Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Old Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Last night - by which I mean early this morning - I picked out eleven movies out of our 300+ DVD collection. Jen's always been bad at making specific decisions, so I narrowed it down some. 20 minutes later, she still hadn't decided, but, well, nature calls and that b**** won't be put on hold. So I gave her a 10 minute extension. Not to be impatient or anything, but we don't want to be up all night.

I come out, and she's picked, of all things, Dungeons & Dragons. Which is a decent movie, but the least critically acclaimed of the selections, which included (off the top of my head) Bicentennial Man, Fight Club, The Doors, Total Recall, and What Dreams May Come. Dungeons & Dragons was ripped apart by Academy-chasing critics and fans of the roleplaying game alike, but it was really a fun movie to watch.

I used to play Dungeons & Dragons all the time when I was 14-16. It was Second Edition, which has been since replaced with Third Edition, and now 3.5, which means the rules and gameplay change - it's a whole new game now. As such, I was initially disappointed with this film. But my D&D days in the past, I look at it again, and it is not a bad movie. It doesn't represent D&D well, but that's fine. It seems they didn't set out to make a D&D movie - which, I imagine, would be more accurately about people playing D&D, and the positive and negative impacts it has on their lives.

No, Dungeons & Dragons - the New Line movie - is a generic Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy film (the pen-and-paper roleplaying game was itself based on and inspired by Tolkien's work) which happened to be blessed by the TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) license. As such, it's better than Eragon, which simply plagairized the greats. The story itself is fine, but sprinkled throughout are stereotypical characters designed to highlight some of the basics of D&D. We have the mage, the thief, the fighter, the dwarf, the elf, a couple orcs in the bar, Beholders, and of course, dragons.

In many movies, cheesy dialogue helps to bring a cheesy movie down, but I would argue that the cheesy dialogue helps Dungeons & Dragons. Since the characters perpetuate their stereotypes so well, the cheesiness is expected and mostly forgiven. Again, the story is fairly good, although it does have some holes. Try not to think too much (for example asking yourself why a liberal young girl is Emperess in a Fascist empire run by corrupted Mages) and you'll probably enjoy the movie. Once it gets going, it's easy to get caught up in the adventure and even feel for some of the characters.

The graphics in this movie are stunning. It might overuse CGI with those castle shots, but the dragons are all well done. If you like dragon movies, the beginning and end will not disappoint. It beats, in terms of dragon use, Reign of Fire. (Not sure about Dragonheart, it's been too long. Connery owns all, but Draco was just one dragon, and there are tons here, fighting one another, and the way the second one dies is awesome.) The sound is pretty good - not quite as good as in a Star Wars movie (any of the six, it doesn't matter), but it's along the same lines.

Overall, this is a good movie that fans of fantasy adventure really shouldn't miss. It isn't the best, but it's at least worth a rent if you haven't got anything else you particularly want to see.

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