Wondering why Uwe Boll bothered to licence “Dungeon Siege” as the game to make a movie from is almost as much fun as the movie itself. The game was never a mega-hit, seen as the poor cousin of the “Elder Scrolls” series of games (and a weak combination of “Ultima” and “Diablo” in terms of gameplay). I assume money was involved somewhere, which may point to the $60 million budget of this. $60 million! For Uwe Boll! You might even have been surprised to learn that the movie was based on a computer game, so minor was the link (“A Dungeon Siege Tale” was much smaller on the posters); and the link was completely broken for its two sequels, which are “In The Name Of The King” movies only.
One of the main criticisms thrown at our friend Boll is his rather odd casting choices, like the people he assembles don’t really belong in the same film. This could be exhibit A in that weird pointless court case – as well as a starring role for Jason Statham, we get John Rhys-Davies, Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Clare Forlani, Matthew Lillard, and Burt Reynolds as the King. Burt Reynolds! He seems to be in that late-period Marlon Brando mindset of not wanting or having to try, just turning up being enough for him. Even though they’re a surprising bunch to see together, I don’t mind it.
Statham is Farmer, an orphan boy who’s grown up to be a good solid adult. He farms (obviously), has a beautiful wife (Forlani), a young son, has been trained by the village badass (Perlman) to be a great fighter, basically your general all-round hero in the making. The King’s nephew (Lillard) wants the throne, as the king has no children, so he throws his lot in with evil wizard Ray Liotta; he takes over the Krug race (sort of the Orc’s poor cousin) and they try and take over the Kingdom. One of the villages they overrun is Farmer’s, one of the kids they kill is his son, so he puts down his turnips and picks up a sword. If you want an extremely detailed recap of the plot, get yourself to Wikipedia. I’m all about trying to psychoanalyse Uwe Boll through his movies.
But we must talk of my favourite “Sliders” alumnus. John Rhys-Davies and Leelee Sobieski (as the father-daughter good wizard duo) feel like they’re survivors from some previous rewrite; the JRD / Liotta fight at the end is pure Obi-Wan / Darth Vader, but none of the other characters conform to the stereotype so it all feels a bit odd and undercooked.
Originality is definitely not one of this film’s strong suits. The primary inspiration is obviously “Lord of the Rings”, but there’s little flavours of a dozen other films in there. Why are there ninjas on the side of the good guys? Because Uwe Boll, that’s why. To anyone who says “there’s no way ninjas would be in this era / time period”, there’s also no way they’d have magic and weird gross orcs either, so quit your worrying. No-one really seems to bother about sticking to “fantasy conventions”, and while I’m quite glad about that you might not be. A conversation you need to have with yourself before thinking of viewing? Perhaps best not to think about the lots of little cul-de-sacs the film gets itself into, and you may have to just enjoy the spectacle with this one.
But the spectacle is great. Filmed in Canada, it does a great job of doubling for a fantasy kingdom, and they use the huge trees and uniquely Canadian landscape to good advantage. Boll really did a good job of making the movie look good, with nice special effects (the flying / teleporting thing is really well done) and many fairly hefty battle scenes. You can see where every penny of the $60 million went.
Is it any good? That’s a slightly trickier question. It’s certainly better than the near-hysterical negative reviews it got at the time, which mocked everything about it, giving it Razzie nominations, a long-term bottom 100 IMDB rating, with some site ranking it in the ten worst computer game movies of all time (it’s not like there’s thousands of them, so this isn’t the worst thing in the world). The more you think about it, the sillier it seems, but Boll’s movies at the very least have a sense of humour and don’t take themselves especially seriously. Well, most of the characters do, but then you get Statham (who takes everything very seriously) vs Liotta (who realises just how big a joke this all is) and the style-clash does baffle a little.
I can sense this becoming a trend – years after the Boll mockery died away and you can watch his movies with fresh eyes, they’re…not so bad. They’re not great, by any stretch, but compared to more recent genre fare they look great – top actors, decent special effects, well-paced. I laughed with this movie way more than I laughed at it, and I think if you’ve got a relatively open mind you will too. Honestly, if the me of 2007 could see the me of now…first up, he’d be sad my beard was going grey, but then he’d mock me for saying nice things about Uwe Boll movies.
Rating: thumbs up