Dungeons and Dragons

Well, Dungeons and Dragons cannot be accused of false advertising. It does prominently feature both dungeons and dragons. That’s about it.

It’s not a bad idea to let a fan direct the film adaptation of one of the most popular

role-playing games of all time. You’d think a true fan would bring across the spirit of the game as well as make it accessable to non-devotees. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I haven’t played the game, but the Dungeons and Dragons movie definitely won’t appeal to mass audiences and I doubt that true fans will like its sentimentalized, B-movie script. The film strands itself in no man’s land, making it unlikely that it will ever find a following.

The plot is some nonsense about a political conflict on an alien planet between the evil senator Profion (Jeremy Irons), who thinks that anyone who isn’t a “Mage” (the term used for a sorcerer) should be oppressed and the good queen (Thora Birch) who believes everyone should be treated equally. Profion wants to harness the power of the mystical dragons and defeat the queen; it is up to non-Mages Ridley (Justin Whalin) and Snails (Marlon Wayans) and their Mage friend Marina (Zoe McLellan) to stop Profion and restore peace. Or something.

I’m really at a loss for what to say about this one other than: it’s a failure. Wholly and completely. It’s not a distinguished failure, not a film that tries something different and doesn’t succeed. It’s a boring, banal failure, retreading cliches and spouting horrendous dialogue. There’s actually a scene where Ridley heads off into the dungeon by himself, leaving his friends behind and Marina yells: “Ridley!” He turns around. Beat. “Be careful.” I thought they didn’t do that scene anymore.

The only performance worth mentioning here is that of reputable thespian Jeremy Irons, who obviously signed up for the role just to be able to run around dungeons and do the evil laugh. I’m sure he succeeded in his mission to have a little fun and he’s also the only player who seems to acknowledge how campy this stuff is. The other actors — Whalin, Wayans and, shockingly, Birch — think they’re in Crime and Punishment.

The special effects team does a good job on the dragons. The problem, however, is often not how good the actual effects look, but how well they’re integrated with the people and the setting. In this case: not very well at all. The dragons look like they belong in an animated film rather than a movie with human beings in it. The cities of the planet look like they came straight out of a computer game. Everything looks expensive and polished, but the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit.

Who could like this movie? Did the director think it was fine? Did the producers care that the studio’s money was being spent on a movie no one could possibly recommend? It looks like a lot of effort was put into this misguided adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons; it’s just a shame that none of it was in the script department. I was in the mood for something campy that day I watched this and I would have gladly gone for a movie in the spirit of Jeremy Irons’ performance. I didn’t find it here.

-- Eugene Novikov

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