A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 411 – Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons – April 15th, 2011

I love this movie so much. Not because it’s good. Far from it. But it’s bad in such an amazing collection of ways that I can’t help but adore it much in the way that I instantly adored Dragon Wars. I first saw it when I was in college and I knew it was going to be horrible from the first few seconds. Hell, I knew it was going to be horrible from the cover. But I was determined to watch it anyhow and to this day I remain glad that I did. There’s a reason that I insisted on buying this and it wasn’t just to get back at Andy for things like Punch Drunk Love and Death Proof. It’s because I unapologetically love fantasy cheese and this is some of the cheesiest cheese ever. This is state fair blue ribbon winning cheese. It is cheese with bite. And I love it.

I honestly don’t remember where I first heard about it, but I know I became convinced I needed to see it when I found out that it had Richard O’Brien and Tom Baker in it. Richard O’Brien! Tom Baker! In one movie! Based on D&D! With bonus Jeremy Irons? Count me in. Count me in right away. And I know also that before I saw it a friend relayed some things she’d heard about it. Like that Tom Baker was playing an elf. And that Richard O’Brien was playing the king of thieves. These were most definitely positive selling points to me. That and the undoubtedly cheesy D&D references.

When I was a kid there was a Dungeons & Dragons based cartoon that sometimes played on Saturday mornings. Alas, I always seemed to only tune in at the tail end of an episode, or it was coming on when it was my brother’s turn to pick a channel. And then it would leave the lineup for months and months and I’d end up catching it at a friend’s house or something. When I got older I had a fascination with the game as a concept, but pathetic as it sounds, I didn’t have anyone to play with until I hit high school and then the two campaigns I could have joined intimidated the hell out of me. But I’ve always loved the idea. I have boxes of the trading cards and a couple of tattered issues of Dragon magazine tucked away somewhere. So on one hand, I would have loved for this movie to really have taken all the stuff I’d absorbed and pored over and brought it to life. That would have been fantastic. But it didn’t and that’s sad. The closest I think it actually gets to the classic D&D stuff is when you see a couple of animated Beholders.

The thing is, even as a failure on that front, I can’t help but laugh hysterically whenever I watch it. By all rights I should be in pain from this movie. It’s bad. It’s really bad. And it’s not at all the sort of thing I wanted to see from a D&D adventure-made-real, so I should be offended, or something. And I’m not. My chest feels sore from laughing through most of the movie. Maybe it’s a self-defense mechanism against the incredible intersection of suckage from multiple directions. Or maybe it’s just the sort of movie that sucks so badly it comes out the other side.

Now, let’s be clear on a couple of things. This movie does indeed have dungeons and it does indeed have dragons. So it’s delivering on some level, I suppose. It’s got some stock character types like a haughty mage and a couple of wisecracking thieves. It’s got a drunken brawling dwarf and an elf tracker. And they all end up on a quest to go and find a treasure that will lead them to another treasure that will help the Empress of their land stop the villain from taking over. The villain is a grand vizier type, working to oust the Empress from within her council, so of course he needs a henchman to do his dirty work. And then along the way there are encounters like the mystical elves and the bawdy thieves guild. Thinking on it now, maybe it would have made for a better SyFy miniseries (like they’d care it’s not science fiction) with each encounter being the climax of an episode. Alas, such things were not to be and we’re stuck with this.

I can’t even begin to hope that I could adequately describe the ridiculous special effects and stiff acting and stiffer dialogue. It sort of has to be seen to be believed. Imagine it for yourself and then watch the movie and you’ll see it’s worse than you thought. A couple of the actors get to work through it a little. I mean, Jeremy Irons as the villain? He chews the scenery up and spits it out again. His performance in this movie is practically the definition of scenery chewing. Tom Baker gets to do the wise-with-a-wink thing he does so well. And Richard O’Brien clearly knew precisely what sort of movie was being made here and played the whole thing to the hilt, turning in a performance I will love for all my days. But everyone else? Well, when your character is supposed to be over the top you can carry that a long way. When you’re supposed to be determined and adamant about the rights of your people like poor Thora Birch? Nope, you are out of luck. Nothing could have saved her lines. When you’re the comic relief and nothing you’re given to do is funny? Again, out of luck. And while I hesitate to lay the poor lead entirely at the feet of the actor playing our hero, Ridley, the fact remains that he is bland as Wonder bread. At least the mage, Marina, gets some attitude to work with. That they tried to give them a romantic subplot just makes it worse.

There’s so much wasted potential here, with so many lost opportunities. I mean, when you find out you’re not going to be able to make the movie you dreamed of, maybe you should follow your villains’ leads and camp it up. But this movie takes itself too seriously in places. When it doesn’t, it’s fantastic. When it does it’s laughable and not for the right reasons. Still, regardless of all of that I can’t help but adore it. It is fantastically bad and I’m thrilled that we own it and I will treasure it forever more. For some reason I can’t really adequately articulate.

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

1 Comment »

  1. You are now ready to watch The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Or The Gamers itself if you can find it.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | April 16, 2011 | Reply

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