I’m starting to believe that Dungeons & Dragons is to film what Macbeth is to Theatre: cursed. Invoke the name and you spell disaster. Perhaps you’ve seen the 80’s cartoon series or Dragons of Autumn Twilight? They were bad, to be sure, but this is worse – far worse than you can possibly imagine. Which, believe it or not, is sort of it’s charm; it keeps you watching with morbid fascination to see just how bad bad can get.
The movie’s tag-line was ‘This is no game,’ and truer words were never spoken. The classic role-play game is only conspicuous in it’s absence from the production that bears it’s name. A few scant elements were incorporated from the source matter, but those inaccurately, so what was intended as fan service comes across as a kick in the teeth.
The intricate magic system is reduced to a bag of pixie dust and radio-controlled dragons. But wait! I spy a Beholder, the solitary, xenophobic, eye-blasting abomination! …Working in a pack… as a watchdog …for human lackeys… and doing a baaaad job! You’d think with all those eyes they’d be able to look in more than one direction, but Ridley and Snails (the guy who fails every ‘Move Silently’ check presumably ‘cos he’s black and it makes the white boy look good) slip past with ease.
Dungeons & Dragons was made by a small, independent studio in 2000, when the game was regaining some of it’s popularity, the rights having been sold a decade earlier to producer Courtney Solomon, a die-hard fan. One could say it had everything in it’s favour. Unfortunately for every good Indy Film there are probably 50 that belong in the dumpster and this is one. Here’s why:
WRITING: By Courtney Solomon, the plot is confusing and convoluted; the script inane and filled with clichés, frequently using ghetto-speak that jars with the setting. There are a number of redundant characters, notably Norda the Elf and Elwood the Dwarf, who tag-along yet bow-out at important points. Bizarrely, bits of Star Wars are injected in like cut-and-paste filler wherever the plot is flagging. There’s also a ‘Ridley is the Chosen One’ plot-line, used as nothing more than an excuse for him to use skills outside his character-class.
DIRECTION: By Courtney Solomon again! Apparently, after the actors were hired, there was no budget left to spend on a Director so he stepped into the breach. This demonstrates how important to role of Director is because many of the actors in Dungeons & Dragons have proved themselves in other roles (notably Jeremy Irons, whose performance is exquisitely dreadful!) It puts me in mind of the Futurama episode ‘That’s Lobstertainment‘ wherein the comedic icon Harold Zoid decides to reignite his career by directing a Serious Drama. “CUT!” He cries, “People, people, please. Just because it’s a dramatic scene, doesn’t mean you can’t do a little comedy in the background. Throw a pie or two, for God’s sake!”
I could go on to criticise other elements such as costumes and CGI, but I feel this would be petty since mistakes there would surely have been overlooked had they got the writing and direction right. Sorry Courtney, it looks like the buck stops with you!
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