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Dungeons & Dragons (2000) review


Twitter Plot Summary: The role-playing game gets the cinematic treatment, and everybody wishes it had never existed.

Kids of the 1980s will be well aware of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon where a group of kids are given an array of special powers by the Dungeon Master, with each of their skills an attribute from Gary Gygax’s original role-playing tabletop game. The cartoon, which much like almost all other cartoons from that era is sadly lacking in story or character development, was still a lot of fun for its time and is entirely of its time. The same could be said of this travesty of a film,  an adaptation that not only spits on the original concept but stabs it in the back, rolls it up in a rug, sets fire to it and then throws it off a cliff.

Jeremy Irons overacts for all he is worth as grand mage Profion, while a man with blue lips (a half exasperated Bruce Payne) follows him around everywhere. They plot, they scheme, they try and control some very badly animated dragons. You know, standard villainy. There’s a great scene where Payne has to gurn and grimace as he is impregnated by a slithery, computer generated creature as penance for his incompetence. In this one scene alone he almost achieves the same level of cheese as Irons does throughout the whole film. Seriously, Irons seems to only be here for the money and, if the behind the scenes footage is anything to go by, this role was a soul destroying experience. We feel your pain, Jeremy.

The plot somehow manages to pull together a myriad group of people in order to stop him, including a mage (Zoe McLellan), a dwarf (Lee Arenberg), a thief (Justin Whalin, the once and former Jimmy Olsen) his friend (a fractionally irritating Marlon Wayans) and an elf (Kristen Wilson), and to support this world’s force for good, a scarily young looking Thora Birch as Empress Savina – for all intents and purposes nothing more than a sub-par Queen Amidala.

The score is often overpowering, but at least it does a better job than many of the performances and special effects. To complain much about this would be futile however – the music drowns out much of the final, climactic and heavily computer generated battle. If they had turned the music down we would have had to have put up with yet more atrocious dialogue.

Jeremy Iron's super-exaggerated acting was met with bewildered expressions.
Jeremy Iron’s super-exaggerated acting was met with bewildered expressions.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that the old man who sets all of is off is seeking the Rod of Savrille – just one letter away from events having a rather unfortunate Operation Yewtree vibe – that could have easily become a very awkward situation.

There’s only two good points to speak of, and they are a brace of cameos from Richard O’Brien and Tom Baker. Not only is he a fun presence, he also riffs on his past as the host of The Crystal Maze by making Ridley run a maze in order to retrieve a red diamond. Just as you start warming to this, he’s out of the story and we’re back to the main quest. For better or for worse. Tom Baker, formerly known as the Fourth Doctor, has a similar cameo and treats his 2 minutes of screen time as if he’s performing Shakespeare. He’s great, but is deserving of a far better film.

This is just one more example of a film made by people who lack any understanding of what drew fans to the original tabletop game in the first place, giving everything a Hollywood feel and approaching it from completely the wrong angle. Treating fantasy as a whimsical, lighthearted romp can work if done right and/or well. This film is neither.

Score: 1/5

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