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Dungeons and Dragons
DVD disk
10.09.2004 By: Dr. Drew
Dungeons and Dragons order
Director:
Courtney Solomon

Actors:
Justin Whalin
Marlon Wayans
Zoe McLellan

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When this movie debuted in theatres a few months back, it left me scratching my head. Given the recent success of the internet, video games and Pokemon, why would anybody want to make a movie about Dungeons & Dragons? Sure, I’ve got fond memories of playing the game when I was a little kid…but that was back in the 80’s! The role-playing epic, after a good twenty year wait, finally gets a movie adaptation and its recently released DVD features two commentary tracks, two "making of" documentaries and a crapload of deleted scenes.

An evil mage (Jeremy Irons) wants to overthrow the current reigning empress (Thora Birch) by stealing a magical rod which will allow him to control all of the red dragons in the kingdom. Unbeknownst to him, two thieves, a dwarf and an apprentice mage will become unlikely heroes as they try and intercept the rod before it falls into his evil clutches. The disc does feature two separate commentary tracks, one from director Courtney Solomon, actor Justin Whalin and Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson and another from Solomon (again!), Arneson (again!) and cinematographer Doug Milsome. The first one was a blast to listen to because the director and actor seem to genuinely like talking about the film, they laugh and giggle their way through the whole thing. Sharing filming anecdotes, we also learn that Marlon Wayans is a huge goofball on set and that the entire gang had a great time making the movie. The second one was far more mundane and for lack of a better term, boring. While Solomon is way too enthusiastic, Milsome is one monotonous guy who doesn’t make for a particularly entertaining track. The strange part about both tracks is the inclusion of Dave Arneson, who was recorded separately and speaks on both tracks but periodically jumps in and out. This annoyed the hell out of me because he would randomly come in and talk about something completely non-relevant to the movie and it killed the pace of both tracks.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
While this movie did manage to stay faithful to the game on which it’s based, it managed to fall short in every other possible category. The acting, from everyone involved, was unbelievably painful to watch. It’s littered with horribly bad dialogue, laughable one liners and if you’re into overacting, you’re in for a treat. Thora Birch and Jeremy Irons both look unbelievably out of place and during their moments, manage to either appear totally uninterested in their roles (Birch) or pump out more cheese and long winded speeches (Irons) then I would’ve hoped for. Marlon Wayans, sporting his usual ghetto slang, was another story altogether. Acting like his typical dumbass self, he sounded like he belonged in Brooklyn and not some far away mystical land. Why he was there in the first place is beyond me!

While I wasn’t big on the acting, the special effects drove me crazy. With the recent trend of Hollywood films to completely abuse CGI, this one gets a special prize for going completely overboard. The worst part is that the computer generated visuals weren’t even done properly, everything came off as either really fake or really cartoonish. From the buildings to the dragons, it was painfully obvious that things just weren’t real. It’s almost as if they were trying to give EPISODE ONE a run for their money. Speaking of which, maybe I’m out in left field on this one but the movie seemed to have all of these puzzling Star Wars “homages” as well. I noticed pseudo-stormtroopers, a Darth Vader-like character, a Chewbacca imitation (the Dwarf), royal palaces, a Cantina scene, a huge senate, an Emperor, young Queen, the Force (“Magic”) and ragtag group of travelers brought together to save the galaxy or in this case, kingdom. When you combine all of the above elements, you’ve got a pretty iffy movie which in my opinion, would be better suited for little children.
THE EXTRAS
A cool addition to the DVD is that you have to navigate a 3-part maze to access the special features, taken from a scene in the movie. If you’ve seen the flick, you’ll know which weapons or tools you need to make it through the traps. The disc manages to squeeze in 11 deleted scenes which run just a little over 20 minutes. While none of them were vital to the film, I loved watching the scenes which had incomplete CGI sequences. Watching characters talk to non-existing monsters was hilarious. A separate director’s commentary is also available for each segment. “Let the Games Begin” is a 15-minute look at the phenomenon behind Dungeons & Dragons, with interviews with the games creators and a short historical retrospective on its evolution.

“The Making Of” documentary included runs about 25 minutes and focuses on everything you’d expect from such a supplement, including interviews with cast and crew as well as behind the scenes and CGI footage. I kind of laughed when Solomon said he used the Star Wars approach to making his movie, he should’ve said “borrowing liberally” which would’ve been far more accurate. They also broke down a number of the more complicated special effects which was kind of cool. “Special Effects Deconstruction” continues where the documentary left off and outlines four separate scenes in a three stage progression, from early computer images to the final finished product. You can also use the multi-angle feature on your remote to switch between them. A theatrical trailer is also included. The DVD also includes some pretty nice animated menus, complete with full sound.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I really have to give credit to New Line Cinema for going all out on this one, despite the fact that the actual finished cinematic product sucks the proverbial big one. Sure, Dungeons & Dragons is a piece of crap which would be better catered to young kids but they still put the effort in to slap together some pretty good documentaries, deleted scenes and commentary tracks. You can’t beat the value on this disc but given how the movie turned out, I’d recommend staying away from this one altogether.
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