Sunday, January 20, 2008

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

For the last couple of decades there have been numerous movies based on video games. There have been some that were very entertaining...say, Mortal Kombat (1995) and some that were an embarrassment whether they were based on a video game or just completely new...I think Super Mario Bros. (1993) or Street Fighter (1994) would be the leading poster child for that. Then there are some that are in between...Doom (2005) is a pretty good example. The thing is, seldom does the story line make for a good movie. Mortal Kombat has a tremendous storyline for a fighter game...not so much for a movie. People pair off and fight. As a movie, the storyline is basically pit fighter porn. Yet somehow they made it work.

Dungeon Siege is a line of strategy games with a story that seems pretty strong as movie source material. Indeed In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007) has a very strong story line. It has the lost prince, the heroic everyman, the dark and mysterious enemy, the beautiful heroine in peril, the redemption of the downtrodden...and it is able to work within the fantasy setting.

The movie benefited from a very strong cast. Jason Statham, Ron Perlman, Ray Liotta, John Rhys-Davies, Burt Reynolds...they gathered a strong cast. But there was Statham as Farmer was excellent. Matthew Lillard as the whining, simpering Duke Fallow, on the other hand, seemed out of place. He did not fit the gritty image projected by the backbone players of the movie. Burt Reynolds looked like a community theatre actor. Ray Liotta seemed cheesy and off-kilter. In short, the acting was abominable.

The story itself ended up being full of holes too egregious to ignore. For example, Farmer (Jason Statham) is a far superior fighter to King Konreid (Burt Reynolds) or even his elite Commander Tarish (Brian White), as is Norick (Ron Perlman). Norick is loosely alluded to as having at a long-lost point in time perhaps been a military man, though that is by no means certain, but all agree that Farmer has never had training. Why then is he so good at it?

The story makes too much use of the "Author's Hand" to move the story along. It makes no sense why they need to cross the river on the bizarre rope bridge, for example, though the scene itself is among the most entertaining of the movie. The road show portion of the movie is simply loosely connected adventures with no way of appraising how they contribute to the chase of the Krug, nor to how Farmer, Norick and friends...none of whom mourn the slaying of parents, grandparents, children, friends...know where the Krug are heading with their captives.

The movie also fails in the final duel between Gallian (Ray Liotta) and Farmer. To distract Gallian and allow Farmer to enter the secret lair of the mages, powerfully locked to keep all but mages out, the King's Magus Merick (John Rhys-Davies) battles him in one of the more entertaining wizard duels in the history of cinema where each mage mentally wields 5 or 6 swords simultaneously.

When Farmer sneaks in through a convenient vast "air hole" cave...some wizard lock, guys, well done...he confronts Gallian. Inexplicably, despite having earlier specifically addressed his lack of belief in fair play, Gallian then wields but one sword and goes mano a mano with Farmer. Uh, okay. Nonsensical, completely violates the internal consistency of the movie...but I guess you have to do what you have to do.

This review has really jumped all over the place which is fitting because so does the movie. It randomly reveals vital information mere minutes from the end of the movie...such as the fact that to be able to wield magical power Gallian has to be serving a king, which leads to his having declared himself King of the Krug...a great plot twist except you only find out it is a plot twist about 30 seconds before the twist so it has no impact...never establishes why a powerful magus like Gallian would have anything to do with a simpering dolt like Duke Fallow, forces the action with bizarre journeys, has a final battle that directly contradicts the plan that led to just Merick and Farmer invading the base of Gallian...this movie was a train wreck.

On the bright side, the battle scenes were good. Okay, I said something good about the movie, I am done here.

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