Dungeons & Dragons 2: The Elemental Might
Dungeons & Dragons was a pile of junk that ignored the franchise and featured some of the worst-acting heroes in that or this realm. The only saving graces were the villains, the wonderfully overacting Jeremy Irons and the overly annoyed Bruce Payne. The whole mess is something best forgotten, or so popular opinion was, until a low budget sequel crept up out of the darkness in 2005. Working on the previous movie yet setting it 100 years later, the film manages to be able to shed all the terrible elements that plagued the first installment, and also brings back one of the bright spots, Bruce Payne as Damodar. It puts together a real quest, a party made up of characters with different jobs and species, actually has interesting heroes, some of which shine in their roles, and even the limited amount of dragons are far superior to the massive dragon attack from the previous film. If there was ever a time a direct to video sequel deserved to be in the theaters while the original theatrical film deserved to rot on the bottom shelf at Blockbusters, we have reached that time. Are there problems? Of course, otherwise this review would be no fun! The problems are slight and many can be blamed on the prior film, both in established storyline and budgetary-wise. Nevertheless, this quest is far more perilous than the last, grab your +4 Goblin Sword and join me as we trudge through the jungle of Nabonga, fight the hordes of Furious Frog-g-gs, and attack the Lair of the Alone in the Dark King to bring back the Honor of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise!
We start out with a superior opening title sequence than the first film, with some cool maps and a mysterious cloaked figure searching for some powerful item. A voiceover explains the character’s quest for revenge. Having watched the prior film shortly before, the voice was instantly recognized as Bruce Payne’s. Yes, the figure is Damodar! He was cursed by Jeremy Irons’s character to become undead if he failed him, and must have failed him at some point off camera while he was falling to his death. He’s also ditched the stupid blue lipstick, giving this movie an entire ratings point higher. The powerful artifact Damodar is undeadly searching for is the Orb of Faradul. As they don’t explain it all at once, I’ll just spill the beans here: The Orb of Faradul allows the user to control the Dragon God Faradul, who is a Black Dragon from ancient lore currently asleep in a volcano. Hey, the opening credits are over, so let’s met the hero for the movie, a former knight named Berek. Berek is the former head of the King’s Guard and is now a Minister in the House of Lords. So it looks like the Empress Thora Birch’s reforms went over, though they are now a Kingdom instead of an Empire, and the lame Dragon Rods are nowhere to be seen. Also, Izmer or Ishmer seems to have downgraded lots of it’s giant CGI buildings in lieu of more realistic buildings, which probably helped pay for lots of kingdomwide improvements. Sir Berek is bored with matters of state and instead more interested in watching the new Captain of the Royal Guard, the pompous Bolerus. He’s not pompous yet, first Berek duels him in a demonstration duel for the rest of the guard, which Berek wins, but Bolerus reveals he let Berek win by handing him part of his clothing (a feather) that he cut off during the fight. Bolerus tells him that he learned from Berek that you need to know when to sheath your sword.
“Which I did NOT!” — Damodar on if he failed Jeremy Irons
Berek goes to visit his wife. Berek is played by Mark Dymond, who looks like Hugh Jackman’s brother. His wife is Melora, who is trying to become a Mage, and is currently trying to repair a pair of gloves with Divine Magic, a type of magic that is the good magic, but no one knows how it works. So does this mean that all magic used in Izmer is bad magic? That’s not good. This attempt at Divine Magic also doesn’t work, the gloves in up a pile of ash. A man arrives from a mountain village, where Evil has Come! All over the bedspread…ew! No, wait, two guys went up to the mountain and didn’t come back. That day. Huh? Maybe they’re off getting drunk! So the surrounding towns normally go into a panic whenever someone is late for supper? Do they write the king whenever they lose their forks? Luckily for us this isn’t a wild goose chase, as we shall see. Sir Berek runs to go check out the disturbance, because EVIL shouldn’t be handled by the King’s Guard or anything. In a cave in the mountain, there’s….POISON GAS! The gas is coming out of the resting Black Dragon Faradul! We have Dragons, which means Dungeons won’t be far behind. Berek’s wife Melora uses magic to get a vision about the Black Dragon, and the vision goes bad and she sees Damodar, who snatches a lock of her hair (IMPORTANT PLOT POINT ALERT!) She falls, but knocks some books over in such a way that they combine into a bigger, secret book. She’s unlocked the Librum Magic! Yes. What is that? Uh…… Hey, look over there! ::ZOOOoooMm!::
Next morning, the happy couple is awoken by a pompous guy with a roaring cane and his entourage. Pompous guy is the Mage Council Leader. Also, one of the other guys is the King. The King is not really identifiable as such, and he’s around for a bit before they make it clear he’s the King and not just one of the extras. Still, he’s much better than Thora Birch, who was outacted by wallpaper in D&D1. A huge band of Mages try a vision spell, where Damodar explains some of what I told you earlier. What do you call a group of Mages? A Gaggle? A Herd? A Murder? A Spell of Mages? I like that, except it’s too confusing. A wizzle! That’s what I’m using from now on! The wizzle of mages determine (from Damodar telling them) that the Dragon God will destroy Izmer if they don’t get the Orb or figure out a way to defeat the Dragon God. Because the plot gets really complicated, we are told that the Dragon God was imprisoned by the Tumerians, who died out because of the damage to their land by the Dragon God, and all of their magical knowledge is lost. So they’re doomed!
