Saturday, January 12, 2008

REVIEW: In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

I'm almost envious of people who go into Uwe Boll movies "cold," not knowing what they're in for or what to expect. For the unitiated, Boll is a singularly awful German filmmaker who works primarily adapting B-list video game franchises into ghastly genre flicks. His films feature - right down the line - hillariously bad screenplays, baffled-looking miscast "stars" apparently selected at random (let's put it this way: If he was making movies in the 70s, Captain & Tenille and Ceasar Romero would feature prominently) and tend to look like the unfinished Pod-Person clones of other well-known movies: He knows what certain types of certain scenes are supposed to look like, the gist of dialogue thats expected to occur... but no real idea how to execute them, integrate them into a story or string them into a working narrative. According to some accounts, his whole career until recently was the result of a real-world "Producers"-style con; exploiting a now-defunct German tax loophole that allowed his films to profit their investors more as flops than they would've as hits.

WHYEVER he's able to keep working, given his choice of subject matter and the inescapable drive of MST3K-primed Movie Geeks to attend and quietly heckle bad films among themselves, Boll has evolved (maybe not entirely unwittingly) into a kind of Interweb-era Ed Wood sans the enthusiasm or decent-guy sympathy (his yet-unreleased film "Postal" is a comedy about 9/11, and features a slapstick for-laughs recreation of the attacks): The release of a new Boll film turns into a movie geek pilgrimage of reverse-reverance. Which I hope explains how it is I came to watch this movie, in the company of good friends as a kind of shared experience of intellectual masochism.

The starting-point this time is a largely-formula Fantasy RPG called "Dungeon Siege," the title here relegated to it's own subheading because Boll has re-imagined it as a road-company "Lord of The Rings" thus leaving a paucity of dungeons to be sieged. A generic fantasy kingdom (okay, the Canadian Rockies with some grass huts and CGI castles) is engulfed in a war between an aging King (Burt Reynolds) and an evil Wizard (Ray Liotta) who has marshalled an army of Orc-like "Krugs" to commit acts of disconnected wickedness across the land. The Krugs sack the village and ravage the family of a turnip farmer (Jason Statham) who grabs his trusty machete and boomerang (don't ask) and sets out to - in his words - "gouge evil from it's shell." Matthew Lillard is a cut-rate Jack Sparrow knockoff, John Rhys Davies (who seems to come included in the do-it-yourself-fantasy-movie kit now) is on hand for grave exposition, Leelee Sobieski is his daughter mainly here to (eventually) look rather lovely in a suit of Renaissance Faire armor, and Kristana Lokken (late of "The L-Word" and Boll's "Bloodrayne") swings around on vines as the leader of characters best-described as a troupe of acrobatic lesbian Ewoks.

Statham's farmer, by the way, is actually named Farmer, which momentarily holds the promise that Boll has finally leapt headlong into meta-parody of the RPG genre and that EVERYONE will be named for their character-class... but unfortunately everyone ELSE has names instead of "Warrior," "Night Elf," "Red Mage," etc. Chalk it up to missed-opportunity. Statham is actually the only member of the cast to emerge unscathed, easily maintaining both his dignity and his title as THE top B-action star of his generation. While everyone else is forced to plow through unmanageable lines ("Wisdom will be our hammer..." Reynolds is forced to sagely intone, "and prudence will be our nail!") and endless cut-rate recreations of "The Two Towers" Helm's Deep battle sequence, he's mainly tasked with executing stunt-fights and glowering icily at enemies... things he can probably do by reflex at this point. Matthew Lillard has it the worst in an eye-rolling riff on "Braveheart's" Edward II. Poor, poor Ray Liotta is made to rant and rave his way through his bad guy turn with a fretful haircut and a sequined cloak. Sad.

This will end up being one of the worst movies of the year, that much is granted. But for what it's worth Boll manages ONE interesting moment - a pair of Wizards pace around arguing with one another while their swords fight levitating in mid-air between them - and the rest of the film is easily one of the funniest unintended comedies you're going to see for awhile... provided that "unintentional comedy" is something you can enjoy.


1 comment:

tyra menendez said...

i went into blood rayne cold - i had no idea who boll was or much of an idea about the movie. but i could still tell it was going to be bad. i bought the dvd for the sole reason that it had a copy of the second game for $20.
after i played it through, i decided to brave the movie just to see how bad it was.
like i said, i knew it was going to be bad, but i wasn't prepared for just *how* bad. especially with the confused "i-wanna-be-stanly-kubric-ala-clockwork-orange" ending. apparently, he just spliced together the three different endings they were made (i hesitate to use the phrase "come up with").
but if you really want an exercise in what-the-fuck-ness, turn on the commentary track. yeah, i learned a whole lot about these people, when i did that. apparently, miss lokken thought she was doing something good.
it also made me distrust ign, since they approved of the movie, as well.
so, yeah...
i actually don't like statham as an action star. i much prefer him in his roles in lock, stock, and two smoking barrels and snatch. especially the later, where he's the affronted (and only) straight man in a world full of nut jobs.