"This is no game"
Running against my standard practice, this film will be reviewed twice, first by Simon Drake, then by myself, in a review largely rebutting both the harsher and the more generous points involved.
Directed by Courtney Solomon
Starring Jeremy Irons, Justin Whalin, Zoe McLellan and Bruce Payne
BMM Keywords: So bad it's good, So bad it hurts, Unnecessary pathos and/or angst, Bruce Payne.
Evil mage Profion (Irons, notching up an almost unchecked level of
ham) plots to overthrow the Empire of Izmar run by Savina (Thora Birch) by stealing a
magical sceptre that can control Gold Dragons.
Knowing the Profion will bring death and destruction to Izmar, Savina sets out to find the legendary Rod of Savrille - which controls Red Dragons - before Profion.
Enter two thieves, buffed Hero Ridley (Whalin) and wisecracking sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans) to find the rod, with help from Savinas expert tracker Elf, Norda (Kristen Wilson) and Ginger Dwarf Elwood (Lee Arenberg). With Profions men lead by mincing baddie Damodar (Payne) at every turn, Ridleys band battle their way through mazes, deserted castles and (yup!) dungeons to get to the rod before Profion.
Man alive, it is poor. The opening scene involving a Dragon in a
dungeon had promise and some decent effects. Then the Dragon budget was obviously used up,
as they then dont appear for over an hour.
The Plot makes no sense, leaping from one subplot to another with reckless abandon. The acting is appalling. The Izmar counsel scenes ripped of Phantom Menace. And an ending that, despite outstaying its welcome by about 90 minutes leaves you thinking "huh" and "Is that it?"
Even cameos by stalwart Tom Baker in a pair of Dr Spock ears and Richard OBrien does little to haul this soggy mess out of the swamp of crapness.
Thora Birch, clearly a wise head on her young shoulders, disappears for half of the movie. Then shows up riding a Dragon for the finale (and wearing what looks like a fire-guard on her head)
To be fair the Dragons are pretty cool, when they eventually show up. And the Finale has a sky full kicking crap out of each other. There are some nice cityscapes of Izmar. But thats about it really.
Terrible It doesnt even have the clunky endearing quality of say Krull or Labyrinth. Its just shite.
The fairly surprising death of the quipping black sidekick (normally
immortal in Hollywood films) Snails. Although I assume this is because Marlon Wayans
wanted to appear in the superb Requiem for a Dream instead.
Or the uber camp henchman Damodar (Pantomimed by a bald Bruce Payne) sashaying around in Black Leather S&M gear. Theres a wonderful scene where he has his brains sucked out (or in, I forget which) by Jeremy Irons for some reason. His grimacing at the camera whilst fighting with an obviously CGI Brain eating snake is hysterical.
Plus when he and equally camp Richard OBrien have a staredown I was half expecting handbags and slapping. It was like a Right Said Fred music video With Monsters (well; it's just a jump to the left - The Prophet).
Production values: Vary dramatically. Some great looking cityscapes, decent dragons, and magic spell zappy effects. But mostly lame "Filmed in Romania" castles and muddy peasant villages (full of tanned surfer looking dudes and rubbery looking Orks). 10
Dialogue and performances: Weak at best. I dont think a single person acquits themselves well (apart from Bruce Payne, but thats for all the wrong reasons) and that includes the script writers (Topper Lilian and Carroll Cartwright Who apparently have moved to Mexico) 17
Plot and Execution: God-awful. Limp direction. Lumpy script (presumably written in Crayon). Incomprehensible. 19
Randomness: All over the show. Characters show up and disappear without explanation (Tom Baker, Purple Cockney Monster, and Thora Birch). The film doesnt even show the heroes or villains for the matter travelling anywhere, defeating the point of a so-called epic quest. Suddenly someone is doing something for some reason. Then it cuts to somewhere else and the same person is doing something completely different. Plot exposition is usually mumbled by some old mystic Or shouted by Jeremy Irons. 15
Waste of Potential: Huge. This could have been great fun, and had a spattering of moments of promise. But sadly the fish were biting, but no one could be bothered to reel them in. 15
Evil and overacting mage Profion (Jeremy 'Jezzer' Irons,
hamming for the home team) plans nefariously to seize control of the Empire of Izmer when
the young, idealistic Empress Sahrmmrfuhrmm (Thora Birch, apparently attempting to balance
things out by not acting at all) decides to enfranchise the commoners, and
abandon the ages-old magical autocracy. Dashing, mage-hating thief Ridley (Whalin), and
his sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans, as the worst thief in history) tumble on the plot when
an attempt to rob the magic school lands them in cahoots with apprentice mage Marina
(McLellan), and it's off into the wilds to rescue the Rod of Savrille.
Add in a dwarf, for no good reason (then edit out the scene where he tells us his name), and an elven tracker sent first to capture, then to aid our heroes. Spice with some rescues, and Dr Who turning up as the elven clergy, then serve with a dollop of climactic dragon battle and a big side order of ham.
Well, it's a Dungeons & Dragons movie made by a director who a)
loves the game, and b) doesn't quite realise what changes need to be made to make
a good game into a good film. It also bears several hallmarks of first-time directing,
including low levels of coherence padded with moments of blink-and-you'll-miss-it
exposition. It doesn't help that - as the DVD version shows - two key scenes were cut or
never completed, and the bollocks final scene was apparently thrown in because the
original was too downbeat. As a result, many parts of the film make no sense.
