This movie from New Line Cinema tried to appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike, and failed on both counts. A blatant rip-off of Star Wars, this murky incoherence has stars like Jeremy Irons and Richard O'Brian prancing about looking ridiculous. Also notable is that the director ran out of money before he could film the one major plot exposition scene (he spent it all on CGI dragons), so any hope for the movie making sense is only available as a deleted, half-finished scene. Max and the 'bots must summon every ounce of their rage in order to sit through this steaming pile of beholder entrails.
We now have a four minute clip of this episode available on YouTube, or watch it below.
Yeah, you hafta watch Dungeons & Dragons like the main characters are gamers.
That's why the two thieves in the story, Ridley and Snails, seem to have all their points in Swordfighting and Brawling, and none in, say, Stealth or Pickpocketing. Boy, were they crappy thieves. I mean, they should've created the Crappy Thieves Guild, for thieves whose footsteps echo no matter where they walk and for thieves who don't bother with shadows but prefer to steal things in broad daylight in open-air markets while the townspeople look on, their mouths in inflatable-doll O shapes. For thieves who fool around while looting a place, cause they're just a bunch o' fun-lovin' criminals. For thieves who can't seem to understand that "honor among thieves" usually means "don't snitch on others when you're caught", not whatever they think it means (something to do with keeping what you rightfully stole, or something.)
Bah. Crappy thieves.
This is why the Marlon Wayans character is the Stereotypical Queeny Black Comic Relief Guy and does nothing more than prance about and squeal and run away from the sight of danger (like when he is thieving and gets SCARED BY THE SIGHT OF AN EMPTY SUIT OF ARMOR OH NO EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.) Honestly, if watermelon existed in this movie's universe, I'd have expected him to hide in the shadows a-chompin' away. Though he does get the best line in the movie: "I've got a new word for 'dumb'. Ridley. That's the ridliest thing I've ever heard of!"
(Indeed. This is the ridliest heroic fantasy I've ever seen.)
That's why the mage in the story does nothing but run around, scream, feebly try to hit people with big clubs (instead of, say, CASTING SPELLS THAT MAGES CAST BECAUSE THAT'S WHY THEY'RE MAGES; THEY CAST SPELLS) and allow herself to get kidnapped. "Oh, that's right," Petra mentions grumblingly, "she can't do anything because she's just a girl." That's right. She's a girl, and as such can't be allowed to be strong or a decent participant in the action. Not by this movie's rules. She's there simply to be kidnapped and then subsequently rescued by CuteWhiteBoy the Thief. What little magic she does decide to pull consists mostly of opening portals for escape and sometimes zapping the main bad guy with purple things. "Why doesn't she DO SOMETHING?!" I opined at one point. "She's a MAGE! She's got MAGIC! She's got pointy fingers! Pointy pointy pchuu pchuu!" (those last two syllables were the best phonetic representation I could write of the sound you make when you make a "gun" from your finger and thumb and pretend to shoot with it.)
That's why HOOTERS MCBOOBY the elf has a cone bra breastplate (with navel) and shin guards but nothing protecting her hamstrings. Petra pointed the hamstrings out to me and I pointed back that I don't think the writers could've conceived of any kind of scenario that would involve peril to anybody's hamstrings. Petra nods, but then mentions HOOTERS MCBOOBY is a tracker, and would not be wearing heavy plate if she were to be leaping nimbly from tree to tree in search of her foe. "Mithril?"
The elf also seems to be the only one with a link to the GM, and can wisely offer such comments as "We must stay here. This is a quest for them only." Them meaning the two thieves. How she knows this I'm not sure. There's a hint between the elves at some Hidden Destiny of CuteWhiteBoy but it never fully develops.
