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on 7 June 2009
Let's face it -- when you're making a sequel to one of the worst movies ever made, there are only so many ways you can get it wrong.
And "Dungeons and Dragons - Wrath of the Dragon God" is nowhere near that level -- it makes a genuine effort to be a passable fantasy-quest movie. Unfortunately it's too short to make the characters come alive, and the decent quest-for-magical-object-of-impending-doom comes completely unraveled in the last twenty minutes. Still, it's no "In the Name of the King."
Former knight Berek (Mark Dymond) and his mage wife Melora (Clemency Burton-Hill) learn that the dragon-god Falazure is waking in his mountain prison, where the ancient Turanian mages stuck him. This is because the evil Damodar has captured the orb that contains Falazure's power, and is waking the dragon to ruin the entire world. And he's turning Melora into a zombie (don't ask me how).
With only a matter of days before Falazure wakes, the king appoints Berek the head of a small team that follows the usual pattern -- the elf wizard Ormaline (Lucy Gaskell), berserker barbarian Lux (Ellie Chidzey), cleric Dorian (Steven Elder) and thief Nim (Tim Stern). They have to infiltrate Damodar's fortress of evilness and steal the orb -- but the only way to locate it is through bandits, a Lich, an ice-spewing dragon, lethal traps and so on and so forth...
I will admit that "Dungeons and Dragons - Wrath of the Dragon God" has open affection for D&D, and clearly is the work of a D&D fan -- lots of shout-outs and homages to places, people and situations that come from the role-playing games, among other things. It's kind of likable in its earnest attempt to, if not make an epic classic fantasy movie, then at least make a movie worth watching.
That said, the story itself is a mess. The first two-thirds are very slow, with spurts of awkward sword-fighting, cheeze-galore dialogue ("The forces of evil hear the call of the orb... they wait to pick the rotting dead carcass of Ismer!"), and random plot twists (let's escape ghosts on a RAFT!). The entire quest is a series of traps, tricks and near-disasters, usually handled via a tool or ability that the heroes didn't display five minutes ago.
And in the last stretch the plot completely unravels, leading to a climax with a lot of bad dragon-related CGI, dozens of artfully posed dead bodies, and a literal deus ex machina. In short, the entire plot feels like it was made up along the way -- especially since seemingly-important items (like the "smite" ring) don't serve any plot purpose at all.
The characters are a little better, mainly because the actors are clearly trying so hard -- especially the wonderfully dry-witted Stern and the wholehearted woman-warrior Chidzey, who sadly gets some of the worst dialogue ("Come, villainy. Death awaits you"). Unfortunately the characterization is spotty and localized (including a horribly strained "sorry I killed your brother and stuff" conversation).
The weirdest part is what happens to half the cast -- one expires early on doing something stupid, having had zero impact on the plot. And two others are left in critical condition and... that's it. We never hear about them again.
"Dungeons and Dragons- Wrath of the Dragon God" has the dubious honor of being a made-for-TV sequel better than its predecessor, and it's amusing in a kitschy turn-your-brain-off low-budget manner. But those hoping for solid characterization and plotting better check elsewhere.
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