Dungeons & Dragons (Review)

Dungeons & Dragons

Jeremy Irons as Profion
Bruce Payne as Damodar
Justin Whalin as Ridley Freeborn
Marlon Wayans as Snails
Zoe McLellan as Marina Pretensa
Thora Birch as Empress Savina

A group of high schoolers sit around a table drinking copious amounts of Mt. Dew, all while pretending to be orcs or sorcerers and rolling handfuls of dice with more sides than golf balls have dimples in this thrilling true to life adaptation of the classic game. No, wait, instead we get a live-action adventure that puts the “Dung” in Dungeons & Dragons. Ignoring the shelves of existing literature set in the D&D universe littering bookstores and comic book shops, and also ignoring the fairly decent cartoon of the late 1980’s, the director instead chose to give us an all-new adventure, which breaks new ground in the amount of source material ignored in order to produce a terrible Hollywood movie of an existing property. Director Courtney Solomon had the rights for the film for ten years, and this is his best effort. The culmination of all his dreams. His shining star in a dark void. Ten years…..wasted! Drunken monkeys banging away on keyboards with bananas produced better scripts in that time. The lone bright spot of the movie is Jeremy Irons seemed to realize what junk he was in, and had a grand ol’ time hamming up, over acting, and becoming the best performance in the film.
His sorcerer gone mad in his lust for power and dragon control is fun to watch, hilarious at times. Fellow villain Bruce Payne plays his Damodar character with a permanent scowl and low voiced threat voice that he seemed to either be loving his role, or he was awakened each morning at 4 am by construction and the scowl lasted all day. Either way, it’s a boon for us, as fun with acting is always preferable to being bored to tears. Grab your +3 Mace and come with me on a grand adventure, a quest to parts unknown to retrieve an ancient device, the magical “Eject” button of the DVD player!

A flash of text informs us that in the land of Izmer (or Ismael as I thought I heard it, but sources say otherwise) is ruled by the good Empress Sovina, and is threatened by the evil mage Profion (Jeremy Irons, and we’ll just call him that.) Jeremy Irons is a Mage, which means he has magic powers, such as the ability to overact more than anyone in the world, snarl, flare his nostrils, threaten subordinates, and give long speeches about how he’s mad with power and surrounded by fools. His current experiments consist to control a dragons using magical staffs. As this won’t be explained until much later, and even then not directly in the dialogue (the movie assumes you know all about D&D Dragon prismatics or something) I’ll just mention it now: Irons is trying to control the Red Dragons, while the Empress controls Gold Dragons. According to the five-headed dragon in the D&D cartoon, there are five dragon colors, but only those two will be seen in the movie. Joined by his chief general Damodar, Irons prepares his latest test of control. Damodar is played by Bruce Payne, and looks like he’s in pain every moment he’s onscreen. Later, he has some sort of monster growing inside him, but now he’s healthy as a horse and still has the gritty-teeth mouthclinch, showing his counter-overacting chops. I think he’s just upset that he’s forced to wear blue lipstick during this film. Smurf blue. Or maybe he just got done snacking on some smurfs off-camera before every scene and this movie takes place before they invented napkins. Whatever, he’s evil with blue lips, and I’m no FBI Profiler. Irons opens a gate and releases a Red Dragon in their underground lair. How did they get a dragon in there, without anyone noticing? Irons tries to control the dragon, and he does for a tad, before the dragon breaks control and tries to break down the castle, but is instead killed thanks to Irons’s knowledge of the Rancor scene from Return of the Jedi, as a gate is brought down on it’s body. Dragon blood flows forth, draining into the stream running throughout the city, as onlookers just say “Gosh, those mages are up to something again!”

