Ah, Dungeons and Dragons. Waster of many hours of my youth, as a player of the paper-and-imagination RPG way back when, and waster of several hours of my adulthood, as this is now the third film in the series. Although series implies some sort of progression, or acknowledgement of the other films’ existence, and this film certainly has neither of them.
The first film was clearly an attempt to start a franchise, with Marlon Wayans, some wisecracking white guy who looks like he should have been in “Boy Meets World” or “The Wonder Years”, Jeremy Irons, looking thoroughly embarrassed throughout, and that bald fella who was also the baddie in “The Mummy”. It was, of course, a load of old rubbish. My viewing partner for all three of these films has been my former housemate, and he mentioned to me his big problem with the first film was it bore no relation to D&D, the game. I personally wouldn’t have given a damn if the film had been okay, but whatever.
The second film I really don’t remember at all. Baldie from the Mummy was…probably…in it again, but past that my mind’s a blank. Thanks, memory! Now, if you could just wipe out those two Transformers films I watched for some reason, too, that’d be grand.
So, we go on to the third film. My good lady wife decided discretion was the better part of valour on this occasion and went upstairs to read, leaving me and my old housemate to battle through this on our own. And you know what? I really rather enjoyed this.
Nhagruul the Foul! He’s a baddie who sold his soul to some demons, and whose body was turned into the Book Of Vile Darkness. His disciples then went a –killin’, and it was only the newly formed and god-blessed Knights of the New Sun who stopped them, and who managed to destroy the ink that made the book (when it was separated to stop the Knights from finding it and destroying it).
The film starts in a becalmed land – the Knights have protected the land for many years, and are about to welcome their first new member for centuries, Grayson (the son of a current Knight). He’s bummed out because it appears that the Sun-God didn’t bless him during the initiation process, and while he’s off having a sulk all the other Knights are slaughtered by Nhagruul’s people, looking to put the Book back together (they need to torture a pure Knight, and extract his liquid pain in order to form the ink). So Grayson is forced to take his sun medallion and go into the revenge business on his own…that is, until he meets a group of adventurers in a tavern and decides to go undercover with them in order to get closer to the target of his revenge.
Here’s where I think the film gets interesting. It’s definitely pitched at fans of the role-playing game – there’s “famous” items from the game littered throughout the film – and I think this group of adventurers is a parody of the way most actual games of D&D go. To the players themselves, they’re having a good time, but most groups of teenagers / gamers are a nasty, unruly lot, and to outsiders (like the villagers they meet during the film) they must seem like a group of heavily armed gold-and-sex-obsessed psychopaths. I think it’s too deliberate and over-the-top to be an accident, but this went right over the heads of most people who watched it (all several hundred of us straight-to-DVD RPG fanatics).
The tattooed, super-nasty female member of the group, Accordia, gets saved by Grayson as they’re raiding a red dragon’s lair, and therefore she is his, to do with as he sees fit. They have a very odd conversation (odd for a fantasy film, certainly) and then get down to some sexual activities. Here’s the second reason I like this film – I think the scriptwriter wanted to make a fairly complex psycho-sexual thriller about a cop going undercover with a gang of violent thieves, but a producer went “only way we’re making your script is if you turn it into a Dungeons and Dragons film” which led to some hasty rewrites / mental breakdowns / getting a D&D fan to put the final polish on the script.
Will the gang of adventurers stay together long enough to help Grayson defeat Nhagruul, destroy the book forever and rescue his Dad (oh yes, his Dad was kidnapped by the baddies for the ink-extraction process)? What effect will Grayson’s pure-heartedness have on the evil Accordia? I will leave those questions for you, the viewer, to puzzle out.
I’d definitely recommend this film. Okay, it was made for a budget of 7p, some of the acting is not all it could be and it’s a damn Dungeons and Dragons film, but it knows its fanbase, it’s not too long, and the film itself gives the engaged viewer plenty to chew on. Feel free, too, to completely ignore my attempts to make this film seem like more than it really was – judging by the other reviews I read, the fact it was considered too poor to even show on the SyFy Channel speaks volumes about its quality.