A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

April 15, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons

The year this movie came out Battlefield Earth swept the Razzies. I’m not trying to deny that Battlefield Earth was a confusing and disappointing mess, but there’s no way to deny that this movie was robbed. It is difficult to think of any way that a movie could be worse than this one – even if you intentionally set out to make it so. It has an awful script. It has hammy, ridiculous acting. It has awful cheap special effects. It is truly and unbelievably awful, made all the more dreadful because it defecates from a great height on an enjoyable, intelligent and engaging pass-time that occupied a great deal of time in my high school days.

Where to begin? Perhaps with the scenery chewing? Jeremy Irons in particular, as the evil mage Profion, seems to have been directed to over act as have never been done before or since. I dare you to find a more over the top line read ever in any movie than his “Let their blood rain from the sky!” with his wide eyes, snarling visage and clawed hands raised up in supplication to the dragons battling in the skies above. He is a character whose dialog should really be rendered in all-caps. He’s not the only one of course. The inimitable Richard O’Brien is no slouch (if you’ll forgive the pun) in the area of over acting, and his portrayal of the flamboyant thief king Xilus is one of the best parts of this movie. Then there’s Doctor Who himself, Tom Baker, who plays the elf king. His performance makes me wonder if Tom was acting when he portrayed the fourth Doctor or if that’s just who he is. The elf king has the same sense of smug wisdom to him, and it made me want to watch the Key to Time again. Let us not forget as well the wince inducing antics of Marlon Wayans as the “comic relief” Snails. It feels like he’s doing a less funny impression of Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element. Throw all this together in a single movie and you can just feel your brain cells dying as you watch.

The “plot” here involves an evil wizard who wants to rule the world by controlling dragons. He has failed in his attempts to manufacture a dragon-controlling rod, so he decides instead to use political intrigue to steal such a rod from a local empress who has incurred the wrath of the ruling elite (all wizards) by suggesting that the common people should be allowed some kind of representative government. Or something. It’s unclear exactly what her plan is and why it irks the mages so much. We know she wants all people to be equal but what exactly that means is never explained. Anyhow – to protect the empress and insure that the kingdom doesn’t descend into anarchy if the mages take her scepter away a wise old seer sends his apprentice on a quest to get yet another dragon-controlling rod that has been hidden away for years.

This apprentice, the wide eyed and slightly dim Marina conscripts a pair of thieves and a dwarf that they accidentally fall on while fleeing the palace. Eventually they also pick up a elf tracker. This little band has various adventures, mostly involving repeated encounters with Profion’s henchman Damodar, who is dogging the group in hopes of also acquiring the red rod. They visit a thief’s guild. They visit an elven wood. One of them, the incredibly bland “hero” of the movie Ridley, even goes into a dungeon (well a cave with three rooms at least.) In short the movie is a series of D&D cliches and over used tropes.

I don’t know. This movie makes me tired and sad. I see Thora Birch as the empress Savina, for example, and I just feel sorry for her. How did a classy and intelligent actress like Thora end up in this mess? There’s the throw-away dwarf caricature and the elf tracker in her very uncomfortable looking lacquered bread plate. There are the beholders that appear in one scene and are so laughably animated that they look like cardboard cut-outs hanging on strings. (I realize that they are bargain bin digital effects… they only look like cardboard.) The movie is plagued by constant swooping establishing shots of the towers of Savina’s kingdom that establish nothing. We have no idea where most of the climactic action is taking place because all the many towers and bridges of the city tend to blend into each other. There is a lengthy climactic battle involving tens of dragons trying to kill one another and the wizards, but by that time I’m half asleep with boredom and can’t be fussed to care.

The thing is that apparently this movie was a labor of love. Director/Producer Courtney Solomon seems to really have wanted to create the quintessential D&D movie for the ages and packed it with all the iconic things that such a film should require. It’s just that his two lead actors are pieces of wood, the supporting cast have so much scenery in their mouths its a wonder they can say their lines, the script is laughably awful, the effects are embarrassingly sub-par, and in short the entire mess is one of the worst movies ever made. I suppose it does work in one regard: it makes me want to play some D&D just to wash the taste of this travesty from my mouth.

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April 15, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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