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Review of Dungeons & Dragons (movie)
Gaze and marvel, fair reader, for, much as Halley’s Comet only comes around once every 76-or-so years, we have been once more been favored with the regular presence of a generic fantasy movie.
Fantasy movies exist in the "flavored" variety, such as Conan the Barbarian, and the "vanilla" sorts, such as this one. Fantasy movies themselves are not known for being fine examples of cinema, but at least the flavored sorts bring more to the table than just magic and swordplay. Dungeons and Dragons was the original fantasy roleplaying game, and thus was intended to fill a rather large niche. It is possible to make almost any kind of fantasy world out of the D&D rules. It would perhaps have been better to call this the “Forgotten Realms” movie, or the “Planescape” movie, since at least the screenwriters would have had a better marketing blueprint to follow. Instead, here we get Generic Fantasyland, peopled with generic thieves with a generic thieves guild, generic dwarves and elves (who generically hate each other), generic dragons who don’t even speak their mind in this one, generic spells and magic items ripped straight out of the Dungeonmaster’s Guide, and a couple of generic evil types, Jeremy Irons the Level Seven Wizard and oddly blue-lipped Henchman Damadar the Level Five Fighter.
This review is going to pick up speed from here on, so fasten your seatbelts and prepare for lots of ***SPOILERS***.
The story opens with a pretentious voiceover, voicing over a CG pan of a castle that is reprised at least twice later in the movie. Eventually it comes to rest on Jeremy Irons and Damadar. Irons uses a special Dragon Remote Control he’s cooked up in his ThingMaker to call a dragon, but its batteries run out so he has to kill it. First Underling Damadar appears to be blessed with Ominous Incidental Music, a feat which I have been so far unable to find in the Player’s Handbook, but I’ll keep looking. One second, I also need to look something up in the IMDb… ah, it seems Irons’ character is named Profion. Remember that guys, Profion. Back to the story, so Irons hams it up telling Damadar to get a scroll with which he can find some orb thing, then Damadar hams it up a bit in return, then he and his gay brigade police force go out and look for it. The Orb is like the Energizer battery of magic power sources, so Irons can use it to control dragons and take over the kingdom. To the specifics of his plan I wasn’t paying much attention, something about Amidala and the Senate of the Republic. So Irons must overthrow the Empress, whose special trick is being able to quote the Bill of Rights to impossibly swelly music.
Shift focus to the main population center of Generic Fantasyland, which I hereby name "Town." A couple of thieves in Town, the Foreshadowed One and the Wayans Brother, break into Hogwarts, where, during the search for Chinese linking rings and decks of trick cards, Wayans promptly presses the one “Do Not Press” button in the whole room, which makes a loud noise and summons a young female mage. The look on the face of Foreshadowed Boy the instant he sees her is hilarious. The mage tries to sound all Leia when she meets the Chosen One, but the best she can do is a rather hapless game reference. Around this time Damadar shows up to seize the scroll, forcing the main characters to become comrades in a scene that just screams DM fiat. Something happens here in which a dwarf gets involved, and soon all four, the Dwarf, the Mage, Thief One and Thief Two, are off to the inn for the traditional D&D pre-quest booze-up.
At the inn, Wayans hits on an elf, who rejects him with the ol’ “two hundred years older” line. Ha ha. After this we are given a brief, unwanted glimpse into dwarf sexual mechanics. Then Forshadowed Boy reads the scroll, somehow becomes the first person to ever read it right, and gets warped inside the scroll. Level One Mage then reads the map and also gets zapped inside, leaving Wayans and Grumpy to deal with suddenly-appearing Damadar, dragging his soldiers and evil incidental music behind him. Darth Nader fails again, however, and soon our friends are in the woods having alignment conflicts while, unseen in the tree three feet overhead, the elf from the inn soaks up every word. Meanwhile, Irons is busy installing ear tentacles into Damadar. Our hapless heroes offend a Star Trek alien then find the Thieves’ Guild. It is there where Foreshadowed Boy must play medieval Double Dare in a moderately challenging Zelda dungeon, complete with spikes, eye symbols and flame throwers, to get the Red Sparkly. After making a lot of successful Dex checks he succeeds in getting the orb-thing, which would have then been yoinked from him if it weren’t for That Darn Damadar, who shows up for just long enough to fail again, though he captures Level One Mage in the process.
