and instead featured some bits about the mythic age vs. organized religion as well as a general feel of fading magic. It's clear that there will be at least one more and almost certainly two more Pirates of the Caribbean films , but I have no idea what direction they're going to go in. I was not expecting battles over magic and reality and the twilight of the mythic age to be major sub-currents in these films, but they most definitely are.
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