Dungeons & Dragons Reviews
1d6 of 5d6 dice rolls
So the 80s saw a revival of Sword and Sorcery and fantasy films, I wouldn't call it a renaissance but there was quite a few of decent ones made. Move into the 90s and something went terribly wrong.
(if you don't belive me google 90s fantasy films, Groundhogs day makes the list)
Anyways tabletop games kinda sorta made a comeback with the release of D&D 3rd edition but to the public it didn't matter much though because it was the early 2000s, and you were expected to be under fifteen to enjoy comics, fantasy or any sort of role-playing game. I was a tried and true nerd and when they announced that a new fantasy film based on my favorite table top game was coming out I was sold.
Thus became Dungeouns and Dragons, a film so awful it would set the genre back for years until the saving grace of Peter Jackson in 2004.
So the empress of generic fantasy land (looks and sounds like the girl from The never Ending Story) wants everyone to be equal but evil Jeremy Irons and his blue lipped, bald headed lackey wants the Mages guild to dominate everyone with a magical staff that controls Red Dragons even though the empress already has a staff that controls brown dragons.
Yep thats the plot, Jeremy Irons demonstrates the best over acting of his career, he's truly terrible in this and its almost a treat to watch the Lolita alumni sink so low, this is hilariously matched by the debate scenes between him and the empress who is woefully under acting. You will laugh, its that bad.
Let me get on to the protagonists of the film. The cast of charchters include, a pretty 90s girl who is the, I wanna be more than a bookworm mage and a pretty 90s boy, the I want to be more than a thief. Oh and Marlon Wayne's is in this as the goofy sidekick and he is the worst most annoying charchter and he is a huge factor in the everlasting stink of this film.
He dies and this is the most satisfying moment of the entire film, something that should be terrible, brings so much joy to your heart. There's also a drunk dwarf and a sexy black elf with boob plate armor but they litteraly don't do much the entire movie.
Some people look back fondly on this film in a nostalgic way but to me its a reminder of how dark the times were for the perception of genre. There was no effort or love put into this film, it was simply a product manufactured to cater to a quick cash grab and insults the very source material it's based on.
Tom Baker is the one highlight in the movie.
And honestly, I liked Dungeons and Dragons more than the average critic or viewer. I still thought it was a bad film, but I had an appreciation for certain aspects of it.
Courtney Solomon's own inexperience as a film director can explore a lot of the shortcomings in Dungeons and Dragons, yet considering the complex development and awkward place he was put in by the producers he can't be blamed too much. At least he has the courage to take credit for what's wrong with Dungeons and Dragons. One of the issues is the way that he follows a clearly Star Wars based visual style in executing the story of Dungeons and Dragons. By that I mean that certain scenes such as when Ridley Freeborn mourns with Marina Pretensa, when Empress Savina approaches the council as Mage Profion publicly criticises her and when the dragon approaches Mage Profion at the beginning only to be crushed by a spiked door are all visually identical to the style of several Star Wars films, namely episodes VI, I and again VI respectively, as well as more. The issue is that the style is unoriginal and makes it seem like Dungeons and Dragons is attempting to capitalise on the Star Wars universe, yet coming up short. Many of its story elements follow the same pattern while others merely don't make sense, such as why an underage and peaceful Empress like Savina would send an army of dragons in to fight Mage Profion. So we've established that the plot doesn't make sense in certain areas and that the visual style is copied straight from Star Wars, and of course it's worth mentioning that the script is generic and dull without creativity which, as director Courtney Solomon himself said was an older draft of it instead of the finished script for some reason, and it doesn't do anything for the paper thin characters or the actors they work with.
Now, onto the acting. Strangely, every actor in the film except Marlon Wayans and Bruce Payne make the same fatal flaw: their acting is not in tune with their physicality. When I say that, I mean that Justin Whalin and Jeremy Irons make the mistake of overacting excessively in their physicality when they project dialogue, with Justin Whalin walking in a clumsy way and Jeremy Irons shouting with the face of an angrily constipated Hyena. Both overact physically, while Justin Whalin is better at conveying his emotions and Jeremy Irons is better when his character remains monotonous. But there is more.
The problem with Thora Birch's performance isn't her acting skill because she's still a talented actress, but her character isn't convincing. Since she is still an underage girl, it isn't believable that she has the same kind of determination or understanding of what she is saying that an aged woman would have. See, you can compare her performance to the performances of Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Both actresses nailed the role because there is a real passion felt for them as the Queen of Naboo, while nothing is felt for Thora Birch. She acts like she's much older than she actually is, and if her character was a Queen in her mid-20's and looked older I would believe it. But based on Thora Birch's age, I do not genuinely believe that she is a convincing Empress Savina.
And Zoe McLellan brings nothing new to the table with her performance.
The only two actors that were really any good were Marlon Wayans and Bruce Payne.
Although many people consider the character Snails to be a racial stereotype, I personally enjoyed Marlon Wayans' presence because it really seemed like he had fun in the role. He constantly has a sense of energy in him, and even working with a paper thin character it's easy to appreciate him for his genial presence. Although he isn't that funny, viewers may find themselves connecting to and sympathising with him as a character by the end of the film, and it's a nice surprise. I liked having him around.
And as far as the performance of a bald man with blue lipstick and two dragons in his head can go, Bruce Payne gives the best performance of the film. He aspires with a certain sense of confidence, and his villainous persona emits a real sense of evil which matches his dominant stature. Bruce Payne manages to work through the poor script and bring on the pain, and he's clearly the highlight of the cast of Dungeons and Dragons.
Lastly, the main issue that viewers will find with the film is that Dungeons and Dragons has lacklustre visual effects. Despite a budget of $45 million, it looks hollow and cheap. This prevents the atmosphere of the story from being convincing in certain scenes, most notably the film's climax. But the other thing the visual effects mess up is the look of the dragons. The dragons all look like they're from an animated movie, and their blood looks ridiculously fake. Considering the visual effects failed to pick up on an appropriate look for the dragons which are half the title of the movie, that's one of the key reasons that Dungeons and Dragons is not a success. The visual effects are openly unimpressive, and although at times they just pass, any scenes with dragons will reveal the problem with them in Dungeons and Dragons. They have the quality of a made-for-TV movie, and you'd hope for better considering the budget is so large.
So Dungeons and Dragons is set up with a lot of issues, and so the only likely way that it can succeed for viewers is if it works as an experience of cheap fun. In my case, it was to a certain extent.
The thing I liked about Dungeons and Dragons was that it had a decent story to it, and it had a mostly convincing production design and a cheap sense of fun on its journey. It's adventure theme was decent, and there is a certain childish sense of fun that comes from all the magic and colour of the film. I know that as a kid I would have enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons more than I do now.
And some of the action is good. Although at certain times some of it is a bit quick and choppy, most of the time it's satisfying with all the sword fights and spells being thrown around. Even the dragon battle at the end had some kind of entertainment value to it, even if it wasn't all that great.
And last of all, the cinematography was good at times, even though it could have been better at others.
Utterly, Dungeons and Dragons fails due to bad scripting, cheap acting and amateur direction as well as bad visual effects, but it does have a lot of colour and may appeal to audiences through cheap fun.