Thora Birch (as "Queen Wannamidala") is completely wasted. I mean in the role, but then again, judging from some of her scenes, it looks like she might've been during filming. Her first, impassioned speech to Jeremy Irons (as "Scenerychomper" the Evil Mage) comes off as whiningly and pleading as if she was asking him to extend her curfew so she could go see n'Sync. She doesn't improve. "I'm not a child!" she pouts and stomps. She's got her own magic mirror in her own room! She's growed-up now!
I won't even begin to speak of Jeremy Irons' performance because he performs with such gleefully evil abandon that if the script had called for him to strip buck-naked and dance about the room singing "Let Me Entertain You", oh lord, he would have done so with relish. In fact, the only thing that kept this movie from sinking permanently into Complete And Utter Craptacular Suckitude was its lack of a wholly unnecessary musical number.
But what really pissed me off about the movie was the fact that it did not have a single original concept at all. EVERY SINGLE THING about that film was ripped off from another, far better, source. Most obvious were the Star Wars parallels. Big magical bad guy who operates everything, his first-in-command henchman who's a big bad fighter and dresses in black and commands fear, young lad realizing his potential (though Ridley is a cross between Han Solo and Luke, really), the haughty-yet-beautiful girl who falls in love with him (though I was really hoping they'd turn out to be brother and sister), a bar scene full of the craziest, wackiest-looking creatures you've ever seen, Ridley and Mage Girl gettin' it on at what was probably supposed to be Rivendell but ended up looking like Ewok Village 2000, swords that glow blue and red and hum and spark when they come together, for Pete's sake... but the worst was when the Big Bad Heavy Guy strides down some steps and the soundtrack plays the opening of the Imperial March. Oh my god. We couldn't stop laughing. It was so blatant, so awful, so Wrong.
The Indiana Jones rip-offs were slightly harder to spot, but they were there, mostly in the form of the Thieves' Maze. Some maze! As mentioned above, three rooms, no hallways, no twists or turns, and typical traps that Indy dodged better. But then, when CuteWhiteBoy comes to the prize, it's an exact goddamn recreation of the shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy grabs the golden idol. I mean, same camera angle, same position, same glow, same rapturous look on CuteWhiteBoy's face, everything. I was waiting for the rolling boulder to come flatten him. It was disgusting.
Bonus points, though, for using Richard O'Brien as a Guildmaster or some kind of riff-raff. He gets to invite Ridley to try his luck at the maze, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh. See, O'Brien hosted The Crystal Maze a few years back, which was the coolest game show I've ever seen come out of Britain. Ah ha! Clever, see. I also enjoyed Tom Baker's role as Doctor Elf. It's nice to see him get work, and he performed admirably considering the crappy dialogue he and the others had been given. Those two roles right there were inspired bits of casting in an otherwise uninspired movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Anyway, the scuffle for the map in the bar (girly girl mage on her hands and knees trying to grab at the map which keeps getting kicked out of her way) was totally ripped off from the opening scuffle in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. So it goes.
The film had a lot of potential, but decided not to live up to it. The budget was wasted on swoopy establishing camera shots of CG towers and spires and minarets, and some dragon animation, which would've been state-of-the-art in 1996 but now looked rather dated and artificial. At one point Queen Wannamidala hops on the back of a dragon and rides around, though we never really see her on the back of one. We see her up-close in the saddle, and we see a dragon flying in the midst of zillions with what appears to be a bright light on its back, but never a real combination of actress and dragon. Similarly, the scene in which she summons all her friend dragons seems to have been left on the cutting room floor - all we get is Jeremy Irons growling "The Empress has summoned her gold dragons!" and then tapdancing or something. So much for exposition.
The ending was complete crap. The biggest, most major storyline in the entire film is wrapped up in a goddamned voiceover. Then something happens and our heroes turn into little sparkles of light and fly away yay fun whee. I stood up and went "What the HELL?!" but Petra, in her infinite wisdom, merely suggested "See, they all gained levels. And now they have to go and revise their character sheets. And they probably have to go home cause it's a school night but they'll be gaming again tomorrow."
I liked the dwarf, though.