Sunday, May 26, 2013

FACE OFF: Unicorn City

Directed by: Bryan Lefler
Starring: Full cast list at IMDB.
Official movie website | Trailer 
(Trailer embedded at end of blog post as well)

Critic: Jason

As a former LARPer (Live Action Role Player),  I have been a Feralkin Paladin, a Centurion Guard, Pixie Sage and an insane chef who almost killed the whole town. I have even been on staff at a game before. So "Unicorn City" was a bit strange for me because I spotted things that would never happen at a LARP. There were real weapons, unpadded weapons, using a car as a prop. Plus, just a lot of modern things in a fantasy setting like the badminton game.

I couldn't really suggest this movie unless you role play in some manor. If you don't, then all this movie will have for you is laughing at socially awkward nerds. You're better off watching another movie. Even for me, being part of the 'off culture,' it was a rough movie to watch. I just didn't like it too much. I couldn't find a reason to like the characters. Heck, I didn't realize until the credits that half of the characters had names.

The Game Itself

Yes, I know the game was made over night but wow there was a lack of effort. LARPs can take a year of writing and testing before they can even make it to a beta test. The movie just shows a lack of research. It would be like having a World War II movie and swapping Hitler with Charlie Chaplin. They look the same but to think of them as such really shows a lack of knowledge on the subject.

Voss Himself

What is my reason for being behind this guy? Why should I want him to succeed? He is a jerk to his friends, he can't see that Marsha has a thing for him, and just a one note stereotype. The movie tries to make his brother look like the mean one, but if your no-prospect brother was sleeping in a closet in your place without paying rent all the time, wouldn't you be angry? There is no character development.  He might as well be scenery.

Just avoid this movie. Watch "Krod Mandoon," "The Guild," or hell, go out to an actual LARP. (Do this at your own risk though. Those people can be a little wacko, right Tara?)  I don't care if you get Netflix for free, don't bother with this one; it isn't worth your time.

Defender: Tara

All I knew about this movie before I started watching it was that it involved LARPing. While I wouldn't say the movie depicted LARPing as I'm at all used to it, I did enjoy it as a charming, lighthearted love story. I think Jason took the movie a bit too seriously (which is weird...because he's Jason). I didn't take this movie as making fun of LARPers at all.

Gamer Jokes

Knowing the potential this movie had for possibly ridiculing LARPers, I was suspicious of it. These kinds of movies really have to display some geek knowledge for me to become fully invested. This movie succeeded - especially considering they played "Dawn of Days" (instead of "Dungeons & Dragons") and Voss wants to work at Warlocks of the Beach (instead of Wizards of the Coast). The quirks were genuine and that helped me ease into the movie.

Gender Roles

Usually these movies are about the nerdy guy trying to get the girl. I liked seeing this the other way around - Marsha has interest in Voss, but Voss doesn't seem to notice or care through most of the movie. Additionally, Voss is the one who could fit in among fellow gamers or in the mainstream world.

That said, Voss is a typical anti-hero. Marsha ultimately experiences a major 'damsel in distress' moment which is annoying. She spends half the movie keeping Voss organized and is the one actually running the game. It would have been nice if he at least thanked her. Additionally, it was a bit painful to see Marsha apologizing when Voss and others were wrong. I really related to Marsha on one level, but I also felt like her apologist attitude wasn't right mainly because it never changed. Being in a relationship with someone else doesn't change that aspect of someone's personality.

Additionally, there was the dreaded LARP queen, in this case the one who rolls in as a gypsy succubus and blatantly attempts to use her sexuality for gain both in and out of game. I won't say this stereotype doesn't exist (or that guys don't do the same thing sometimes), but it's kind of a sensitive topic among lady LARPers. I have to admit that I was nodding along with Marsha when the succubus player showed up. Been there!


Yeah, Jason's right. In my scope of experience, this isn't how LARPing works in most instances, however the simplified version of the game, the fun the players experience, and the different conflicts that occur are things that happen in real LARPs. The biggest discrepancy has to be safety. Most LARPs do not include vehicles that could potentially run people over or PVC swords not safely covered in foam and duct tape.


The real gem in this movie is Jaclyn Hales, who brilliantly plays Marsha. Marsha's an unknowingly pretty woman with a penchant for unicorns and elves and all of the fluffy majesty that fantasy worlds offer. It's pretty much impossible to dislike her, although at times you might want to shake her and tell her to get some confidence.


I recommend this movie, with caveats - if you're a non-gamer, please don't think this is what LARPing is really like. It's not.

If you're a gamer - it's okay to laugh at some of the stereotypes in the movie. There's the one guy who shows up as a shirtless badass, complaints about provocative costuming, the lady with the jingly costume, the guy in the clanky armor who has trouble running, and transitional lenses worn on an elf. It's fine to've seen it, and maybe you've even done it - and that's fine, because this movie is all in good fun.

This does embody the spirit of geekdom in general and LARPers specifically. It is also interesting how the gamers easily transfer their tabletop setting into a live action world. Ultimately, it's about growing up without losing yourself to the bullshit of mundane life, which is pretty much the standing goal of many actual gamers.

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