I can’t quite fathom why anyone should shell out even $5 for this double feature let alone $15-20 as Dungeons & Dragons is a pile of garbage worthy of only mockery and a night of drinking fun while the sequel is technically better yet still not very good. To top things off, the video and audio transfers for the first film aren’t anything noteworthy while the sequel fairs a little better but not by much.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action
Warner Bros. | PG13/NR – 213 min. – $19.98 | February 15, 2011
Directed by: Courtney Solomon; Gerry Lively
Writer(s): Topper Lilien & Carroll Cartwright (written by); Brian Rudineck and Robert Kimmel (written by)
Cast: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Bruce Payne, Jeremy Irons, Mark Dymond, Clemency Burton-Hill
Features: Feature Commentaries, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
THE MOVIES – 1/5
“Dungeons & Dragons” as a game apparently has a long-lasting and quite loyal following… but I am not one of them and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t the faintest clue of what exactly it’s about nor have much desire to find out. So I went into these Dungeons & Dragons films and looked at it from a cinematic perspective and as such, it didn’t disappoint, in all the wrong ways.
Dungeons & Dragons (2000) – 0/5
I’ve heard so much about this “film”, from the viewpoint of a D&D gamer and those who just enjoy watching movies, and it would seem from both sides this movie simply sucks.
Just for a good laugh, I’m going to attempt to lay out the story. The movie begins inside a dungeon no less where madman and power grubbing villain Profion (JEREMY IRONS) grabs some kind of scepter from a rotating circular thingy which should be able to control a dragon but after some magical conjures it does not work and he must kill the dragon whose blood drains into a river and catches fire (yeah… ok).
This leads to the other side where commoners look on in horror and we meet our two leads in Ridley (JUSTIN WHALIN) and Snails (MARLON WAYANS). If the movie hadn’t already shown the course in its awfulness with Irons’ ham-fest line delivery, the casting of Wayans certainly solidifies it. The duo somehow gets involved after breaking into the ministry of magic (or some other common name) and is caught by an apprentice named Marina (ZOE MCLELLAN). Along the way, and clumsily introduced I might add, Elwood the dwarf (LEE ARENBERG) comes along for the adventure. Also joining this quest is a tracker named Norda (KRISTEN WILSON), an elf with mystical powers.
So why is all of this happening? You see, Profion wants to seize control of the land from Empress Savina (THORA BIRCH) but since she has the scepter which controls the Golden Dragons, he needs the rod of something or other which controls the more powerful Red Dragons. But to get this scepter he (and our clan of mismatched saviors) must get a hold of some red orb which can only be gotten via a deadly maze after which it’s used to unlock a door which holds the rod… Sorry, but I kind of got lost/disinterested at this point in the movie and concentrated more on the hammy acting provided not only by Mr. Irons but by the character’s evil henchman, Damodar (BRUCE PAYNE), a man with higher evil ambitions I’m sure but held back due to his insatiable desire to kiss Smurfs (for whatever reason, he has blue lips).
Later on, there’s some lame fight sequences set against terrible CGI sets and dragons which mercilessly ends the entire debacle… or so I thought. At the ever end (and we are in spoiler territory for anyone who cares), Dungeons & Dragons gets even stranger when visiting a grave site, one of our heroic characters gives a “tearful” goodbye when the makeshift headstone with the dearly departed’s name on it disappears into a crystal and this character and the others are transported to some other world where this dearly departed… ah hell, it was Snails, is apparently waiting. I guess it wasn’t bad enough the entire plot didn’t make a lick of sense, but then the writers had to throw that in just as a final jab to audiences.
Anyway, this is simply an awful movie and easily the worst I’ve ever seen. However, I will give it credit for not holding anything back when it came to the acting especially from Jeremy Irons who was just a delight to watch! So it does have that going for it and could make for a fun night of MST3K mockery. This cannot be said for the sequel…
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005) – 2/5
Apparently the fact the first one was a complete and utter flop at the box office (raking in $15 million domestically), some financiers decided to take another stab at it, but not with a reboot but an actual sequel.
This time around the lead henchman of the original film returns, despite being killed. Now Damodar (BRUCE PAYNE) is back – sans the blue lips which still had not been explained why he had them in the first place – and he wants to control some mighty dragon and rule the kingdom of Ismir and this is done with a black orb. Within the kingdom, the elders of Ismir get wind of Damodar’s plans and gather a Fellowship of the Orb together (no, they did not call it that) to set forth to Damodar, get a hold of the orb and save the kingdom from certain destruction.
Leading this clan of merry men and women is Berek (MARK DYMOND) a warrior-turned-pussy-politician who has great skills as a leader and swordsman. Along for the ride is Lux (ELLIE CHIDZEY), Nim (TIM STERN), Dorian (STEVEN ELDER) and Ormaline (LUCY GASKELL) representing strength, wisdom, honor and intelligence. Together they roam the land, come across some nasty creatures, must solve some puzzles and ultimately our hero has to face off against Damodar with the kingdom at stake.
