Mark Reviews Movies

IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE

½ Star (out of 4)

Director: Uwe Boll

Cast: Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Matthew Lillard, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense battle sequences)

Running Time: 2:04

Release Date: 1/11/08


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Review by Mark Dujsik

A man and a woman are lying in bed. They look into each other's eyes, and after a beat, the woman says, "I knew you'd come." This is the first scene of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and it's the first of a few moments worth a good laugh in director Uwe Boll's latest tax write-off—sorry, movie. I will give credit where credit is due: Boll is clearly a brilliant businessman. How he manages to continue to finance movies after a string of critical lashings and terrible box office returns is nothing short of genius.

The fact he convinces actors like John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, and Burt Reynolds to actually appear in them must take a fairly decent-sized check to dangle in front of them—sorry, fine pitch session to extol the virtues of his vision. What's shocking about In the Name of the King is that it starts out—apart from the opening line and the frantic, incomprehensible prologue—pretty harmlessly. For a while, Boll makes what is solely a poor imitation of The Lord of the Rings, but once Doug Taylor's script starts to expand the script from an adventure, it becomes downright intolerable.

The story starts in the kingdom of Gondor—sorry, Ebb. Muriella (Leelee Sobieski) is the daughter of the king's magus Merick (Rhys-Davies) and has been seduced by an evil magus Gallian (Liotta), who has been working to amass an army of Crunks. Or is it Crucks? No, wait, it's actually Krugs, which is a silly name but not nearly as silly as Crunks, I suppose. The Krugs are mindless creatures that Gallian controls. Meanwhile in the Shire—sorry, Stonebridge—a farmer named Farmer (Jason Statham) is enjoying a happy life with his wife Solana (Claire Forlani) and son Zeph (Colin Ford) until the Krugs invade, killing Farmer's son and capturing his wife.

Farmer goes off with his father figure Norick (Ron Perlman) and brother-in-law Bastian (Will Sanderson) to find his wife and avenge his son's death. In the kingdom of Ebb, King Konreid (Reynolds) is troubled by the Krugs, especially since, as one of the members of his court puts it, "They fight… with swords." His hedonistic nephew Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard) is in cahoots with Gallian in an attempt to usurp the throne. Meanwhile, Liotta and Matthew Lillard vie for the Ham and Cheese Award in each scene they have together.

It starts off a blatant rip off of Lord of the Rings, and there are times we wonder if Boll merely borrowed what remained of the sets from Weta Workshop. The appearance of Ebb is uncanny to that of Gondor, and an early scene of Gallian in an underground pit forming his army of Krugs is exactly the same as one in the trilogy. There are also elves in a forest, led by Elora (Kristanna Loken), who are pacifists (their Cirque du Soleil acrobatics in the woods are a dead giveaway) but decide pretty easily to join in the fight for no real reason.

Farmer and his band of adventurers happen upon the elves (or maybe they're nymphs or fairies, but neither Taylor nor Boll care enough to let us in), and they're captured and let go almost immediately. The movie is full of these types of near conflicts that don't amount to anything. The king is poisoned and cured soon after. Gallian steals some of the kingdom's army only to have them join back with the king before the battle. There's a pointless duel between Fallow and another soldier after the first battle is over. And so on.

The battles are particularly frustrating, because it's impossible to tell what's happening. The editing, inexplicable as it is, is only part of the problem; the rest of it is mere execution. Why do the king's ninjas hide in the trees and jump down before the fight starts, not doing anything until the army gets closer? Why do the Krugs burrow under the ground, pass the frontlines, and not make any discernable advance? And why the hell do a few Krugs get into catapults, set themselves on fire, and fling themselves at trees? This is the first battle, and there is a second, and possibly a third (Boll really has no sense of time or place), one.

It's all a bore, but there are a few moments of unintentional comedy that break up the vast tedium. Muriella and Gallian have yet another bedroom scene that's full of hilarious but unintended innuendo. Bastian responds to his sister's query, "Where's Zeph? Is he with our parents?" with a horribly sincere "Yes." And I can only concur with my colleague Dustin Putman that Reynolds, who otherwise slurs through his lines, left me choking back laughs for a good three minutes with his delivery of "What the hell does that mean?" His overly extended deathbed scene, in which the talk goes from advice to seaweed, is worse.

Gallian also calls himself "King of the Krugs," and a random girl says with perfect nonchalance, "We'll die here." I took too many notes, but there are too many strange, inept things going on during the over two hours of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale not to notice. It all boils down to this: Boll is back and as bad as ever.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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