aka Dungeons & Dragons The Elemental Might and Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
Courtney Solomon’s Dungeons & Dragons was such a disaster that all hopes of a big-screen franchise based on the role-playing game were scuttled at once – but name recognition means something, so here’s a UK-Lithuania-produced sequel with only Bruce Payne returning (to a story set a hundred years on) and former cinematographer Gerry Lively co-writing (with Robert Kimmel) and directing.
Damodar (Payne), undead and evil, is threating the kingdom of Ismir with the usual dire fate and the good guys need to visit someone’s tomb to get a clue to the location of something else needed to defeat him. A knot of adventurers are assembled and packed off on a quest to battle the odd CGI creature and have tiny soap opera moments before returning sharp-ish with the mcguffin to mix it with Damodar’s army of evilness. The only unusual touch is that the hero, Berek (Mark Dymond), is not an immature youth who has to learn wisdom along the way but a semi-retired swordsman who’s settled down with a sorceress (Clemency Burton-Hill) and worries that he doesn’t have the combat moves any more. Otherwise, the adventurers come from stock and are played by non-name types who must have been fifteenth choice – Lux (Ellie Chidzley), a tattooed warrior woman who worries that she’ll go berserker at the wrong moment; Nim (Tim Stern), a small thief who can’t quite stretch to comedy relief; Dorian (Steven Elder), a supposed holy man who gets creamed early because there’s nothing much else he can do apart from be sanctimonious; and Ormaline (Lucy Gaskell), an elf sorceress (okay, ‘mage’) who doesn’t get many lines but does lose her arm (and her dove best friend, who gets electrocuted testing a booby-trapped dungeon floor).
Aside from Payne, who snarls and sneers like a trouper (‘give me my orb!’), the underwhelming baddies include Klaxx the Lich (Aurimas Miliesius), a zombie-faced double-crosser who lives in or near a tree, and the inevitable traitor at court. Only Roy Marsden has anything like character acting weight – all the higher-paid hacks had decamped to Eragon. While the five heroes are off adventuring, Mrs Berek (which I can’t help but hear as Berwick) and wise folks are poring over manuscripts – and she’s suffering from a curse that makes her rot like a zombie, adding to the pressure on her husband to ghet the job done. The CGI dragons include one mildly impressive specimen who breathes ice (for a change), but the standard of effects is well down to SciFi Channel knock-offs. At the end, Damodar isn’t killed – just clapped in a dungeon in the hope of a third entry. Admittedly, what do you expect from a movie based on a franchise which prides itself on being entirely generic? I’m given to understand — like I give, say, an orb — the makers of this pored over more manuals than Solomon did, and included name-checks for ‘significant’ D&D locales and mythology.