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For those who are more concerned with quantity than quality, I have good news. The new Blu-Ray release of Dungeons and Dragons also features the made-for-television sequel, Wrath of the Dragon God. That’s two movies for the price of one! For everyone else, this set is nothing but bad news.
I have to admit, I was a little excited when I was assigned this two-movie set. I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, but I love the fantasy genre. At best, I was hoping this would be a fun surprise that had slipped under my radar, and at worst, I thought it might be a film in the “so bad it’s good” category. Unfortunately, it actually falls into the “it’s so bad I would rather be doing anything else than watching this garbage” category.
The first film, Dungeons and Dragons, actually has some talented people involved. I mean, Jeremy Irons is the villain! Bonus points for that. It also stars Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch. Not a bad cast. However, they all end up doing hideous work. Irons give what has to be the worst performance of his career, chewing the scenery in a way that quickly becomes uncomfortable to watch. And then there’s Wayans. At some point during shooting, one would think that he would have been advised that the constant shrieking was probably not the best way to go. As for Birch, she looks as bored as I felt watching this.
The “story” revolves around the Empire of Izmer, a world run by the mages in which all others are subservient. There’s some nonsense about a staff that controls golden dragons falling into the wrong hands, and a quest for another staff that controls red dragons that will prove more powerful than the golden staff. Or some nonsense like that. A wannabe Lord of the Rings, the film is basically a quest for that second staff with a team for good and a team for evil simultaneously searching.
The story doesn’t really have any focus, the sets are ugly, the special effects atrocious, and on and on. I really don’t have anything positive to say about this first film. At least the second film is a little better. That’s not to say it’s good by any means, but it doesn’t seem quite as insulting. The fantasy elements are reigned in a little bit, and it feels a little less campy. The effects work is just as bad, if not worse, but at least it’s not as goofy.
Interestingly, the only returning character is a villain from the first film. Even though that character died, he is resurrected several years later, and is seeking revenge on the next generation of those who thwarted him the first time around. Of course, in doing so, he could end up destroying the world. Yawn.
As I said above, I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons in my life, and really don’t know much about it. For all I know, these films could be very accurate depictions of the world from this game. If that’s the case, I officially have no interest in ever playing. For D&D to be as popular as it is, I have to assume that these films do not do the world of the game justice. There is no way that the stories presented here could possibly have the longevity that the game has built up.
There are a fair amount of extras on the discs, some of which do go into the history of the game. Most of these extras fall on the second film. The first film has a couple of commentary tracks, a documentary called “Let the Games Begin,” a making-of featurette, a special effects deconstruction, and the trailer. These are all pretty generic, run-of-the mill features, but I was still surprised to find so much content on such a throw-away film.
The second film’s features do tend to lean towards the game itself. In fact, one of the commentary tracks features actual gamers. There’s also a making-of feature, and an interview with the late Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons. I’m not going to say I found any of these features all that compelling, but if you are into the game at all, then you will probably enjoy these features more than the film itself.
In watching the films, I knew they would look cheap, but I was surprised at how bad the Blu-Ray actually looks. It might just be the way the film is shot, but the image felt muddy and washed out, lacking the pop usually present on Blu-Ray. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I did think it would look better than this.
There really is no reason to buy this collection unless you’re a hard-core Dungeons and Dragons fan. Then again, the fans might hate it the most. Either way, these aren’t good films. Any excitement I had when I began was gone within 5 minutes. After that, this entire set became a chore. I very seldom find films difficult to sit through, especially fantasy, but these really tried my patience. Disappointing on every level, I’d recommend skipping this set entirely.