The more new movies come out, the more it seems that Hollywood is almost completely out of original ideas. Even James Cameron’s Avatar is only slightly original, as we’ve had the “humans are assholes invading peaceful aliens” plot as recently as earlier this year with Battle for Terra. And then there’s the news that they’re planning to make the board game Battleship – Battleship – into a feature film. If you want an example as to why this is a bad idea, why you shouldn’t take something with no plot and very straightforward gameplay into the realm of cinema, look no further than In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. The film features Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds.
With a badass like Jason Statham, a fantasy veteran in John Rhys-Davies and the years of experience under the ever-expanding belt of Burt Reynolds, there should be something here to save this film. But alas, all of this talent from the four corners of the globe is under the direction of Uwe Boll. Before this, Dr. Boll directed House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Alone in the Dark II, BloodRayne and BloodRayne II: Deliverance. He had established a track record of taking video games and turning them into bad movies. With Dungeon Siege, he’d gotten his grubby hands on what is essentially a clone of Diablo stripped of the well-written plot and composed entirely of repetitive hack-and-slash gameplay. There aren’t that many dungeons in the game, and nothing resembling a siege, which makes the title a little bewildering. So instead of making a movie out of a video game with a hackneyed or paper-thin plot, he’s made a movie out of a video game with no plot whatsoever.
Anyway, Jason Statham plays a farmer named… well, Farmer. The names in the movie are awfully creative, as you can tell. His village is attacked by nightmarish creatures called the Krug. Elsewhere, the King (Burt Reynolds) is dealing with an uppity and annoying nephew (Matthew Lillard) who is in cahoots with an evil magic-user (Ray Liotta) who is – get this – responsible for the Krug attacks on the populace! It’s a SHOCKING twist!
Okay, the only thing that’s really shocking about this film is how awful it is. I went into it knowing it’s an Uwe Boll film, the same way I went into Revenge of the Fallen knowing it was a Michael Bay film. But even knowing that, overall, I liked that film. Yes, there was gratuitous fan service with the heaving bodies of svelte slender women, even more gratuitous explosions and characterizations that didn’t make much sense in light of the previous canon of Transformers. On the other hand, the action does work on some levels, some of the jokes did make me laugh and the visual effects are impressive enough to smooth over some of the rough patches. While that movie’s blown out of the water by District 9, it isn’t a total failure.
This film is a total failure. The story is cribbed almost entirely from margin notes of old D&D adventures from somebody’s high school campaign. As a matter of fact, I think the idea of the evil wizard projecting himself into a suit of armor to act all macho is something I came up with – when I was TWELVE. Seriously, did the screen writing team employed by Dr. Boll need to put this stuff down on paper protected by plastic so they wouldn’t constantly get Cheetos stains on the script? It’s predictable and bland – kind of like a packet of unflavored oatmeal. It’s also hackneyed. It makes some of the more dreadful episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise look like they were written by Ronald D. Moore.
And then there’s the direction. Now, Dr. Boll isn’t going to care about what I’m going to say. He finances his own projects and regularly tells people like me to fuck off. After all, opinions are like assholes – everybody has one, and they all stink. Regardless, I feel justified in saying that, in my opinion, Dr. Boll couldn’t direct kittens to scratch a piece of furniture. He has no idea of how to frame shots, show compelling action or underscore dramatic tension. In this film, the shots cut at odd times, the action is so disorganized that the combat in Revenge of the Fallen seems like the scripted but clear engagements of the WWE by comparison and you cannot get dramatic tension out of actors when you’ve injected them with tree sap. By that, I mean the acting is wooden. It’s so wooden I could take these people into a workshop and emerge with a dining room set complete with end tables and a china cabinet.
Each of these sins drives the film deeper into the depths of failure. But there’s something that causes it to sprout a drill bit the size of a dinner plate and bore a hole even deeper beneath the basement to place it at a new low. You see, In The Name Of The King came out in the wake of the Lord of the Rings films. Apparently unsatisfied with video game trappings and D&D notes that smell like an adolescent boy’s sock drawer, Dr. Boll thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea to make sure we had sylvan elves, orc-like enemies, powerful wizards and John Rhys-Davies to tap into that market. Now, tapping into an established market isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but you do it by extracting some of the good bits with a fine syringe, and injecting it into your work in a subtle fashion, and smooth it over with original ideas so you avoid being derivative. Dr. Boll taps into Tolkien’s work with a God-damn shovel, burying any enthusiasm we might have had and making anything intended to be dramatic or awesome turn out comical. And it’d be comical in a good way, even campy in the way of Flash Gordon, but this movie drags on. And on. And on. For two and a half hours, Dr. Boll assaults our vision, our hearing, our intelligence and our good sense without a hint of irony or tongue-in-cheek execution. Everything is to be taken completely seriously, like this is some sort of fantasy epic that Peter Jackson needed three movies to tell properly.
Dr. Boll, you are not Peter Jackson. You’re not Michael Jackson. You’re not even Andrew Jackson or Latoya Jackson. You, sir, are an asshole. And In The Name Of The King is the biggest, smelliest, most disgusting steaming crappile you have ever produced. I may never have the money to finance my own films, snort drugs off the body of a prostitute or even have the security to tell Internet critics they’re full of shit – which, in this case, is the pot calling the kettle a turd. If this is what it takes to have those things, I’m better off without them. And if you have all the money and power you contend, Dr. Boll, I want just one thing from you.
That two and a half hours I spent watching this shit? I want those back.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.