The King decides to summon five of Izmer’s greatest heroes to look for the orb, while the mages to research. Five people is small enough to not attract attention but big enough to do the job. Also, it’s the right size for introducing characters who can be developed without having lots of nameless fodder. Sir Berek will lead the job as the current head of the King’s Guard is five days off. Even though it only mentioned one day passing, and he was in town then. Maybe he teleported, but then can’t teleport back because he just ate. Or something. There’s lots of teleporting later, that’s why I bring this up. Seriously. So Sir Berek picks his men (and women):
- Lux — Barbarian. The movie does some clever shots to make you think that Lux is a huge beefy guy, but she’s really a she, who beats him and most of the rest of the people in the pub up.
- Dorian — Cleric. Yawn.
- Ormaline — Elf Wizardess. She looks strikingly like a Romulan, so we’ll just call her that.
- Nim — Thief. He has a mohawk for some reason, either thieves are now into punk, or the “T” in Mr. T stands for Thief. Nim is the best character of the bunch, I was completely surprised when I looked up actor Tim Stern and he seems to have never existed before this movie.
- Uni — Lovable pet baby unicorn! I kid, I kid.
Now we have the party, and it’s time to get to Dungeoning! The King gives a speech about how both tasks are important, and the party is off. Damodar, on the other hand, is having blood poured into a hole in his back by his henchman, I don’t know if he’s eating or if he requires blood transfusions. His henchman looks like a Reman from Star Trek: Nemesis with a goatee. Before he leaves, Berek checks in on his wife, who’s sick with something (the beginning stages of Damodar’s curse, which he cast upon her as he snatched her hair.) The party heads off, looking for Mallick’s Boat. Wait…boat…that’s not right. Anyway, there is a seeing pool there that will allow them to see where Damodar is hiding. The Goblins of Curtle know where Mallick’s Boat is, so they will travel to their village. No word on if Yertle the Turtle is in Curtle. While on the journey, Nim the Thief begins to give Lux the Barbarian a hard time because her brother went bezerk and kill a bunch of people, before he was killed by then Head of the King’s Guard Berek.
The Mages ponder about the Tumerians and their magic and the Librum Book, while Melora summons a magman to get inspired. Summoning a flaming monster in a room full of flammable scrolls and maps is not a brilliant idea. For an encore, she’ll probably summon Mrs. O’Leary’s cow! Head Mage puts it out and the fires out with his magic cane, then notices the curse on Melora and explains it to her and us, the audience. Party-side, the five heroes are wandering through a cursed woods, where they are building a raft. Dorian gets in trouble and calls for help, but it’s a trap, and he’s really a Lich! They’ve “transgressed into the necropolis of Krex the Malign.” Krex the Malign? At least he is powerful, despite not having a decent nickname. He sends a bunch of ghosts to kill them, like the ending of the big battle in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King except no giant elephants and it’s the good guys the ghosts are after. Because Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd haven’t been born yet, the party flees on the raft they built, as ghosts can’t fly on water for some reason. Krex the Malign informs Damodar of the heroes, because he’s a jerk and that’s what jerks do.
