Reviewed by Tempest
No alternate review available
In a movie far far away from
the role-playing game that gave
Dungeons & Dragons is a popular pen & paper role-playing game and it isn't very surprising that a movie would eventually be made using the franchise name. However, what is surprising, is that with so much material available, they have managed to make such a low quality movie not only in term of bland storyline and amateurish script but also about how poorly the actors played their own role. We are brought in a world of magic where magic is barely used, where people are amazed at the sight of an healing spell, where people do not know that elves live much older than human, where thieves do not know the meaning of stealth, where elves uses crossbows and wear skull masks. Mages require magic powder to cast spells, which is not really how spells works in D&D and the viewer has to wait until the very end of the movie to see two interesting spells, one that create a wall of ice and a few fireball. With a large part of the Player's Handbook devoted to spells (both clerical and wizard), there should have been a lot more diversity in the movie.
Also, what's the matter with colored lips?
The story began with the evil wizard Profion (Jeremy Irons) who attempt to design a powerful artefact to control dragons so he can overthrow Savina of Izmer (Thora Birch), a young idealistic Empress. On her side, Empress Savina is promoting the idea that everyone should be free and equal whenever they are commoners or mage, a philosophy that make the council uneasy as their political system is an oligarchy where the power rests with an elite segment of society (the mages in this case). Since Profion's attempt to control dragons is a colossal failure, he has to change his plans and he demands a vote from the council of Izmer to force the young Empress to hand over her gold dragons-controlling artefact (which of course he could use to take over Izmer). To validate his point, he warn the council that when Savina will have fully mastered the power of the artefact, it will be only a matter of time before the empress impose her views on the council.
While trying to find a solution to this political unrest, empress Savira's mage mentor Vildan Vildir (Edward Jewesbury) tell her about the existence of another artefact: the Rod of Savrille. This artefact is similar to the one she have now but control the red dragons instead, and if she could acquire it, she could forfeit her current artefact and still be protected from Profion.
Enter the thieves. While trying to steal goods from the mage tower, Ridley (Justin Whalin) and his incompetent sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans), get caught by Marina Pretensa (Zoe McLellan), an apprentice wizard. At the same time, Damodar ((Bruce Payne) Profion's lieutenant) has assembled a small group of soldiers to take Vildan's scroll that indicate the location of the red dragons-controlling artefact. When both group meet, Vildan use a telekinesis spell to throw the scroll to Marina before being killed by Damodar. Before Damodar has time to react, Marida manage to cast a gate to teleport herself (as well as he thieves) out of the wizard tower.
While fleeing in the streets of Izmer, they encounter Elwood Gutworthy (Lee Arenberg), a dwarf who decides to help them in their quest to find the scepter. Soon after evading Damodar attempts to capture them, Profion quickly declare that the thieves and Marida were the one who killed Vildan and offer a reward for their heads. As the story unfold, the heroes realize that they will need to recover the Eye of the Dragon (a magic gemstone) from the Xilus, the leader of a thief guild of the City of Antius while the Empress send elven rangers (with Norda (Kristen Wilson) amongst them), at first to stop the heroes but later to assist them.
The decors are sometime impressive with large room and tall towers. It's no Lord of the Rings, but considering the movie budget, it's fine. Inns look medieval enough, by being not too clean nor too organized either, dungeons look like dungeons, cities are dusty, open markets look a bit chaotic... and this is exactly how it should be.
The costumes of the actors look appropriate for the time, but the metal armors look horrible with a strong look of cheap plastic. While it will not leave you jaw dropped, the strongest point of the movie is when the dragons attack Izmer in the final scene.
Sound & Music:
There are only one moment where the soundtrack is memorable and it's when one of the main character die. Otherwise the music and sound effect are ok but not terribly moving.
If this movie was a typical D&D game, most characters would end up with negative experience points. Damodar look like he was emulating Darth Vader, he always has an air of self-assurance but it isn't really believable as he looks more like someone who accumulate failures after failures. He tries to act like if there is always nowhere to run for his opponents but since casting a gate which teleport the person somewhere else is something very easy to do, his attitude is puzzling. For example, when he pull Snails out of the carpet "quicksand", he has him cornered but he allows him to retake the map showing where the artefact is and even allow him to escape while he simply walks after him.
Next: the thieves. I'm not sure if someone in the entire cast of this movie know how a thief is supposed to behave, but this is the most poorly played class of the whole movie. Ridley behave more like a fighter than anything else, nowhere in the whole movie he use a single thieving skill (hide in shadow, move silently, pick pocket, open lock, detect noise or detect trap). If Ridley is a thief, why when trying to look around a corner of a hallway, he keep his torch way ahead of him just to be sure that everyone who may look in his direction could easily spot him (see the screen shots). His picklock skills are not actually pick locking skills but merely using a master key that opens every locked door in the realm. The only good move in the whole movie is putting the map showing where the artefact is, in fire as to force Damodar to let him leave. If Ridley is a poor thief, his comical sidekick is even worse, he seems to have no thieving ability whasoever. I mean who heard of a thief that steal a pair of boot and hide them on his head (see screen shots). Also, what kind of guild master exclaims loudly "Who the hell is he? Who the hell are you?" when the guards enter his lair to ransack the place... I mean how can a guild master be so clueless about who represent the authority around? Garret the master thief would be seriously embarrassed.
As for the secondary characters, Marina and Elwood play nearly insignificant role with almost no relevant screen time. It's a bit unfortunate because the whole concept of AD&D is that every character plays their part in the group. The only character that is well played in this movie is Profion. While sometimes he laid it on a bit too thick, Jeremy Irons make his character look like he truly believe in his own cause and that he is willing to take almost any risk to achieve his goal. But sadly his effort are wasted by the other actors who sometime try to play their character seriously and at some other (totally inappropriate) time, they play it like if nothing should really be taken seriously, as if it was only a game.
Note: the overall is not an average, but more a general appreciation of the movie as a whole.
R a t i n g
|Images:||(6.5/10) - Average|
|Sound & Music:||(6/10) - Average|
|Story line:||(4/10) - Shoddy|
|Acting:||(4/10) - Shoddy|
|Innovation:||(5/10) - Fair|
|Educational Value or|
Level of Wisdom:
|(3/10) - Poor|
|Overall:||(3/10) - Poor
A rating of 5/10 should be considered as something not good but not bad either (# bad points = # good points).