In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
Note: Though not in any way a horror film, the fact its already on the site and at the request of Fearless Leader, I'm posting the review.
In all brute and total honesty, I really did like In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Dungeon Siege is certainly the best fantasy film since Lord of the Rings and Narnia. We've had a big budget Star Wars rip-off with Eragon, a complete by the numbers bore-fest with The Seeker…the time of fantasy and sword movies ain't really been that good lately.
Uwe Boll has improved in some areas with his films since House of the Dead, not improved in others (casting one note actors Michael Madsen and Michelle Rodriquez in BloodRayne) and I can say that Dungeon Siege is his most competent and most mature film. Though I do recognize even if one strikes his name and gave an audience the film, more than likely they will say its an entertaining film then you inform them it's a Uwe Boll movie, they might still say they enjoyed it until they got their hands on the computer and went back to the rather senseless (and by now very annoying) Boll-Bashing.
I've never really understood this whole thing about Bashing Boll. Calling someone a bad filmmaker and discussing why they are bad, I can understand. But just name calling, saying they suck (when you have never met them) and everything their films suck (without saying why), I can't understand. By now, I've just become sick and tired of Boll-Bashing as by this point it's just become redundant. No wonder why Boll decided to take a few critics into the ring. But this is not about the Bashaverse around Boll, but the film itself…something that most "reviews" of his films tend to forget.
Dungeon Siege is a very simple, straight-forward story about a simple man named Farmer living with his wife and son. One day his wife is abducted, his son and village slaughtered at the hands of animalistic humanoid creatures known as Krugs. Farmer sets out to rescue his wife as the King gathers his forces to do battle with the Krugs, who are being controlled by the evil mage Gallian.
From a script standpoint, Dungeon is nothing we haven't seen before in a fantasy. Man leading a simple life is thrust into a chaotic world after his life is destroyed. A lot of people have compared this to Lord of the Rings, well quite simply most fantasy either has this basic one-line starter of the film or someone from a humble background must rise to battle a great threat in order to save the world. Also, these tales have been told for centuries…way before Tolkien penned his masterpiece. All the stories have been told, pure and simple; it's just the way you tell it. Dungeon's screenplay is simple, straightforward; you got the damsel in distress, treacherous relative of the King, a wise wizard, evil wizard, a man who must battle evil to save the woman he loves. It is what it is; it doesn't try to be anything more or anything less.
Dungeon Siege is Boll's biggest budget (roughly $60-$70million) yet and his big epic film. Originally planned to be broken up into two segments and released about a month apart, this was decided against and the film was combined into a two hour film. The film moves at a steady pace for the most part, though it feels slightly overlong as the third act does feel a bit rushed and there are some slow scenes that could have been sped up slightly or a few moments could have been trimmed.
Pacing issues aside, the film is a fun fantasy/action film. There is some time spent in the opening of the film, setting up the characters and their surroundings before the Krug attack on Farmer's village his journey begins. Being a film about a journey, there is a lot of walking and horseback riding in the film, though these are usually shown starting then cut to a dialogue scene before cutting back to our characters reaching a destination or hitting another obstacle.
Boll shows a great amount of maturity with the camera and sets some beautiful landscape shots that shows the journey our heroes go through without jumping around too much or having pointless scene transitions. There is also the use of slow motion for the dramatic effect and unlike his other movies where it was slowed down to a crawl, the pace is cut down a few notches and so it does serve its purpose.
Boll does get good performances out of his actors and unlike the "sit on a throne for 89minutes and swordfight for 1minute" Ben Kingsley in BloodRayne, baddie Ray Liotta actually moves around and does more than just stand in his swirling pool of magic. By the same token Burt Reynolds (playing the King) actually rides around and gets a bit of sword action in the film. The dialogue scenes move smoothly along and there is a bit more relaxed feeling about them rather than the stiff deliveries and feel of previous Boll films.