Two such onlookers are Our Heroes, Jimmy Olson and Wayans Brother #32938. Jimmy Olson is Ridley Freeborn (Justin Whalin) while his sidekick/lackey is Snails, played by Marlon Wayans. Snails is a waste of a name, as it deserves to be in a much better movie. Marlon Wayans is a waste of an actor, as he also deserves to be in a much funnier film. He’s barely even in this one. Ridley is our starry-eyed hero who dreams of the big score, while Snails has stepped out of a time portal from 1930’s Hollywood, all he was missing is a bug-eyed reaction scene and a “Oh my stars, Massuh dun like us bein’ in here, by golly!” while chomping on some watermelon. Both of them are thieves, and they get the bright idea to rob the local magic school. Meanwhile, Irons is rousing up the Mage Council by telling them that the Empress wants to get rid of them. This movie is starting to rip off Episode I! Empress Savina chats with an aide, an old man who tells her about the Rod of Salliallalalalalalalala (or something) that will control Red Dragons, but the Rod started an ancient war. A tiny imp spy thing overhears this and soon reports back to Irons, who sends Damodar and some henchies to go get more information on it. From the old man advisor, who’s at the Magic School. The same Magic School our two idiot heroes are about to rob. Do you see what’s gonna happen here?

Ridley and Snails are bumbling about inside the Magic School, making lots of noise, talking loudly. A disgrace to thieves everywhere. the dialogue seems to imply they scaled up the side of the 50-some odd story CGI tower instead of just going into an open window on the first floor. Down the hall, old man adviser and his assistant, Marina, are looking up scrolls and whatever wizards do in giant libraries full of scrolls and old books. Marina finds the scroll that has the information on where the Rod is, and then heads to another room to get something, and catches the two thieves. A quick spell snags them in a magic rope, but while she was out, Damodar and his goons have arrived, demanding the scroll. They kill the old man adviser and try to kill Marina, but she blasts Damodar with a quick spell, then opens a portal and runs off, with the two helpless thieves dragged in tow. Through the portal they are in the city streets, and run over a dwarf who is living on the streets. This dwarf is pretty non-dwarfish. They try to give him a personality for a few seconds, but then just forget about him. Oh, he’s a main character, that’s why I bring it up. You see, if two thieves and a fugitive girl wizard run into you while you’re sleeping in a medieval box, you instantly join their party. Damodar and his goons have strolled through the portal, and Damodar knocks the helmet off of Dwarfy, who goes Dwarf Bonkers. But he soon Dwarf runs away. The rest follow suit, and Damodar lets them go as he doesn’t want to go into the sewer. He hisses “Post Brigades at every sewer entrance and exit. I want them found. NOW!” (emphasis his.)

The four are blamed for the murder of the old man adviser, so they have to go underground. Irons is sick of Damodar’s refusal to enter the sewer and zaps him with a parasite thing which will kill him if not removed. The Empress sent her best tracker after the group, named Norda. Damodar is ordered to follow her so they can get the scroll in the confusion. At the pub the Heroes are hiding in, Marina and Ridley get into a fight over the scroll and end up getting sucked into it. This seems normal to the other two partners, and Snails sees a hot elf babe he has to go hit on, despite the Dwarf telling him otherwise: “You gotta get a nice 250 pound Dwarf! With hair on her chin you can hang on to!” Yeesh. I think I saw one of those on the bus once. Snails makes his move on the Elf Chick, who looks like Star Trek Voyager‘s Tuvok’s wife. Could this be…Norda, the tracker? Duh! It’s not like this movie’s soaking in good writing or unpredictability. Damodar and his group stomps in, and the Dwarf grabs the scroll and Snails and they leave. Out in the forest, Ridley and Marina finally exit the map, still fighting. The wraiths inside has told them how to get the Rod, and also that it caused the Great War. First of all, you know what would have been cool? SEEING THE FREAKING WRAITHS!!! The director had ten years to raise the cash, and he couldn’t get a wraith-fund? Second, the Great War? A Rod caused World War I? I’m just kidding, I know it’s a different war. Seriously. I’m kidding. Why don’t you believe me? I know, okay? Get off my back! STOP THE ACCUSATIONS!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, I’m better now, the meds kicked back in. So, Snails freaks out when he hears about The Great War. Great War…..I knew, dammit! I KNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, seriously, I’m back. The group needs to get the Eye of the Dragon from the Guildmaster of The Thieve Guild in some city. The Guildmaster is named Xilus, our thieves have heard of him, and the Eye of the Dragon is a ruby the size of a fist. Ridley has signed him and Snails up for the job, but Snails is upset. “I got a new name for dumb….Ridley!” But because Snails is a stereotyped black sidekick, he comes along anyway. They go to whatever city it was (I could have sworn I wrote the name of the city down, but eh…) and follow a purple, three eyed thief to where the Guild’s hideout is. So…purple…three eyes…not very subtle. Do any thieves in this universe know anything about stealth? Not being seen? Why even form guilds if they are that bad at it, it would just bring them all down when some idiot gets captured, which must happen quotidianly. Now that’s a ten dollar word for you. Look it up. Heck, I’m positive I used it wrong, the fun part is finding out how.

