Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Courtney Solomon

Stars: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenebrg, Bruce Payne, Richard O’Brien, Tom Baker, Edward Jewesbury, Robert Miano, Dave Arneson.

For twenty-five years, Dungeons & Dragons has been one of the most popular role-play fantasy games around, with legions of devoted fans and aficionados. It’s fantasy element and multitude of characters and situations obviously lend itself to a feature film. Unfortunately, the game’s creators have not done themselves, or their fans, any great favours with this shoddy and second-rate feature film adaptation. This disappointing film follows in the wake of other abysmal films based on popular video games or board games (Cluedo, Street Fighter, etc), and should have film makers looking elsewhere for inspiration.

Young first time director Courtney Solomon is a self-confessed fan of the game, and he spent some nine years in getting this film to the screen. Given the development time and the devotion of those involved in the production, one would have expected something a lot more convincing than this appalling film, which is of the standard one finds in the B-grade sword and sorcery epics of yesteryear. Five special effects companies worked on the elaborate fantasy sequences and digital effects, but it seems that there was very little money left over from the $36 million budget for script development.

Dungeons & Dragons is set in the mythical kingdom of Izmer, where magicians and wizards hold the balance of power in the assembly. But Profion (Jeremy Irons) is ambitious and has designs on usurping the young Empress Savina (Thora Birch, from American Beauty, etc). The key to holding power seems to lie in a mysterious sceptre which would give its possessor power over the legendary red dragons. Keen to thwart Profion’s scheme, Savina dispatches one of her most trusted aides, the elf Norda (Kirsten Wilson, from Doctor Dolittle, etc), to find the sceptre.

Also caught up in the hunt are Marina (Zoe McLellan), a trainee magician, and two thieves – Ridley (Justin Whalin, from the tv series Lois And Clark, etc) and Snails (Marlon Wayans, from Scary Movie, etc). Together they face danger and adventure throughout the kingdom as they seek the mysterious sceptre and try to save Izmer from destruction.

Dungeons & Dragons was shot on location in the Czech republic, where the grand castles, the beautiful ruins and the sprawling forests perfectly capture the spirit of this fantasy world. Only the most die hard of fans would be pleased with the banal scripting, the cliched dialogue and the one-dimensional characters on offer here. The cast deliver ham fisted performances that are embarrassingly clichéd and unconvincing. Former Dr Who Tom Baker contributes a meaningless cameo here as an elfin physician.

Most embarrassing of all is Irons, whose presence is probably intended to lend this film some gravity and credibility, in much the same way that Oscar winning veteran thespian Alec Guiness enriched Star Wars. However, his hamfisted, over the top grimaces and twitching eye brow raising as he utters some clichéd dialogue should have members of AMPAS demanding he return his Oscar forthwith.


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