The Goblins are all dead! Not only that, they seemed to leave behind no bodies, thus saving this film a fortune! I am glad they didn’t stoop to having a bunch of midgets in Halloween masks from the town of Nilbog. The party searches in the Goblin Shaman’s hut, and find a clue, in a trap that is disabled by the skill of the thief Nim. Nim also keeps a glass vial of “stomach acid of a purple worm, eats through anything” in his pocket. Anything except the fragile glass container it’s in! Inside the trap is a book with a map to Mallick’s Vault. OOOOOOOOHHH. Vault, not boat. Gotcha!
ICE DRAGON ATTACK!!! The ice dragon freezes Dorian the Cleric and then chomps on his Dorian-cicle. Great, you idiots just let the healer get killed. You NEVER let the healer die. Who will cast CUR2 now? Who will cast RAISE? The rest of you are now sitting ducks, your HP will slowly sap unless you have some heal potions stashed away in your unlimited storage sacks. The rest of the party uses a combination of the Purple Wyrm Acid, sword, spear, and lightning bolt spells to kill the Ice Dragon, who explodes upon death. Pieces of the Ice dragon and pieces of Dorian cascade upon the party. Dorian, you dead idiot, dying before I could make a good “Picture of Dorian Grey” joke. When will I have that chance again? Never!
Back in Izmer, Marina finds a missing page in the Tumerian book, and figures out the way to bring it out is to burn the book up. Hmm, either she’s right, or between this and the magman, she’s a pyro. Oddly enough, it works, and a tornado appears, which the mages follow into another room, where it shows a secret passageway. They descend, exciting stuff.
Something interesting is happening to the party again, they reach where the Vault is supposed to be, but the field is empty, until Nim uses a gem of true seeing to find the vault is invisible. The Romulan Sorceress makes the vault appear, and it looks like a stature of The Emperor from the Star Wars films. A quote underneath etch into the bronze turns out to be a code lock, which needs to be broken to gain entrance. Time is now of the essence, because….BANDIT ATTACK!!! Yes, a horde of bandits show up, and the two girls go to fight them while our hero and the thief play around with the statue. Barbarian Lux barbarianizes lots of bandits while Romulan girl shoots electric bolts that blast three or four bandits at a time. The code is figured out and a door opens, and the group runs in. Well, Lux is going barbarian berserk, until Romulan zaps her, then zaps a bandit with a symbol of a ram. Yeah. Now finally they are all in and shut the door. They are in…a DUNGEON! We’ve got both parts of the title now, baby!
After the dungeon tease, we jump back to Izmer, where the Head of the King’s Guard returns, claiming his men will save Izmer and not any older guy. Also, the Head Mage is in the bath while something under his bed eats his servant. What exactly? Stay tuned, True Believer!
Dungeon! The first peril our intrepid group encounters is jumppetals! Yes. Flowers that fall from the ceiling and eat people, I guess. Or maybe their just heavy. No one gets eaten, so we don’t know. They are defeated by going into the next room. Take that! The next room is full of glowing tiles that quickly electrocute a dove sent in to investigate by Romulan. A mirror is found hidden in the wall, and it shows a path of safety in the tiles. They start hopping their way down the tiles, but the door shuts while the last person is still hopping, Nim, and he gets a shock. Not quite dead, he can’t be teleported since Romulan only has two spells ready, to go to Damodar and to get out of where Damodar is. The Pool is found and shows them Damodar’s hideout, and thanks to that will now allow a teleportation spell to work, so they prepare to jump in, grab the orb, and jump out ASAP before Damodar knows what hit him. There is only one flaw in their plan….teleportation spells are super slow, thus giving Damodar ample time to slowly stroll over to his throne and activate his orb. A mistake in the teleportation by Romulan results in her left arm materializing within the wall, while Nim is still too hurt to do anything of value. Lux and Berek run forward, but are trapped by a falling cage with bars made of bone. Damodar gives a bit of a speach and then decides to kill them all now. At last, a villain who will kill the heroes quickly! But not quick enough, as Romulan still shoots off a spell at Damodar, Nim throws a knife at him, and Berek cuts open the cage, allowing him free to slice off Damodar’s arm (the one holding the orb.) Lux helps the tow injured people as Berek kills the Goateed Reman Henchman (Aw, I liked him.) Damodar leaves while Berek chops off Romulan’s arm, and she teleports them to some healers, where Berek will then ride to Izmer with the orb. The healers get Romulan and Nim, but Damodar visits his Lizardman Healer who regrows his arm.
