If Lord of the Rings showed us how the fantasy genre can be done right, Dungeons and Dragons - Wrath of the Dragon God shows us how it can be done horribly wrong.
The straight to DVD movie is the sequel to 2000’s Dungeons and Dragons big budget film that also received lukewarm responses from fantasy lovers. This film suffers from a smaller budget, weaker script, and less-than-spectacular special effects.
At the same time, fans of the role-playing game may find the movie a step-up from the first film, due to its intense detail to the different aspects that have made the game a hit for more than 30 years.
This movie, which is set “centuries” after the first film, finds Bruce Payne returning to the role of Damodar (a henchman to Jeremy Irons in the first film) – now an undead sorcerer who plots to use a magic black orb in a quest for revenge on all the lands around him. Since this is a Dungeons and Dragons movie, a group of heroes is assembled and begin a quest to stop Damodar and return everything to right.
The group of adventurers (which pretty much cover every playing class in the game) consists of Berek (Mark Dymond) the fighter and leader of the group; Lux (Ellie Chidzey) the barbarian warrior; Nim (Tim Stern) the rogue; Dorian (Steven Elder) the cleric; Ormaline (Lucy Gaskell) the wizard and Elf of the group; and Melora (Clemency Burton-Hill) a wizard/cleric who stays behind to help discover the truth about Damodar.
The film does manage to capture the essences of the “adventure” that is in the game - as the group battles a variety of classic fantasy monsters including dragons, harpies, and an army of evil warriors who work for Payne.
The actors also work well in their roles and with the “classic” concept for a team of heroes. In the special features, they show how much detail from the game was put into the script of the movie, and how the actors learned about their characters and the “proper” way to portray them on screen – such as Gaskell learning how to properly hold her wizard’s staff and do the hand movements when casting a spell.
At the same time, this huge amount of detail may be lost on the average viewer, and doesn’t help the movie overcome its many weaker moments. The special effects are less than stellar and often come across as a cheap made-for-television movie. The plot is a bit chaotic and hard to follow at times. The pacing also slows at different parts as the characters rattle off lines that will interest diehard gamers, but fall flat on the average viewer.
Although Irons doesn’t make appearance in the sequel, Payne chews enough scenery to more than make up for Irons’ no-show. He manages to overact in almost every scene and comes across more annoying than villain. You want to root for the heroes to kill him not because he is evil, but because you simply want him to go away.
The DVD comes with two special features that will really interest fans of the game. The first is a detailed look at how the movie was made – including the tons of research that went into the script, the location scouting, the directing, and interviews with people involved in the Dungeons and Dragon games.
This behind the scenes look (a basic feature for most movies) adds to the movie because it fills in some of the gaps that you might miss just watching, and really shows how the movie was a labor of love for all those involved. It also shows how the actors learned to react to things that weren’t there (since many of the special effects were CGI).
The second feature, called “The Arc,” features a conversation with Gary Gygax (the creator of the Dungeons and Dragons game). This feature is really something gamers will enjoy and has Gygax going through each of the film’s characters and discussing how they filled the basic hero qualities needed for the part. He also discusses his thoughts on how he felt the actors did in the role, and how they managed to capture what was needed to pull off the part.
Overall, Dungeons and Dragons - Wrath of the Dragon God is not the type of fantasy movie that will leave fans drooling for more (there was talk of a trilogy before the first one bombed). While it has things to offer fans of the game, it is still a long way from being something that will entertain someone simply looking for a fun action movie with a fantasy twist.
Parts are down right dull, and other parts are just kind of dumb. Even for fans of the game, who have been hoping for a great adaptation to come to the screen, this movie falls way short – even with its massive attention to detail and praises from Gygax.