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Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath Of The Dragon God (2005)

After the total debacle that was the original D&D movie, a few years later it was announced that there would be a sequel. Most everyone said "Who? What? Where?" and most importantly, "How?" Turns out this was a made-for-Sci-Fi Channel sequel, one that would establish new characters, have a new director, a new crew, and a new hope. Unfortunately, Episode IV this wasn't, and it may take us another two movies to get to a point of hope.

The movie starts off bad right away, I mean during the opening credits! A little lava Gollum wannabe—er, I mean, golem, runs at the camera and goes "blah!" in such a voice I couldn’t help but laugh. In moviemaking (and editing), the first emotion evoked is generally the clue for the audience to tune themselves into that kind of movie. Make ‘em laugh if you want ‘em to laugh throughout the show. Do not follow the first evocation of a this-is-bad-laughter with attempted dramatic acting through exposition spoken by Destro Blue Lips from the first movie!!! Exposition in fantasy is one of the hardest things for any audience to take seriously as it is. But good acting by Destro? Worst of all, he’s the one thing from the first film that survived, indeed, a movie we are trying to forget! The movie cut it’s throat before the opening credits were done.

Our hero is Hawk The Slayer Jr. He’s kinda likeable, but then he goes and wastes 5 minutes of precious screen time with a character who disappears for the rest of the movie, but who is somehow supposed to be considered important. That 5 minutes could have been much better spent on the journey leading to the next scene, the cave, to build suspense. That ride through the country could have had gnarled wood signs like "Troll country" and "Beware of Goblins", and "Bad movie ahead! Beware!"

The plot gets moving soon, the party is assembled in a pretty good fashion, and the references to the broader D&D multiverse are a nice touch. The movie seems to be making much better speed—ooops, fell back into the quagmire of mediocrity. There should have been signs warning about Destro’s BDSM habits. I’m not kidding. This scene is one that truly horrified me. Forget goblins, zombies and liches. If you want to feel real horror, all you need is a close-up of Blue Lips having an orgasm while a half-orc pumps drow-blood into his black leather-bound butt. Get me some o’ that! You know this movie is beyond salvation.

Or is it? Heroes always face times that look bleak and where darkness is sure to reign supreme! What about their journey, then? Well, they come to the goblin village. The huts-on-stilts variety. You know, where the camera can show a wide-shot of the chieftain’s hut, eight feet above a level ground, where nothing is visible, and which after they enter somehow has 4’ tall spikes and a treasure chest under the floor—why couldn’t they see this from outside, where these things would have been at eye-level?

And why, why, why are torches on the walls of the ancient sacred library? Oh, but the torches are near the door, and we’ve just entered this room of utter stupidity! Let’s go in and take a peek at higher learning, shall we? Here you have the archmages, the wisest old farts around, pouring through ancient tomes and scrolls—perhaps they were looking for a better script—and you have heroboy’s love interest, a lesser mage, conjuring a fire elemental, right in the middle of the library where all the precious secrets are stored on parchment! In case it was not yet apparent to the audience that Homer J. Simpson was directing this movie, the head archmage gets a dialogue scene to explain, very clearly I might add, that such elementals of fire are dangerous and wild and difficult to control. Then he goes on about his business. If he was a double-agent wanting the heroes to fail, maybe this would explain his actions, but it certainly wouldn’t explain the apathy and ignorance of everyone else in earshot. So, is it really a surprise when the fire elemental hops out of the brazier and starts setting shit on fire? And yes, it’s the same dude from the opening credits that goes "blah!" Gollum Wannabe Jr. dances around and leaves a wake of fiery liquid shit behind him, as well as a bunch of so-called wise men and magicians who are surprised that the notoriously-difficult-to-control fire element rampaged around their library of wonderfully dry and flammible books. And worse, we, the audience, are expected to feel sorrow for these dumbasses. It's hard to get behind your good guys when they're dumb as a bag of hammers. One bag. One hammer for each "wise man".

Let’s race to the end, to avoid tons of fiddling with ancient statues that look brand new, crawling through dungeons populated by bad CGI, and having many good laughs at scenes intended to be dramatic. But wait, let’s stop, like the party, at the glowing tiles on the floor! A nifty trap, which fries anyone crossing it. Cool. But then, our magician brings out a cute little birdie, which she takes the screen time to tell us has been a lifetime friend, one she cares about so much she just let’s it fly to its doom and get fried. And then she doesn't seem to care. So, is she just a cold-hearted bitch? Did she lie? Was her sentimental speech just an attempt to curry the DM's favor with some clonky role-playing? What the fuck is going on? And, um, wouldn’t it have been better to just toss a rock or a gold coin into the trap zone first, like all us D&D players have been doing for thirty years? Characters in a D&D world may be played by modern-day teenagers (in body or in mental age), but in their world they should be as wise as they are strong, and not do stupid shit like this!

Moving on to the climax, when Destro is making a run for it, the barbarian babe gets him down on the ground! And hey, wow! Destro is finally showing some real emotion! Perhaps it’s because we’ve already established that he likes half-orc and drow up the ass, and the thought of the sexiest woman alive pinning him down might force upon him some sort of "alignment change". But no, he’s actually scared because the barbarian babe is ready to knife him, and struggling with her temper. But not to fear, for Hawk Jr. is soon on the scene, and explains how they cannot afford to kill Destro for various not-yet-given-enough-exposition reasons. All that boring exposition and we still don't know why we can't kill our main villain? WTF? So anyway, the babe backs down because it will advance "the plot". Destro is relieved—in more ways than one—because Hawk Jr. takes the babe’s dom position and threatens him with the knife in the exact same fucking way that he just explained they cannot do! Maybe Hawk Jr. just wanted the XP all to himself. Maybe Destro smiled because he finally has a man on top of him. Maybe he listened to Hawk Jr. and knows he’s bluffing. Or is he? Our heroes have proven to be remarkably stupid thus far, so maybe Hawk Jr. will let it all go to crap (in more ways than one).

Well, certainly the legacy of D&D went to crap with this movie and its worse predecessor. These movies use the name of "Dungeons & Dragons" like Joel Schumacher did with "Batman & Robin"—cartoony, limp and lame. What we need and what could easily be done, given D&D’s dark, rich legacy, is closer to what Christopher Nolan did with "Batman Begins". Imagine, walking into a theater, and seeing a teaser poster that is the cover art for the 1st Edition "Dungeon Master’s Guide", the guy in the green robes closing the massive doors, and on top, the classic D&D logo, and at the bottom, a simple date. Tell me you wouldn’t fill your pants with expectations for one helluva unique movie!


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