January 15, 2008
Gaming Steve Review: In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Science tells us that air expands to fill a vacuum. This weekend, I was able to witness the cinematic equivalent of this phenomenon, as Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale attempts to fill two hours of screen-time with the best Lord of the Rings ripoff money and a B-list cast can provide.
Anyone who follows these movies closely knows that the Boll business model revolves less around box office, and more around video sales and exploiting German tax loopholes to make the movies on the cheap. Still, when you go to a movie on opening weekend and there’s 14 people in the theater, that can’t be a good sign. Especially when one of them brought a newspaper.
In a superficial way, the movie is based off the 2002 video game Dungeon Siege, but the phrase “A Dungeon Siege Tale” is code-speak for “the video game never had much plot to begin with, so we’re gonna be winging it”. Jason Statham plays a farmer named, conveniently enough, Farmer. To move things along from farming to ass-kicking, the Krug (orc wannabes, even in the original game) attack Farmer’s hometown, killing his son and kidnapping his wife. Farmer embarks on his Revenge-n-Rescue Road Trip, which soon intersects with the broader policitcal intrigue of the realm – the Krug are part of a plot to get the King of Ehb (Burt Reynolds) off the throne, so that his moron nephew (Matthew Lillard) and the evil mage Gallian (Ray Liotta) can take over. Technically, there’s other pieces to the puzzle – wizards, Amazonian tree women, the requisite grizzled sidekick for comic relief, the serious military guy who disdains the hero at first but grows to respect him -- but you get the general idea.
But that wasn’t the movie Boll he wanted to make. What he really wanted to make was, well, Lord of the Rings. Superficially, you get things like surrogate Ringwraiths, an Eowyn subplot, or a big battle in a rainstorm because, well, that’s how it looked at Helm’s Deep. This would be forgivable, but the movie also insists on making the characters speak in pseudo-profound quotables; everyone’s fishing for Gandalf-ian nuggets of wisdom, and it’s pretty mind-numbing after about the first 20 minutes.
Yet at the same time it’s being pretentious, it’s also infected with the stupidity common to bad movies where people say and do completely idiotic things to keep the plot moving. This is a movie where a character will get two arrows shot at him, and wait around for the third because he’s supposed to die; a movie where Liotta makes the typical madman speech about how there’s no good and evil and rules are irrelevant, but then decides to fight Farmer hand-to-hand instead of just zapping him off a cliff or something. Sun Tzu would so not approve.
There are some additional technical sins against the cinema gods, including some scenes left hanging due to curious editing and the overall level of the acting – for example, Farmer’s reaction to his son’s death is more on par with the irritation you’d associate with a parking ticket. But let’s also give it credit for a few of the things it does right. The combat choreography is usually pretty good, as you’d expect from a Jason Statham movie, and the magic effects were fairly well-done, though I found myself wishing they went a little further with the CGI mayhem.
There are probably other things to complain about, but to do so would miss the larger point -- the ultimate failing of In the Name of the King is that it’s tough to sit there for two hours and be beaten over the head with memories of a much better movie. It’s sort of like going on a date with someone who does nothing but talk about their ex. There will probably be a collective knee-jerk reaction to proclaim it among the worst films ever, just because it’s Uwe Boll, but that seems a little unfair to me. If I had to grade it by the five-star system, I’d probably put In the Name of the King around 1.5 – it’s not awful in the same way something like Deuce Bigalow is awful because it tries to be more than that; then again, “tedious” and “derivative” certainly aren’t compliments.