We also run the gamut of bad acting in this film: There's ham (Jez), there's camp (Richard O'Brien) and there's plankage (Thora 'So Aptly-named' Birch).
And Marlon Wayans's whining quickly gets tedious.
If you don't set out to hate it, and watch it with a song in your heart, D&D is an hour and a quarter of solid, cheesy entertainment; like a big piece of mild cheddar. Much of the ham and camp is pretty amusing, some of the acting is even fairly serviceable, a lot of the effects are pretty sweet, and the characters - if not exactly well-rounded and profound - are at least fairly likeable.
Not that bad. It's never going to be a classic, but frankly it kicks the living shite out of Labyrinth (because I hate it, and I always have done, and if I could stand to watch it again, I'd write a damning bad movie review right now), and for my money is also a better bet than Krull (although note that I give Krull a better rating).
Profion: I must have that Rod of Savrille. With its power, I
shall be invincible.
Damodar (standing a foot behind him the whole time): What is your will?
Production Values - Fairly swish, especially from a first time director. Some very nice dragons. Less sure about some of the costumes though, in particular all of the costumes the elves wear. 6
Dialogue and Performances - All over the shop. The script runs from the perfectly decent to the utterly ludicrous, while the acting plumbs the depths of planksville and hamborough alike, and spends a fair amount of time camping. Thora! We've seen you act! Jeremy1 We've seen you not overact! Bruce...Oh, well, we don't expect anything from you. 12
Plot and Execution - Amateurish, but less dynamically bollocks than the likes of Sanctuary and Highlander...well, any of them really. 15
Randomness - Due to crazed editing, there is rather a lot of this. For starters, the Empress (and as one 11th Hour reviewer pointed out, not calling her The Childlike Empress is purely a formality) is an essentially passive character, who should have the decency to wait around and get rescued. Having her do a bunch of stuff at the end just makes things complicated. And the end is weird as all get out. 12
Waste of Potential - One can not help but wonder what might have been with a better director to handle the ideas, budget and rampant actors. 15
"A world light years beyond your imagination."
Directed by Peter Yates
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis, plus just about every British character actor who went on to make the Hollywood second-string or higher in the next twenty years.
BMM Keywords: So bad it's good, Incomprehensible.
Alternately entitled Dungeons & Dragons, despite a total absence of dragons, and a significant dearth of dungeons, which is what it's doing here.
The terrible Beast arrives on the world of Krull in his big, flying
rock, and unleashes his army of inhuman Slayers upon the population. To unite two kingdoms
against the Beast, Prince Colwyn (Marshall, sporting a dodgy beard), and Princess Lyssa
(Anthony) are to be married. Luckily, they fall in love, but unluckily the Slayers crash
the wedding, abducting the princess and slaughtering all and sundry. Saved by the wise
man, Ymyr (Jones), Colwyn climbs a mountain to find the Glaive, and ancient symbol and a
powerful weapon, then sets out in pursuit of the Beast.
Trust me. It makes no more sense than this in the film.
Gathering a ragtag band of British character actors (including Liam Neeson, and Bernard Bresslaw as a cyclops), Colwyn tries to find out where the Beast's teleporting fortress will be at the next sunrise. A seer is killed before he can help them, and so Ymyr must sacrifice himself to learnt the secret from old flame, the Widow of the Web (Annis). Dodging Slayers and Changelings (shapeshifting assassins), Colwyn's band travel by fire (or should it be shire) horse to the fortress, where Colwyn and Lyssa destroy the Beast with the power of their love; the Glaive proving rather less butch than advertised.
Well, it was made in the 80s, so for starters, there's the hair. Also however, Marshall is a turgid hero, the whole premise is immensely silly, and the dialogue is rather trite. It also has too much material, such that it all seems rushed. The fact that the Cyclops race was tricked by the Beast and given the curse of knowing the time of their death is introduced in one sentence, crops up in a second, and is defied in a final, brief scene.
Some of those ideas are quite good, and - hairstyling aside - the production values are fairly high. The Slayers are also genuinely creepy, or at least were when I was twelve. It's also fun seeing all those British character actors as an outlaw band.
Not as bad as all that, but really rather dated.
The opening credits; they really are rather flash.
Production Values - Pretty good for the time, although terribly, terribly dated now. 6
Dialogue and Performances - This film is a major offender in the field of 'this is fantasy, so everything must be stilted and pretentious'. The dialogue is self-important drivel, even the conversation. The support playing, by the gang of outlaw character actors, is pretty solid, but the leads are fairly bloodless. 14
Plot and Execution - The majority of the plot involves the hero trying to find his way to the magically teleporting Fortress of the Beast, itself basically an excuse for the film to be more than just a hike across hostile country. The film is sometimes jumpy and confusing, and there is a feeling that there is more going on than you see in the film; and not in a good way. In addition, Krull is never entirely sure whether it's a fantasy or a sci-fi movie. 15
Randomness - Within a fantasy context, there isn't too much randomness, but by any other lights it's all over the place. The flying horses just happening to be in the right place; allies and enemies popping up out of nowhere; the Beast shmoozing with the Princess for no readily apparent reason. 10
Waste of Potential - With a better lead and a little more work, Krull could have been a pretty decent film. as it is, it's just a bit of a mess. 8