They all get captured since they just walked into the Thieves Guild like they owned the place. Snails is carried off somewhere else, and won’t be showing up or a while. They say they just put him in a different cell or something, but the real reason is Marlon Wayans was busy making an actual good movie so he couldn’t spend much time on this project. Ridley and Marina meet Xilus, and continue to bicker (Gosh, the writers sure like to cram it down our throats that they will end up together) while Xilus says the Eye of the Dragon is in the center of a dungeon maze, and if Ridley can get to it he can keep it. Okay, so instead of going into a real dungeon and fighting monsters, they go into a fake dungeon to get a prize some gay stereotype idiot just leaves there. At least there are dragons in the movie. The fake dungeon is full of traps ripped off from all three Indiana Jones movies. Ridley must have used his thief ability to steal the DVDs at some point, so he passes them all and gets the ruby. Xilus then demands he give it right back to him. The tense “Gimme!” scene is ended when Damodar enters with his goons and starts a fight. During the chaos, the map scroll is knocked down and kicked around as people grab for it, again ripped straight out of Indiana Jones. If only Short Round was in this movie. Damodar grabs Marina and the Map, while Ridley and Snails escape.

Ridley and Snails are gonna go rescue, but they get captured by Norda, who is the Elf. Meanwhile, Damodar uses his parasite powers to suck out knowledge about the quest from Marina’s mind. The two thieves prepare to sneak in, Snails goes after the map and Ridley goes after the girl. Outside, two guards are stationed with some sort of floating head thing. Is it from the Monster Compendium? Don’t ask me, I don’t play this game (Okay, once, but it was incredibly boring) but besides it getting distracted and another one seen briefly inside, they’re never seen again. So no worries. Hakuna Matata. Wait…time for worried, Snails has got himself trapped in a trick quicksand carpet! Damodar beats him around some, snarling his blue lips threateningly. Snails runs outside, but is trapped, and is held by Damodar as Ridley arrives. Snails tosses him the map and Damodar kills him. Yes….wait…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This film has only three real actors, and one of them just killed another! I guess the writer could only think of one way to keep Marlon Wayans out of the film for the periods it was filming not in the two week or so window he had to help make this. Ridley screams and gets himself injured as well, but since actor Justin Whalin had nothing better to do, he doesn’t die but is brought back to life by an Elf healer, who rambles on about a bunch of New Age junk about dragons and magic, and is played by some famous guy. So famous I forgot who he was and don’t care enough to check.

Back in the story, Empress Thora Birch declares all people are equal. This pisses off the people who are more equal than others, the mages, led by Jeremy Irons. What should be setting him off if Thora Birch’s wooden performance. Birch is right, she acts like she was just chopped off a tree in the forest and brought in. I got splinters in my DVD player. She modeled her wooden queen acting after Natalie Portman from Episode I as well, adding to the direct theft this movie accomplishes. No wonder the two major characters were thieves! And like those thieves, the movie just bumbles around without taking anything of value and making lots of noise. Back in Elf land, Ridley is given a magic sword by a midget with half an animal skull glued to his head. The group (which is now made up of Ridley, Marrina, Dwarf, and Norda) heads to the final location of the map. Finally, a real dungeon! No, wait, it’s just some cave with a room with a talking skeleton in it. The cave is shielded by a force field that only lets Ridley in. An invisible force field. Budget. Talking skeleton says Ridley is worthy, but that if the Rod is used it will cause bad things to happen to the user.