The quest is not over, teleportation spells are heard, and Lux stands guard at what will come through while Berek rides. What flies through is not Damodar, but some sort of winged gargoyle/vampire things that Lux starts slicing up until she gets overwhelmed. Bye-bye Lux. Berek rides and rides and rides, even when a winged thing flies by him attacking. Berek makes it back to Izmer, and the King’s Guard rains down arrows into the flying monster, who is soon dead as dead can be. Berek then finds out his wife is cursed, but there is no time to grieve as she uses the orb to open a secret room in the secret room. There are too many secret rooms. This secret room just has some leaves and acorns in it. Soon, a flash of fire knocks everyone down. Berek hobbles up, while the rest are unconscious or dead. He hears another blast, and follows. More blasts happen, as Berek only finds charred guards. Soon he sees who is doing the mess, it’s Head Mage! But not Head Mage, something pretending to be him. He has the orb, tells Berek he’s only alive because Damodar wants to kill him, and then turns into a black flying demon thing and zooms off into the sky. Now the villains have the Orb of Faradul again! D’oh! It turns out the black flying demon thing was the Lich Krex the Malign, retrieving the orb for Damodar for reasons unstated.
Damodar sets loose Faradul the Black Dragon God. Now, this is a cool freaking dragon! They blew the load here, and they blew it good! Faradul single-handedly out dragons the entire fleets of dragons from the first D&D. Damodar requests only that Faradul destroy Ismer and that Damodar be allowed to rule over the ruins. Faradul wastes no time in attacking the city, and soon fire is breathed all over, while the King’s Guard runs around getting into various formations, firing ineffective arrows, and having members set afire and launched into the air. That happens a few times, and is alway cool to see. That’s another bonus this has over the first movie. As Faradul lays waste to the city, Melora figures out that the Tumerians were using a completely different type of magic, the magic of faith! They were praying to the God of Nature, which explains the tree parts. Melora starts to pray, and soon a White Orb pops out, with magic powers of Nature. This will finally put to rest the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Only Melora can operate it, but she’s too weak from her curse. Berek spots Damodar standing on a hill, and rides out too fight him. Damodar sees him coming, and commands the Lich to kill him. The Lich says “Kill him yourself,” adding that Damodar’s look alone at that statement made this whole thing worthwhile. The Lich then wanders off and out of the movie. I like that Lich now.
Too bad for Damodar, though, who now has to resort to defending himself. He does so by….running away on horseback! Well, considering he lost to freaking Jimmy Olson in the last movie, this is probably a wise move. Berek is catching up, but then Damodar is surprised by Lux, who also surprised me because last we saw of her she was demon food. It looks like reports of her death were greatly exaggerated, and she knocks Damodar down and readies to kill him. Berek rides up and demand she stop, because he needs him alive to alleviate the curse. Lux eventually relents, and then Berek instantly threatens to kill Damodar! Wait…. Damodar spills the beans and let’s Melora out of the curse, thus letting her heal instantly, giving her the strength she needs to power pray away the Dragon God, blasting him into a lake. The battle is over.
Wrapup time, we see Berek wandering around the rebuilding city, while Nim and Romulan are shown to be alive and fully healed. Melora is now head of the Mages, and Damodar is in chains, alone, as we close out the movie.
Wow. This was so much better than the first one. I can hardly believe these are even related. This isn’t an Oscar caliber film, but it’s far better than it deserves to be. Bruce Payne is still awesome, and the group of heroes have some members who are developed, different motivations, realistic actions, and you start to like certain characters. The movie focused less on razzle-dazzle and more on taking you for a ride on the adventure train. For that, this film scores big. Now, the version I have is Dungeons & Dragons 2: The Elemental Might, but it seems to be called Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God now. I guess the studio saw the cool dragon and forced a rename. Whatever. It premiered on Sci-Fi Channel (like so many of the modern films here) yet deserved to be thrown out into theaters. It wouldn’t have scored big, but would have done better than some of this summer’s garbage-fest. Movies like this restore my faith in low budget glory, and give me the strength to carry on and fight the good fight, telling the terrible filmmakers to go jump in a lake. Thank you, Dungeons & Dragons 2.
Rated 8/10 (Here there be dragons!, Magic Cane, droppetal, regrowing hand, that’s not a bird chasing you…, Orb of Faradul, White Orb, I’m not Chakotay — but I’ll learn)
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