"Stop being so melodramatic." -- Gallian
I need my head examined. It's no real secret that Uwe Boll makes bad movies. Most of them are based on video games. They have bad plots, bad effects, clumsy scripts and horrid direction. Even though I never got into the ring with Mr. Boll, watching Alone in the Dark made me feel like he'd punched me in the head.
So I went into his latest flick, based on the Dungeon Siege game, fully prepared to have two very painful hours and a shoo-in for my Worst of 2008 list.
I can't believe I'm saying this. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is Uwe's best flick.
Here's the skinny: In a fantasy kingdom, there's your typical evil sorcerer named Gallian (Ray Liotta) who wants to kill the King (Burt "Bandit" Reynolds) and take over the place. To do so, he shopped at Saruman's Discount Lairs and Orcs, and got an army of things called Krug. While he threatens the kingdom with them, he's allied with the King's nephew, (Mathew "13 Ghosts" Lillard) a drunken sot who also wants the crown. To further muddy matters, Gallian is wooing Leelee Sobieski, daughter of John "No one tosses a Dwarf!" Rhys-Davies, the King's Magus.
Into the middle of all this comes Farmer (Jason "Transporter" Statham). He's the typical strong quiet type. He calls himself Farmer because "A man is what he does." We find all this out over a nice exposition-filled dinner with Ron "Hellboy" Perlman.
One ransacking of a small town straight from the fields of Rohan later, and Farmer and his friends trek across the countryside, befriending elves lead by Kristanna "Painkiller Jane" Loken and fighting lots of Krug. All your other main fantasy epic set pieces unfold.
The thing is, some of this is done well. Much of it's ham-handed, but a lot of the action pieces are fun. Mind you, it's obvious that Uwe has watched the LotR and Narnia flicks a lot before making this movie. Some battle bits are taken blatantly, such as the siege of Helm's Deep, while others are lifted from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But when it works, it works.
Uwe managed to get a pretty high level cast this time. Normally, it's unknowns with a few quality actors who apparently needed a paycheck (see Ben Kingsley in Bloodrayne). This time even the unknowns do a good job, and the flick is kicked up a level by the cast.
Reynolds does a solid job as the King. Statham is a stoic sword swinger, while Rhyes-Davies and Perlman do their usual standout character work. The only bad acting comes from Lillard, who goes way over the top, and Liotta, who went to the Jeremy Irons D&D Evil Wizard Acting School. He leaves no scene unchewed.
The effects are a lot better than they usually are in a Uwe flick, from the digital work to the props. While not Weta or ILM level, they get the job done.
The main problem is the editing and the story. INK:DST is just over two hours long, and due to a plot that drags and editing that hops all over the place, it feels like it runs for four. You can tell from the cuts that the original plot was even longer, as we jump and skip over several storylines. It's as if they took two movies and shoved them into one.
As an adaptation of the video game: it has the Krug and the name of the Kingdom and some small towns, but other than that it's not like the game at all.
As a movie, it has the same feel as all those cheesy 80s B-Grade fantasy flicks like Beastmaster, Hawk the Slayer, Krull and Sword and the Sorcerer. Like those flicks, I'm sure it will show up on a lot of geeks' "guilty pleasure" lists.