Uwe Boll, the Doctor of German Literature and trash auteur, made his way onto the Best of list in 2009 with this video game adaptation. Boll has long been a favorite discussion topic amongst the Yakmala! flock, but In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is only one of two Boll films we’ve screened. The other has not been selected for Best of status.
So thrilled were we to see Jason Statham in a Boll flick, that a small group of us went to see it in a theater the day before a Yakmala! event. We anxiously awaited the DVD release and the opportunity to unleash it upon all the others. As I recall, it was the feature presentation at our first all fantasy Yakmala.
It was also a shoe-in for Best of that year.
Plot: In the land of Hyborea, or Middle-Earth, or Azeroth—I mean Ehb—lives a simple farmer named “Farmer.”(STATHAM!) He lives a good life raising radishes and turnips with his wife and son. OH BUT WAIT! Far away at the kingdom’s seat of power, a lone wizard, Henry Hill … er … Gallian (Ray Liotta) plots to overthrow the good King (Burt Reynolds?) and replace him with the King’s lousy nephew Fallow (Matthew Lillard). Gallian not only has magic at his command, but an army of Orcs ready to burn and pillage the countryside in order to spread the King’s resources thin.
So the Orcs—I’ve just been reminded that in this film, the Orcs are called “Krugs”—burn and pillage Farmer’s quiet village and Farmer unleashes his inner STATHAM!, easily killing every obstacle in his path. His victories come at the price of his wife being kidnapped and his son dying at the hands of a Black Rider. Oh, this time, there’s no special name for it. It’s a Black Rider. Also, the Riders are controlled directly by Gallian. This matters for some reason.
Following the attack, the King, his Captain, and his Mage(!) come to Farmer and ask him to enlist with them and fight the Krug incursion. He declines and instead assembles a small band consisting of his friend Norick (Ron Perlman!) and his wife’s brother to seek bloody revenge on the Krugs by marching to … um … a forest of Wood Lesbians.
The Wood Lesbians — er “Dryads” — lead them out of the forest and into a Krug camp where Norick is capture and Farmer’s brother is … um … I think he dies. No wait! He is also captured.
Farmer is taken to the Tree of Woe by one of the Black Riders, but is saved by the King’s Mage (John Rhys-Davies in another thankless role). He brings Farmer to the King and reveals that Farmer is, in fact, the King’s long lost son, heir to the throne of Gondor!
I mean Ehb.
Oh yeah, in the middle of all the Wood Lesbians and Krug camps, the King led a march against Fallow’s detachment of men and Krugs. The King fell to Fallow’s seventeenth attempt to hit him with an arrow.
The King dies and Fallow cheers as he believes he is now king. HOWEVER! The Mage announces that Prince Farmer is the rightful heir. As his first kingly duty, Farmer delivers this speech. “Tonight we nurse our wounds; bury our dead. Tomorrow: we march on Christwind Hold and gouge evil from its shell!”
So the next day, Farmer, the Mage, his daughter, and the leader of the Wood Lesbians break into Gallian’s castle while the rest of Farmer’s forces defend Helm’s Deep.
I’m not kidding.
While the main force of Ehb fights the Krugs, Farmer and his pals enter Christwind Hold, defeat Gallian and um … the movie abruptly stops there. The leader of the Wood Lesbians just leaves the film during the early part of the attack. Fallow is taken away, but never seems to pay for fatally wounding the King. There’s also a subplot about the Mage and his daughter that is just too silly to recount. Watch for the dumbest Orc, er “Krug,” ever filmed as he sets himself on fire and knocks himself into a tree!
Why is this Best of material? I firmly believe director Uwe Boll saw “The Two Towers” and believed he could make it for a tenth of what New Line spent. Unlike previous Boll efforts such as “House of the Dead,” I think he believed he was making a good fantasy film on a low budget. As I grew up with sword and sandal movies that often believed the same thing, I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate how ineptly Boll and most other low-rent fantasy films handle the material. At least in this film, there is a rare dedication in this picture and the line “gouge evil from its shell” is heartfelt. So much so, that Boll adds someone shouting “gouge evil!” in ADR.
This film is made bearable by the presence of STATHAM! It doesn’t matter what decade, planet, or heist might be happing, STATHAM! gives the situation his all. He never flinches at how ripped-off the whole thing looks. Also, he kills Orcs good.
I mean “Krugs.”
Dungeon Siege is also notable for being a film in which Matthew Lillard is not the most jarring part of the production. That honor goes to Ray Liotta. I kept waiting for the voice over to kick in and say, “Ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a Mage.” Lillard, for his part, looks like he stumbled onto the set from another movie, but Boll never bothered to correct the mistake. Lillard’s expressions make the movie a lot of fun to watch.
Liotta, meanwhile, came to the production with his own wardrobe and feel for the part, as this YouTube video demonstrates:
As with other Boll productions, one has to wonder how Burt Reynolds and John Rhys-Davies got roped into this. Yes, I know, Davies often appears in cut-rate fare like “Sabretooth,” and “Anaconda III,” but this seems like an extra indignity. Of course, playing the wizened Mage must be a part most British actors can perform in their sleep.
It goes something like this: exposition, world in danger, you must take the more difficult path, YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Oh, I could use my incredible powers to help you, but I won’t … because I’m a dick.
See, it’s easy to play a Mage.
As for Burt, it’s a little bit more of a mystery, but he definitely seems lost and confused throughout his performance. Perhaps Boll found the last of the drugs that appeared to keep the cast of “Bloodrayne” subdued.
One last thing: Boll’s Helm’s Deep sequence is a cornucopia of getting fantasy wrong. In the film, Gallian congers up a heavy rain storm to obscure the sun and allow the director to hide his production limitations. Beyond that, there’s a huge problem with the Krugs and the Ehb fighters all looking exactly alike. I’m not sure who’s fighting, who’s dying, or why. Occasionally, the clang of swords is peppered by the appearance of Ehb’s ninja brigade who do this neat-o jump/flip/slice trick that must’ve impressed Boll because he uses the footage repeatedly.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is probably the most inept, but watchable, fantasy film we’ve viewed at Yakmala. It panders and rip-offs as much as Eragon, but doesn’t feel as cynical. It’s also the best Boll picture. Unlike his previous work, it does not have extensive flashbacks. At least that is true in its theatrical version. There is 165 minute director’s cut that we have yet to watch.
If nothing else, the film gave us the rally cry, “Gouge Evil!” For that, we are eternally grateful.