The Empress sends her army of gold dragons to attack the mages, who respond by shooting magic and giant arrows at the dragons. None of them seem to be shooting Magic Missile. At the darkness…wait…that’s a comedy album I heard on Dr. Demento. Still…it’s better than this movie. One of the dragons is killed, and the Empress says “What have I done?” and commands the dragons to come to her, making me think she had decided to stop the war, but it was just her getting a dragon to ride on, as is shown later but not now, instead jumping to a new location. Bad editing like that confuses your audience when you return to the action. Damodar has captured the rest of the party outside the cave, and when Ridley exits, he trades the Rod for their lives. Damodar tries to kill them anyway (by having his goons do it) and Damodar teleports to the mage castle that is being attacked. The army of guards cannot kill three unarmed prisoners and a wimpy kids, and are slaughtered. Ridley jumps through the portal as well, and we see the Empress riding her dragon steed.

Damodar gets his parasite removed as Irons gets a hold of the Rod. Irons here jumps from crazed overacting to the ultimate overacting experience of a lifetime. If overacting as a villain was a fuel, Jeremy Irons would have just powered the entire planet from now until the end of time. He goes beserko! Irons summons the red dragons, and they arrive, leading to CGI dragon fighting, which I’ll admit has a bit of good qualities. Ridley runs to attack Damodar, and they swordfight, their swords glowing with each strike. But the old Elf Guy said Ridley has special powers, so he’s suddenly good at swordfighting, and stabs Damodar, then tosses him over the side of the building. Who will buy the blue lipstick now? Ridley has just single-handedly devastated their industry. He heads for Irons, and the rest of the group arrives somehow. Irons zaps them, but Ridley gets a hold of the Rod. Irons laughs maniacally, and dares Ridley to use it. He does, and it works. This freaks Irons out, but Ridley won’t use the Rod to kill Irons: “I won’t become you!” Ridley destorys the Rod. Pretty easily, why didn’t they do that after the Great War and not bother with the rest of this nonsense? Ugg. The Emprise shows up, and Irons hits her with some demon conjuring spell that Warcraft III ripped off for their Night Elf hero, Wardern, in the spell Shadow Strike. So something is on her back, but she uses Empress magic and zaps if off, and one of her gold dragons eats Irons. Wait, is that the bad thing that is supposed to happen to whoever uses the Rod? How lame. It should have been a RED dragon, thus making that part make sense. And Ridley needs to get eaten, also, he used the Rod. You’re dead, Ridley. Too bad he doesn’t die. The war is over, even though the dragons are still fighting.

Empress Thora Birch woodenly tells her subjects they are all equal, and they party, as they were probably looking for an excuse. Ridley and his friends are at the grave of Snails. Grave being a pile of rocks with the word “Snails” scraped on one of them. Ridley says some junk about he wishes his friend was around, then some magic happens and Snails’s name is erased. Norda says: “Do not question your gifts, your friend awaits you!” That’s a good way to get around explaining what the Hell is going on. They don’t explain anymore when all the heroes touch hands and then they vanish as well. The end? That’s the end? They all vanish? Fine….I’ll say what happens next. They all visit Snails, in Hell, and roast for eternity as punishment for being in this film.

This film was terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Yet….there’s a sequel! Direct to Sci-Fi Channel! And I have it! It’s up next on the chop block….Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God! Without Jeremy Irons…does it stand a chance?

Rated 5/10 (Five Shots of the Best Overacting in the Universe!)

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