Deadliest Warrior

The Spoony One | Apr 9 2009 | 

Oh man, this show is hilarious.

I never intended to watch this show, but my brother was recording The Ultimate Fighter, and I was working on SWAT videos, too busy to change the channel. So Deadliest Warrior comes on, and immediately I’m captivated, because the whole thing is narrated by David Wenham, the same guy who played the Storyteller Dilios in the movie 300. That right there is worth the price of admission, because he’s basically narrating the show in the EXACT SAME way, right down to the melodramatic, throaty tone of voice, dripping with foreboding and menace as he describes everything in grandiose prose, like “the stealthy Apache, fearless and swift.” It takes everything you’ve got not to do your own running commentary in the same voice: “And we brave few Spartans stood vigil at the gates of Hell! We 300 pitted against legions of brutal Apache warriors! And lo, did King Leonidas, King of Sparta, stand fearless, spear and shield in hand.”

Hey, if I were David Wenham I’d just call people up and do that. “We Spartans desire a pizza, rich in sauce and deep of crust. Showered in decadent sausage and mushrooms. Their honor rode upon a simple pledge, much revered in Sparta: pizza within 30 minutes, else be cast out as a filthy, lowly wretch…”

Anyway, the whole show is based in some bizarre Chris Sims-ian premise that basically sounds like the brainchild of two stoners after a rousing session of SoulCaliber. “What if, like, a gladiator fought an Apache?”

And that’s the entire show. Seriously. It’s one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard, sort of like the Anachronism collectible card game brought to life.

But anyway, they go balls-deep into the ludicrous concept, bringing in “experts” in the respective weapons and fighting styles, and letting them argue about whose cock is bigger. In this case, they brought a Native American knife specialist who trains U.S. special forces and some chunkhead who apparently knows a lot about gladiatorial fighting. The whole thing is overseen by a scientist who provides them with ample analogues for the human body to stab and brutalize, lots of skeletal remains encased in ballistics gelatin, lots of martial arts practice dummies. But despite all of these experts, none of them seem able to point out that, geographical impossibilities notwithstanding, Roman gladiators were first and foremost showmen who rarely fought to the death. Their weapons were made primarily for wounding and effect, their armor specifically fashioned for dramatic effect, most of the time with the chest and arms exposed to showcase bloody injuries. Only criminals were usually left to die in the arena.

But whatever. The bulk of the show is showcasing the various common weapons and doing some bullshit evaluation of which ones are “better,” depending on range, utility, and overall deadliness. What it all boils down to is, some big guy picks up the sword, hits a side of beef, and the doctor looks over the damage, scratches his chin and says “Yup, that could kill you!” Well no shit, Doc. It’s a good thing you’re here, to tell me that a bow and arrow could kill you.

The scientist also has a simulator. Ostensibly, he’s collecting a ton of data that he feeds into his computer (full of SCIENCE) that will eventually tell us who was more badass. Never mind that both sides had completely different fighting styles– the Apache with stealth, ambush, hit-and-run tactics, and gladiators in A FUCKING ARENA. We couldn’t have just pitted the Apaches against Roman legions?

I think the funniest part was how dismissive the gladiator side was of the Apache guys. They were totally in love with the gladiator’s sica, trident and net, and scissor weapons, and were wholly unimpressed with the Apache’s comparatively smaller weapons like the knife, war club, and tomahawk. Never mind that the special forces guy they brought in could kill you about twelve times in three seconds with that knife alone, especially with you wearing a gladiator’s helmet that obscures all but 40% of your vision and no armor over your chest or legs. The weapon they brought in to counter the tomahawk was the cestus (a spiked gauntlet), even going so far as to bring Chuck Liddell in to demonstrate how hard he could punch with it. That’s neat. You go ahead and punch the guy while he shanks you in the heart with one hand and splits your crown with a tomahawk in the other hand.

Even the Apache guy says “I don’t know why we’re talking about a fair fight, because the Apache never fought fair.”

The best part is actually the ending where they stage a surprisingly well-choreographed battle between the two actors dressed in warrior garb– in this case, an Apache and a gladiator wandering around the American forests. It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s still a good fight. It’s just too bad that this show isn’t educational. In fact, most of the time it’s downright WRONG. Early in the show, the supposed gladiator expert gets on the camera and says “the gladiator lived for only one thing: to kill!” Most of the time, I think the gladiator lived either to make money or to win his own freedom. We learn the names of the weapons and armor, but not their significance or utility. Instead of being focused on choosing a winner, perhaps it would be more interesting to simply tell us what scenarios favor each side, and what weapons each side would choose.

I’m just waiting for the inevitable Pirate Vs. Ninja episode.