The party then runs off into the woods, where the elf corners them then joins them, immediately settling into her role as Annoying Party Member. She wears molded metal armor which, amazingly enough, is the closest the movie ever comes to traditional fantasy T&A; even the harem girls in the Thieves’ Guild were quite modestly dressed. In the evil fortress, Dammy does the mind-meld with Wizgirl and gets the info he needs. Foreshadow and Wayans run right into Damadarland to rescue L1 Mage and get the scroll back. The elf doesn’t help in this, and she stops the dwarf from helping too, by cryptically saying that this is “their test,” again proving that elves are basically jerks with pointy ears. Because of Tree Girl’s impromptu essay question Wayans, the only remotely interesting character in the whole movie, kicks the celestial d20 at the hands of Damn-It-All-To-Hell-adar. I never thought I would say that I was sorry that a Wayans brother exited the movie early, but I’m saying it now. The Chosen Guy reacts to this turn of events with, and this is a direct quote, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” His exclamation appears to jog Mage Girl’s memory a bit, because she suddenly remembers how to cast magic right after Wayans gets ventilated, uses a CG lightning bolt to knock a few HP off of Mr. Clean, then she and Chosen Guy escape.
Back in Town, Amidala, complete with new lopsided Mickey Mouse hairstyle, defies the ruling council by not giving over her scepter despite the fact that the Irons-led council asked her very nicely and had her over for tea. Basically, she says that, despite what the law says, if she were to hand over the scepter to Irons, she would have to be crazy. Meanwhile, The Firehouse Five Minus One visits Ewok Village to meet the ancient ruler of the elves, known to mortals as Dr. Who. Tom Baker says some incomprehensible, preachy thing which makes Chosen Guy thoughtful. The Remaining Thief thinks about his dead friend, then he and the mage kiss while Damadar’s evil CG Muppet friend gawks on and chortles. He goes to a cave that “only (he was) meant to pass,” finds the secret theme park ride, and gets the staff from a talking skeleton lich with absolutely no magic powers. Then, in an important moment that marks the turning point in his motivation, Foreshadow sees the cover of a Pern novel blown up to fill a wall.
The remainder of the movie is summarized thusly: Chosen Guy emerges to find Damadar and his guys holding his buds. In the time-honored movie hero tradition, he throws over the Staff of Ultimate Power in exchange for their lives, but Damadar just grins and sticks out his tongue at Mr. Foreshadowed, not only telling him "I lied," but also "Kill them slowly." (We learned earlier that Damadar distinguishes between the two, but up until this point he seemed like a basically nice guy who kills his enemies with amazing agony-avoiding speed, a real gentleman murderer.) Damadar steals the now-completed orb-and-staff combo, but Chosen Guy jumps into his Spell of Town Portal before it closes. Back in Town, flying lizards toast some mages. But now that Irons has the staff, he can summon his own dragons to fight the ones on Amidala’s team. Somehow, the thief has gained five experience levels during the lengths of the movie, because now he bests Damadar in a straight fight. Unfortunately, Irons is there, and he has memorized an entire book of Spells of Photoshop Effect, with which he handily repels the Chosen Guy’s friends who have suddenly turned out to be there. This is the only scene in the movie where the elf character decides that Mr. Foreshadowed has finally passed his finals, because she finally does some fighting… and gets flattened. But at the end, the male lead destroys his staff, then Amidala shows up and, despite the most ineffectual added-in-post-production monster of all time clawing all over her, she manages to tell Irons what a naughty boy he’s been then uses the staff to summon a dragon to eat him. Well, okay, full points for style.
Everyone is sad at the end because Wayans had sprung that Damadar-induced leak half a movie earlier and then got tossed off a high wall, but then the Red Sparkly thing glows, and it seems that somewhere Wayans comes back to life. Everyone then touches the stone, and they all get warped off to where he is waiting for them, probably to invite them all to star in Scary Movie II. At the end of this movie, I was fully expecting the trails of sparks that each of the main guys turned into when warping to form a giant TSR or Wizards of the Coast logo.