IN THE NAME OF THE KING
A Dungeon Siege Tale
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Jason Statham,
Leelee Sobieski, Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken,
Matthew Lillard, Brian White, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds
Director: Uwe Boll
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 127 Minutes
Release Date: April 15, 2008
ďYou have no idea how powerful madness can be.Ē
The above quote comes from the villain in the video game based medieval epic In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, but Iím convinced those exact words come from director Uwe Boll himself. Heís directed three straight video game based movies, each of which represented the highest form of cinematic ineptitude. Such film atrocities could only be committed by someone under the influence of pure madness.
Iíve had the misfortune to see only two of Bollís past movies; House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, the latter of which is simply one of the most god awful excuses for mainstream entertainment Iíve ever seen. And though Iím giving a low rating to In the Name of the King, it does represent something of an improvement for the director many feel is the Ed Wood of our generation. Actually, the more I think about it the more I believe that the one or two good things about this movie happened by accident.
The first and foremost positive thing about the movie is the simple presence of Jason Statham, who for me is one of the best action stars the genre has ever given us. If youíve happened to see any of director Bollís past movies (I pray that you havenít), then you are aware of Bollís knack for placing respectable actors in such unimaginably bad material that their careers end up scarred for life. Thatís not the case here with Statham, who is good here as always and wonít have any trouble bouncing back after this disaster, as no less than Transporter 3 and Crank 2 are both in the works.
However, if a one star rating from a somewhat fair and easy movie reviewer as myself is the best average a movie can get for a director four or five films into his career, something is still incredibly wrong. And itís also not a good thing if the most decent movie Uwe Boll has made is a direct rip off of Lord of the Rings in nearly every shot. True, the movie is based on the video game series called Dungeon Siege, but itís simply hard not to watch this film without thinking of Peter Jacksonís epic trilogy.
The story is set long ago in a kingdom far, far away. Statham plays a character named Farmer (Iím not making this up) who lives on a (all together, now) farm. His peaceful life is destroyed when an army of slimy armored creatures known as the Krug (which immediately echo Rings), invade the kingdom to slaughter everything and everyone. They manage to kill Farmerís son and abduct his wife, Solana (Claire Forlani).
Turns out the Krug are being controlled by an evil wizard named Gallian (Ray Liotta). For reasons that are never fully explained, Gallian is attempting to take over the entire kingdom. And Farmer, having buried his son, vows revenge against the forces of evil.
We are also introduced to King Konreid, played by Burt Reynolds of all people. Little does the king know that he has a spy in his castle, his nephew Duke Fallow (a scenery-chewing Matthew Lillard). Fallow has made some sort of bargain with Gallian for possession of the kingdomÖor something like that.
So the rest of the movie consist of Farmer joining the kingís army to battle the evil magical forces that plague the kingdom. Yes, magic and wizardry play a big role in the movie as well. You have the evil Gallian, and on the good side thereís Merick (John Rhys-Davies). Needless to say, you get a lot of scenes of wizards transporting from one spot to the next and battles by way of flying objects.
What keeps this movie from being a complete horrendous experience are a couple of battle scenes, which are actually very well done. A battle scene midway in the movie between the kingís army and the Krug is exciting and does give the feel of an epic battle. I didnít even mind the surprise appearance of ninjas in this sceneÖthatís how well done it is.
And aside from the ever-reliable Jason Statham, the film does manage to boast another impressive performance from Brian White as the kingís second in command, Commander Tarish. White delivers his lines with such intensity and authority that it amounts to a nice piece of acting, so good that it belongs in a better movie. White is an actor on the rise (you may remember him in The Family Stone) and I look forward to seeing him in another film soon.
But other than Statham and White, the rest of the questionably assembled cast is close to awful. Iíve long wondered how Uwe Boll, with his low reputation and all, is able to get quality actors to appear in his trashy films. Either Bollís a genius at blackmail or he was able to supply the likes of Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, Matthew Lillard and Ron Perlman and John Rhys-Davies with a bigger than usual pay salary. Other than those reasons, I canít imagine any talented actor wanting to go anywhere near this material. I will give Lillard credit for trying to have a little fun with his role.
From a filmmaking standpoint, In the Name of the King is a pure epic catastrophe. The film carries a murky look from beginning to end. The visual effects are nothing even close to special, and yet this movieís imdb includes what appear to be a billion effects artists and supervisors. Where exactly did all the effort go?
Whatís more, this movie will make you appreciate the fact that Oscars are given for editing and music score. The editing in this film is absolutely atrocious, as scenes seem to come in during the middle of others for no reason at all, making the movie even less coherent than it already was to begin with. I havenít seen a movie that insulted the art of film editing this much since Dragon Wars.
And I guess it seems that for every brilliant music score (There Will Be Blood), there exists one that is purely lifeless and never goes away. This film runs 2 hours and 7 minutes, and the music plagues every single sequence, draining the life out of the entire movie. Yes, even when characters chat about the most unimportant subjects, the overdone and overbearing score lingers in the background.
Remember Marlon Brandoís classic final words in Apocalypse Now? I canít find better words to describe In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. One thingís for sure, Uwe Boll needs to officially attend film school or simply have his filmmaking rights taken away. Judging by how critics and the moviegoing public have rejected his work, the latter may soon become a reality.
The movieís lackluster production isnít helped much by the low-grade video quality of this disc. Again, the disc I was supplied with is a screener copy from Fox, and the final product is certain to appear in a much better quality. In the meantime, this copy provides an anamorphic picture that is overloaded with compression and heavy pixelation.
As expected for a movie of this kind, the 5.1 mix does deliver in numerous areas. The battle sequences sound incredibly strong. And though that music score is one of the worst ever, I wonít fault the sound mix for doing an acceptable job with it in the presentation. Dialogue is well delivered, as well.
As much as I wouldíve liked to have heard a commentary or seen a documentary explaining how such talented people got involved with this mess, this Fox release saddles us with a ten minute behind the scenes featurette, with no narration or interviews, but just random footage with more of that aggravating music score in the background. There are also three Deleted/Extended Scenes, a Theatrical Trailer and several bonus previews.
Like I said, Iím one of the many begging Uwe Boll to stop making movies, especially if In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is the best movie we are going to get from him. Itís a pure mess of unusual proportions, which best describes anything with Bollís name attached to it.