Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW
Starring: Jason Statham (Farmer), Ray Liotta (Gallian), Burt Reynolds (King Konreid), Leelee Sobieski (Muriella), John Rhys-Davies (Merick), Ron Perlman (Norick), Matthew Lillard (Duke Fallow)
Story by: Jason Rappaport, Dan Stroncak & Doug Taylor
Screenplay by: Doug Taylor
Directed by: Uwe Boll
Rise and Fight.
It took me six sittings to get through this film. Six. It wasn’t the 162-minute length that solely contributed to splitting this film up into pieces. It was all me and my decision to stop caring about this movie within the first 20 minutes. I’ve told myself many times not to get too involved with my opinions about the content of movies I review; critiquing the audio and video has been more my forte. But this incompetent film, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, has struck me with such apprehension, I just feel the need to say something about it, and then some.
The plot of this fantasy film, based on the old video game Dungeon Siege is thankfully not too elaborate. It follows a man named Farmer (named that because he’s good at farming) who is determined avenge his son’s death and rescue his kidnapped wife from the Krugs, a goblin-like race of creatures wrecking havoc on the old lands of a peaceful country ruled by King Konreid. One of the king’s Magi, Gallian, who desires to rule the land, has revived the Krugs and sent them sacking villages and taking prisoners back to the dungeon. Why there? I’m not so sure. I don’t think we ever know of their plan. With two friends close by, they encounter forest ladies (reeking of elves) who do not like their wars and will kick them out of the forest. They swing from vines, and while it’s intended to appear graceful, the imagery more like staged acrobats. Moving along, we know king’s nephew wants the throne; the king’s “good” Magi's daughter is secretly in love with Gallian while Gallian is using her to spread his evils across the land. All of this ends up in Farmer’s lap as he gets closer to his destination, and finds a change in destiny when an all-out war on the Krugs will be pursued.
Maybe the story had potential, but the way it was executed from start to finish was all wrong. The opening scene with Gallian and Muriella was portrayed in a way I felt should have been a quarter of the way through the film. Cut to Farmer on his field, and we’ve got a film that is starting to awfully feel like a Lord of the Rings rip-off. A big pet peeve from the beginning is that none of the characters have similar language accents. It’s disregarded and hearing British, American and who knows what else is aggravating to hear, not to mention the inconsistency of the sort of language and word use the characters use. An advising linguist could have greatly helped here, and if there was one I say they suck at their job. When modern phrases, themes, and words are mixed with a bit of old English here and there, and each character talks as if they are from a different part of the planet, it’s messed and I tune out.
Please, let me rant further. The Krugs are about as characterless as characterless can be. They don’t have personalities like what we’ve seen in the Lord of the Rings with orcs and goblins. We barely see their ugly faces since the camera almost never shows it. They grunt and sound like men behind a rubber mask, and they move around so clumsily that I can’t help to just think they are men in a big fat costume for a movie (you should see how silly they look when in a sling shot or catapult). Pssshhhewwww…there goes the film’s fantasy element out the window when an evil character can’t even feel threatening during the first attack on Farmer. Oh, and Statham’s Transporter-style martial arts kicking on these creatures just does not work in this movie. At least they didn't make these creatures with CGI, because the CGI in general isn't that great.
We are also introduced to the king, who is sitting in his chair like a cool cat, dressed and dolled up in furs. Burt Reynolds (a fellow Phi Delt) doesn’t look like he’s serious in his role, and he’s being conned by his nephew played by Matthew Lillard who, despite of a worthy performance, looks more like a blinged-up spoiled college student. That’s all in the first 15 minutes or so. Another 150 to go? Eeek. Liotta tries in his role as an evil Magi but the bad dialogue reduces his performance to something of what I expect from a made-for-tv film. Take for example this line, while trying to sound sinister: “I’m beyond mercy. I’m beyond good and bad. These are childish ideas. I’m changing the structures of the world.” Odd dialogue, amusement park music, and the fantasy elements just don’t come together. Not to mention the battle ending felt like a rip-off of the climax of The Two Towers, rain and all.
The film cheapened John Rhys-Davies as an actor, and the only one who I felt sorry for was Leelee Sobieski. She actually appeared genuine. She looked like she tried her best. Her appearance suits this sort of film and I think she may have more promise in this genre. Just get her a good script. The best part of this disc? The music in the main menu. Simple, but awesome. It sent a little chill down my spine when I first heard it and it actually fooled me into thinking this was going to be a good movie. Why didn’t the rest of the film have music like this?