That’s really the basics for the story and you can guess what will happen as the writers – Brian Rudnick (Evasive Action) and Robert Kimmel (debut) – don’t leave much to the imagination while the direction by Gerry Lively (the truly awful Art of War III: Retribution) is pedestrian but at least keeps the action somewhat interesting, a far better attempt than the original.
Alright, as I said, this sequel is technically better than the original but in reality that’s not a ringing endorsement. Wrath of the Dragon God does at least have more, from what I’ve discerned, D&D elements in it but as a film it has all the earmarks of some cheap SyFy Original Movie from the weak CGI to the poor screenplay. Admittedly, I did like that they at least attempted to give the leading man some character development but the rest of the cast are just as bland as the story itself.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.75/5
Dungeons & Dragons – 2.25/5
Audio Commentaries – Yep, we get not one but two commentaries. The first is with Producer/Director Courtney Solomon, Actor Justin Whalin and Game Co-Creator Dave Arneson and the second with Solomon, Director of Photography Doug Milsome and Arneson. Not sure why the second track was even needed since it only adds the DP in there, but whatever. The tracks are filled with info about the movie but if you’re looking for answers to why it sucks so badly, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The first track with Solomon and Whalin (Arneson’s comments were, I believe, spliced in), is so dumb and obnoxious especially when Whalin was so gung-ho about doing the project.
Let the Games Begin: A Profile and History of Adventure Gaming (15:29; SD) – The featurette covers the, well, history behind the D&D RPG phenomena (I don’t even know how popular it is today) and has comments by members of the cast and crew (and others in the RPG field) on their experience with the game.
The Making of Dungeons & Dragons (20:39; SD) – The filmmakers and cast try to explain why this movie needed to be made and why this version is so great. Yeah, ok…
Special Effects Deconstruction takes a look at 5 scenes (Opening Scene, Dragons Attack, Savina Leads Dragons and Dragon Dogfight) and how they were made. Each one has a different stage.
Deleted Scenes (19:18; SD) – Here we get 11 scenes (yeah, that many) that were excised including an alternate ending and a cameo by the D&D co-creator. The alt. ending is surprisingly better as it removes the lame ass “wtf” moment from the theatrical version.
The disc also comes with the film’s theatrical trailer (2:32; SD).
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God – 1.25/5
Audio Commentary – The track features Edward Stark (D&D Special Projects Manager) and cast members Dawn Akemi (Lidda) and Frank Rosenblum (Jozan) who, strangely enough, according to IMDb aren’t even credited. I could already tell from the opening that this would be yet another obnoxious commentary as they don’t offer anything about the movie and seem to stay in D&D character throughout the movie.
Rolling the Dice: Adapting the Game to the Screen (22:03; HD) – It’s another basic featurette that focuses on bringing this film onto the screen and the source material from the perspective of D&D fans and various members of the cast and crew.
The Arc: A Conversation with Gary Gygax (16:48; SD) – This is a conversation – mixed in with footage from the movie and sound bites with the cast – with the co-creator of D&D as he talks about the longevity of the game.
VIDEO – 3/5
Dungeons & Dragons – 2/5
The film is presented with a 1.78 aspect ratio and in 1080p HD. The best thing I can say about this video transfer is it’s in color. Even for a low budget fantasy movie with little to no fanbase made over a decade ago, I was surprised at just how bad this movie looks. First and foremost, the amount of noise and grain is abundant and does not add to the film’s clarity whatsoever and second the darker scenes (for which there many) only exemplifies those issues.
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God – 4/5
Presented in 1080p high-def and 1.78 aspect ratio, the picture this go around looks a lot better compared with its predecessor. The colors do look more uniform while the clarity in detail levels was crisp and fairly clean, though I do recall a couple instances of some scratches or dust marks.
AUDIO – 3.25/5
Dungeons & Dragons – 3/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is mostly OK is also pretty flat in terms of presenting depth for an action-fantasy like this. The dialogue levels at least sounded clean so what’s being said, for what that’s worth, is easily discernable.
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God – 3.5/5
The DTS-HD MA transfer for this sequel fairs a tad better though not by much. For this one, there is a little more depth when it comes to the action scenes but it’s still missing that boost I expect from a lossless audio track. Dialogue once again is clear throughout.
OVERALL – 1.5/5
Overall, I can’t quite fathom why anyone should shell out even $5 for this double feature let alone $15-20 as Dungeons & Dragons is a pile of garbage worthy of only mockery and a night of drinking fun while the sequel is technically better yet still not very good. To top things off, the video and audio transfers for the first film aren’t anything noteworthy while the sequel fairs a little better but not by much.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman