Dungeons and Dragons (2000)

With the new Dungeons and Dragons movie, “Honour Amongst Theives”, out at the end of the month, i thought it prudent to visit the first stab at the franchise. The game series is to tabletop role-playing games what Superman is to comics. The original, the thing that started it all.

Now, i need to make something very clear, before you all start lamblasting me. I like this movie. I may even say i love it; but, BUT I MUST MAKE IT CLEAR…. i completely understand that its absolutely rubbish. The CGI is appalling, the acting is very, very questionable, and the plot is about as derivative as it is possible to be.

Basically, the land of Ismir is divided into two castes – the elite Mages, and the lowly people, forced by poverty and theivery to survive. Now, this would provide an excellent canvas for social commentary but no such thing comes across. The writing simply isn’t intelligent enough for metaphors and themes. And of course, the elites and nobles are caught up in the usual nonsence politics. The new Queen – wielder of the golden rod that lets her control Dragons – wants to unite the kingdom, bringing poor and rich together. HOWEVER, evil mage Profion wants to take over the world, and hopes to control Red Dragons to perform his perfidious plans.

The details of the following plot are sketchy – there just seems to be a recycling set of scenes involving lots of silly banter, and all the staples of a standard quest plot. Theives somehow get involved in the search for the Rod of Sevril – which controls the aforementioned dragons – obviously we have some stereotypes. The cocky young Han Solo, the comedy sidekick, the love interest, the dwarf, the elf and the evil henchman trying to hunt them down.

As i said, its absolutely rubbish.

BUT. Something works. Justin Whalin (Jimmy from Lois and Clark) is having a ball, lured into thinking this is a big break for him as an actor. Marlon Wayans screeches his way through intensely annoying to warmly hilarious, and even poor wee Thora Birch – whose recent oscar nominated American Beauty has made her a catch – is trying her best. The dwarf is played by Lee Arenberg, who will find fame years later by one of the Pirates of the Carribean. Jeremy Irons devours the scenery but looks as if he hates every second of it. Bruce Payne tops this off by being utterly awful and yet his genius level ham is scene-stealing.

However, allow me the positives. The music is absolutely perfect – running themes and melodies like something by John Williams. The guest appearances by not only Richard o’Brian (!) but the legendary TOM BAKER raise the bar even more.

My conclusion? It was brimming with potential. Given the budget which the upcoming 2001 movies were running with, (i speak of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) then there could have been something in this. But, alas, its just a silly film relegated to the bottom of the IMDB bargain box. Worth a watch for a laugh.

Next up: Dungeons an Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. Oh….dear.