The action scenes are the best parts of the film. The fight scenes are choreographed by famed Chinese action choreographer Siu-Tung Ching of House of Flying Daggers and Hero. So there is a unique feel of the fights with the very stylized, Asian sensibility to it instead of a more medieval sort of style. Being the Asian sword fight sensibility is a mix of hyper-real with the jumping, semi-flight of bouncing off opponents heads, and more aggressive sword maneuvers may grate on some folks as they might say "hey that can't happen!", well folks…guess what…it's a FANTASY. The Asian fighting style brings freshness to the table as it's something we haven't seen in Western fantasy films.
During the battles, Boll uses quite a bit of a swooping cameras and dolly shots, sweeping in over the action and watching as hundreds of extras duke it out below and sweeping through the battle and watching mini-fights breaking out does show a bit more technical intelligence on Boll's part. Unlike other fantasy films where the action is smoothly shown and with a fairly steady camera, there are some noticeable hand-held moments and there is a degree of a bit more roughness to the fights. The action is also hyper-edited, a bit too much to my liking, though it was quick, I was still able to tell what was occurring in the scenes.
When Dungeon Siege was announced there was not one site on the web that wasn't gaping over the cast Uwe Boll had assembled. Ray Liotta, Jason Statham, Claire Forlani, Matthew Lillard(!), Leelee Sobieski, Kristanna Loken Brian J. White, Will Sanderson, Ron Perlman, and John Rhys-Davies…needless to say it's a cast to gawk at. All of them do a fairly good job with the material they have and do bring some energy to the screen. Jason Statham is a fairly good leading man for action, I would like to see him do a bit more emotion as his previous film roles he has more than always played a tough guy.
Matthew Lillard, aka Shaggy from Scooby-Doo,can take the award for "Most over the Top Yet Enjoyable Performance of the Year" right now as I doubt there will be anyone else who can be so over the top and ridiculous will still being enjoyable. Ray Liotta is also a bit over the top in a few of his scenes though obviously revels in playing the bad magician. John Rhys-Davies delivers a solid performance as always, if it's a big budget or even a small budget Sci-Fi original picture, he is one actor who always does the best job that he can and doesn't turn on "paycheck acting" mode. Genre favorite Ron Perlman has a role in the film as Farmer's friend and like Rhys-Davies delivers on his performance and is obviously having fun with the role. Dungeon Siege can also forge new ground in fantasy as it's really the first I've seen to have someone who isn't white playing a central character with Brian J. White playing one of the kingdom's generals.
The creature design for the Krugs is a design that looks very pit bullish with huge teeth a mix of Dick Cheney (cheap shot I know) in it for good measure. Though they are men in suits, the suits are very well made and with the quick-cuts, it's hard to concentrate on them long enough to see the suits. Something I have never really discussed before in my reviews is costumes. The costumes and armor in Dungeon Siege are functional and look like the same sort of semi-European armor we have seen in other films. They don't look like they were bought at the local costume shop; instead they look professional and well made.
CGI plays a major role in the film, creating a lot of the landscapes as well as the magic, castles plus room/army extensions. The CGI is very well rendered and nicely done though there is a bit of sharpness in the compositing between the live action and the green screen. Though Boll wisely keeps the camera on these shots for a short as time as possible so it really doesn't sink in too much. The CGI magic is also well done and there is a nice little magic fight between Liotta and Rhys-Davies that is something a little more than what is usually expected.
The score by Jessica de Rooij and Hennig Lohner is very much a period orchestral piece that sets the moods of the scenes perfectly from the light to the action packed. A solid score that was a cut above what I was expecting.
Overall…my opinion of In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is simple. It's a movie that is what it is. It's a fantasy/action film that is a high cut above the rest of Uwe Boll's movies and his best film to date. It should be given a chance by fans of fantasy in my opinion, as it's a fun, entertaining fantasy film. Despite Boll's name on it, he has obviously shown a great leap in maturity with filmmaking. Will it go down as a great film? No. Is it however a movie that entertains? Yes. I enjoyed it and I am curious as to what was cut from the theatrical release as there is apparently another twenty minutes or so edited out to make it two hours. Good luck Uwe Boll, you're on the right track.