And who is this director Uwe Boll, anyway? This is the first I’ve heard of him or watched any of his films. When listening to his commentary (which is cut short by 20 minutes near the end), he actually makes a plea to viewers to go out and buy all of his films, go to imdb.com and rate this film ten stars. Not a chance, bud! He claims there are thousands of people who are trashing him on the internet and he doesn’t deserve it. While his character shouldn’t be trashed, if In the Name of the King is any indication of what his other films are like, you can bet I’ll pass on the rest of them.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3.5/5
Lean out your window, golden hair. That old Syd Barrett song, Golden Hair, based on a James Joyce poem, kept lingering in my head as I watched this film. Why? For no other reason than that the film looked golden. Gold, gold, as far as the eye can see. Oh! How I wish the grass were green. Crank up the gold! someone said. ‘We’re going with the arteficial look instead.’ That must have been the song of post-production, because for only a brief scene during chapter 14 when the characters are waking up in the forest, do we actually see a natural colour palette. It’s all so golden that it’s as if King Midas was tweaking the final look. It’s an “artistic” trend in finalizing the look of the film and I hate it – plain and simple. I just looks like hell, sun burnt and sent to the fires. It’s accompanied by blown out whites where there is never a trace of blue or clouds in the sky – just clipped whites with no natural detail at all. I’ve heard skies are tough to replicate on film without looking too fake, but don’t kill it either. As a result, the image doesn't have the detail that it deserves as depth of field seems compromised. The image, partly because of its blown out look, appears airbrushed and smoothed over. No obtrusive edge enhancement has crept in here to compensate. If it did, it would look worse. Grain is sometimes apparent and then in many other scenes it's completely absent as if it has been wiped away. Black levels are deep and shadow detail is wanting. Many scenes suffer from too much image contrast created with these extreme blacks and whites. It's effect is much like watching a video display with video gamma set too high (it's hard if not impossible to see detail in darker objects when a lot of bright white is present).
AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5
This 5.1 audio soundtrack is encoded in DTS-HDMA. The biggest downer was the dialogue. It didn’t always match; it was not always integrated in the environment. Too much speaker, too little “space”. The rest of the sound is alright but nothing spectacular. There is a well-recorded orchestra score; there is good integration of effects. Dynamic range is not bad but the loudness of different sound elements came across as a bit linear when I thought it should have had more range between each. There is some good sidewall imaging at times although there is a fairly large hole in the center of the surround track. Back channels are used and can be engaging, but this film still tilts a bit of favour to the front.
TACTILE FUN!!: 2/5
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
The LFE gives a few thumps and rumbles throughout occasionally adding to the effect. But again, I just didn’t care about the film so nothing could have got me more engaged.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 1.5/5
Inserting the disc will force you to watch trailers unless you skip them (Behind Enemy Lines: Axis of Evil/Columbia, Max Payne, Taken). (Pssst - Hey Fox: Many Warner Bros. titles just start the movie immediately when putting the disc in the player. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink) When you get to the main menu and navigate to the special features, you can select an audio commentary by director Uwe Boll. He does his best to describe as much of the film as possible, and takes the occasional break to let in his dogs. There are about 10 minutes of deleted and extended scenes (SD, 16:9 and in a 1.78:1 ratio rather than 2.35:1). I watched them, but I really couldn’t pick out what was new.
In addition to the above, there is a 10 minute Making of which is a compilation of some behind the scenes footage. No narration, no intended order, just a bit of insight of life behind the camera. We also get a trailer for The Happening because a trailer for In the Name of the King just wouldn’t make any sense on this disc.
IN THE END...
I’d hate to start the New Year off with such a depressing review, but at 162 minutes, this film didn’t drag, it’s just BAD. While I’m sure all involved had high hopes for this fantasy film, those hopes will always remain a fantasy. Stratham should stick to modern-day action, Sobieski should keep up her good work, and Fox needs a better fantasy film under their belt. Was the 35-minute shorter theatrical version a better film? I haven’t seen it and I can’t say, but my guess is probably not. I can’t see the problems being corrected by slick editing. It’s the film’s visionaries that couldn’t keep it together and make an entertaining product.
January 01, 2009.