Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale


Uwe Boll makes movies. This is beyond dispute as ample evidence for it has been offered up on several occasions. What is lacking is a sufficient explanation as to why he makes movies, or rather, why other men not involuntarily committed to an asylum read his scripts, put the necessary capital at his disposal to film them, distribute the results and then, contrary to all sense and decency, repeat all three steps of the process when experience should have made them wiser. I suppose that Uwe can no more be blamed for seizing the opportunity to make movies than Lyle Lovett can be blamed for seizing Julia Roberts in a lustful embrace of connubial bliss. But what does the other party get out of the arrangement?

I have heard that loopholes in German tax laws make it easy for someone so inclined to raise money for a movie. This may be true, but it still does not elucidate the conundrum. There are eighty million German citizens, give or take, the loopholes in the laws presumably apply equally to them all and yet the money finds its way specifically to Uwe’s projects and does so with regularity. A brief touch of the hand to a hot stove will so impress the careless cook that such an event becomes unlikely to repeat itself. Why, then, does viewing an Uwe Boll movie not provide the same sort of corrective to producers?

Dr. Boll, for so he demands to be addressed, has recently labored to produce In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. It does not differ from his other movies by so much that my critique of it, if we expunge the specific details, could not serve as a perfectly accurate appraisal of everything he has ever done. Every film from him is the same bewildering waste of time, as entertaining as a hippopotamus trying to dance ballet and for the same reasons. It is true that he does have some sense of story structure, but this is no more significant than remarking that the burger-flipper at the local fast food restaurant has some sense of the structure of the human body. Ask him to draw it and you will probably get a good representation of Uwe’s storytelling skills translated to visual art. He also manages to take some shots that one might see in a greater work, just as a foreign student, after his first English class, might grab a dictionary and scribble onto paper the words that he sees there. Missing is any indication that the soul and significance of the words are felt and understood, as well as any coherence between them. It is not that Uwe Boll is a bad director; the plain fact is that Uwe Boll is not a director at all. Yes, he directs movies, but this no more makes him a director than chewing on grass and wearing a bell would make me a cow.

Shall I summarize the plot? As best as I care to remember it was this: Evil orcs (called Krugs in the movie), attack a town, led by a traitor from within the walls of the king’s castle. Farmer, played by Jason Statham, loses his family either to death or enslavement and vows revenge while the king searches for warriors to swell the ranks of his army so that he may fight the Krugs. Hilarity ensues.

I found it amusing to reflect on some of the potentially controversial revisionist history implied by the movie. Of course it was an accident of incompetence much like the likeness of Abraham Lincoln is an accident of the wind pushing at the cumulus clouds, but for the imaginative mind it is there all the same. For instance, medieval farmers’ parents had homes in the suburbs on real estate overlooking the sea. Their wives properly moisturized their skin and conditioned their hair. Africans served as soldiers in medieval, European style armies – officers so as not to offend modern politically correct sensibilities but nothing too central to the story so as not to be intrusive. And of course, a theme whose like is repeated in most bad action movies: medieval farmers, with no other training than that they get from the time they spend with hoes and ploughs, are warriors of the most fearsome sort.

Apart from a good belly laugh, there is but one modestly valuable result of watching such a flick: filled as it is with actors of some name, the movie gives us a good chance to gauge the real ability of these actors based on how much of their dignity they lose by participating in this project. In other words, how many of them are simply extroverts with a little screen presence who have been getting by through the simple artifice of portraying themselves on screen, and how many are truly actors and to what degree? By this metric, we can say that John Rhys-Davies is an actor of no small ability. Burt Reynolds gets his hair mussed a touch but otherwise comes out alright. Jason Statham makes out OK, but his character is lifted from all the other movies he has done, the laconic and surly warrior which makes only small demands on the thespian. Kristanna Loken has a similarly undemanding role, escapes similarly unscathed but for the same reasons fails to impress. Ron Perlman could have done much worse; Matthew Lillard does. One feels a sympathetic embarrassment for Leelee Sobieskie and Claire Forlani.

But the most outstanding actor of them all, outstanding in the sense that he stands out, like a gigantic white-headed zit on the tip of a nose, is Ray Liotta. Ray Liotta is a great buffoon on stilts on roller blades. The effect of his acting is much the same as that of a bullfrog singing first tenor. I’m rather inclined to recommend it, actually, but only on those nights when the humdrum day has left one with an appetite for the other extreme, for something so absurd that the sheer weight of its ridiculousness balances the scales. In this respect, Ray Liotta is a tiny representation of the entire movie; the Boll actor par excellence.

However, it must be mentioned that In the Name of the King has perhaps the best closing credits in cinema history. This is not attributable to the relief that the end of the movie brings, nor to any inherent cleverness in the credits themselves, but rather to the three songs played during it. As a fan of European Heavy Metal, I was rather pleased to hear Blind Guardian and Hammerfall playing as the names of those who forgot to tell the editor they did not want credit for the movie passed by. Uwe Boll, in a feat as improbable as his fundraising, managed to keep me in the seat to the very end of the credits, much as if I had just finished my first viewing of Schindler’s List but, again like the fundraising, for entirely different reasons than one would normally expect.

Final Grade: D-

6 comments:

J.T. said...

Not sure what shocks me more, that you paid to see this in the theater (sounds like excellent Sci-fi channel fare for the future), or that the cast actually sounds relatively solid.

Hammerfall? Yes, please!

alison said...

so not only do people actually get these movies financed and made, relatively big-name actors are willing to be part of the cast?

Spirit of 73 said...

j.t.,

I don't make a steady diet of it, but once and a while it is amusing to descend into the bilge.

Asfor the cast, I'm going on the theory that they were in the mood for some slumming.

alison,

It's difficult to understand. Somehow, though, seeing the name actors up on the screen in the midst of such absurdity makes the whole affair more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Carry the Blesses Home, eh? Skalds and Shadows you say? Some HammerFall thrown in for good measure? Seems I need to apply for trash duty at the local AMC to get my fix of good music in these days!

Orion

Spirit of 73 said...

Orion,

Just don't go there looking for good cinema.

Dead Pan said...

I also enjoyed this much better than your Vantage Point review. =)