There is a place in the world for bad movies. Whether its the hammy acting, cheesy special effects, or an uninspired plot, the terrible movie can draw you in and make you laugh when you are supposed to be crying and cry when you are supposed to be laughing. Unfortunately, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007), a C-grade fantasy movie starring Jason Stratham, is not that movie. The movie is a tie-in to the PC game Dungeon Siege (2002), a fantasy role-playing game released by Gas Powered Games, and is one of the most generic movies I’ve ever seen.
The movie follows the adventure of Farmer, a farmer (who knew?) living the simple life with his wife and child. However, when the krug (orcs) attack the nearby town of Stonebridge and haul away the townsfolk, Farmer finds it in himself to go help them. Rather than, you know, join the king’s army provide a united front, Farmer and his sidekicks strike out on their own adventure.
Hijinks ensue. Along the way to saving the day (spoiler alert!), Farmer beats up hundreds of krug, finds some dryads, joins the army, and learns the terrifyingly predictable truth about his past.
I can accept that the acting is half-assed and the dialog is mostly hilarious (“Why do you call daddy ‘Farmer?’ Doesn’t he have a name?” / “Your father believes people become what they do.”). I understand that you don’t pick up this movie for the plot or the acting, but rather for the adventure and action sequences.
What drives me nuts is that the fight scenes are all just so… bad. Combatants don’t ever die in a spectacular fashion and the choreography gets old after the first few swipes of Farmer’s curved sword. Farmer’s most unique trait as a fantasy hero, his specialty boomerang skills, is introduced in the first scenes and then forgotten by the second half.
Perhaps I have been spoiled with Lord of the Rings, but the battles just didn’t feel epic at all. They do have krug-a-pults that launch flaming krug into the imperial battle lines. Probably the best fight scene was a duel between Duke Fallow (Matthew Lilliard) and Commander Tarish (Brian White). Tarish is a seasoned soldier and Fallow is the spoiled nephew of the king, who fights his opponent more with words than with his sword. The only other memorable fight scene is another duel between two magi, who strike and parry with magically-animated swords. The large scale, imperial soldier versus krug army battles are unremarkable and easily forgettable.
Among all of the characters in the film, Lilliard steals the show as Duke Fallow; he is introduced sitting at the king’s dinner table scarfing down a rather large leg of chicken, grease pouring from his ill-chosen facial hair. He is truly a character that I loved to hate, and his performance works because he doesn’t take it too seriously. The rest of the supporting cast, especially duty-bound Commander Tarish and the mage Muriella, are equally likable and performed so well that I found myself more invested in them than in Farmer himself, who is nothing more than a two-dimensional caricature of a “good person.”
While I have a copy of Dungeon Siege and have played through it before, I can’t say much about the game so it must not have been particularly memorable. I think that I will have to go and replay that one, so that I can more thoroughly judge its relation to this movie. I do remember the town of Stonebridge and the player’s role as a introductory role as a farmer. Apart from that, I do not think that the movie followed the plot of the game (or fit into the game’s world, for that matter).
One thing that I did notice in the film is that Farmer is only able to overcome the final boss with the help of three women: a dryad, his wife, and a mage. The rest of the male characters are involved in the battle elsewhere, but these three women are essential to the climax of the story, something which is quite unique in the fantasy genre, both in film and in video games. Despite the assistance of these female characters, it is still Farmer deals the final blow.
What drives me nuts about this movie is that the fantasy world, Ehb, is completely bland; everything is completely generic and tired. Nothing, if anything, in the movie made me say, “Wow, I’ve never seen that before!” The only thing missing from this utterly bland world is a badly-animated CG dragon. It’s as though the movie was trying to be a fantasy movie, rather than just trying to be a movie that happened to have fantastic elements. It ended up being just bad enough to be disappointing, but not so tremendously awful that I would want to watch it again to make fun of it.
P.S. On top of all of this, there isn’t any sieging of dungeons in the film. The only characters that find themselves locked away in a dungeon break themselves out. Come on now, where’s my good old dungeon crawl?