The sequel to to the 2000 feature Dungeons and Dragons, Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, is a very different movie from its predecessor from what I remember. The DVD was recently released, and this old D&D player had a chance to review it.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen the original, but I remember it being campy and otherwise pretty poor. The only thing this “sequel” really has in common is the franchise name, and Damodar, who returns 100 years on in this sequel as a somewhat undead mage seeking retribution and power through an orb, which holds the power of a powerful dragon.
Bruce Payne returns in this role, but most of the other characters are filled out by newcomers – in fact, a number of them have not appeared in anything else, before or since.
After Damodar finds the orb, and Berek (Mark Dymond) and Melora (Clemency Burton-Hill) discover the secret of some ancient wizards, Berek leads a small band of adventurers to find the orb while Melora works with the Mages’ Council to figure out how to deal with it.
Berek’s group consists of some of the archetypical D&D characters: Berek is the fighter; Lux (Ellie Chidzey) the barbarian; Dorian (Steven Elder) the cleric; Ormaline (Lucy Gaskell), the mage (and elf); and Nim, the thief.
Alas, the lack of experienced actors does show, but not as badly as one might think. Probably the biggest problem was the lack of screen time some of these characters received – we really get no sense of them, what their motivations are, etc. – they are there to play the D&D role and that’s it.
Of the party, Min was probably the most believable in the role of rogue. Lux we get some backtory, but I had a bit of trouble believing her as a barbarian. Ormaline was supposedly looking for a challenge, yet she had looks of amazement when she cast her spells. And Dorian had a lot of potential I think, but he had the least amount of screen time.
Plot-wise, it seemed a typical D&D-type adventure. A small, rough party gets together to explore and defeat a foe. There were some holes that I perceived: The captain of the guard gets introduced in the beginning as if he has a major role to play, yet appears just once more in a rather ineffectual part – the screen time could have been used elsewhere. And when the party appears in Damodar’s lair, what happened to Ormaline? She falls in pain for no apparent reason. And the white dragon seemed to be there because there has to be dragons, right?
For the D&D fans, we do get a lot of bows to the game: Various references to situations from game modules are mentioned (such as the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa), and even to some of the rules, such as Ormaline having only prepared two teleportation spells. The opening credits feature some drawings and information meant to represent the game (picture of a dragon, stats of a half-orc, etc.) Even in one of the special features, we get to see “character sheets” for the main characters (by the way, they are level 8).
For special features, we get:
- “Rolling the Dice: Adapting the Game to the Screen”: A look at the cast and locations. Lucy Gaskell (Ormaline) actually studied her role, wishing to be as realistic as possible (she may need to study more though).
- “The Arc: A Conversation with Gary Gygax”: The creator of Dungeons and Dragons speaks about the movie and characters.
- A commentary track made by D&D players “in character”. A rather unusual way of doing a commentary, but nothing insightful for the production itself.
Alas, no outtakes or deleted scenes.
Plot/Story: I think it was in general a good story, but not well implemented. I had to watch it twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, as a lot of exposition is in rapid dialog. I found myself wondering how Melora was cursed, and the point of some things other than to play with special effects. 1/5
Characters/Acting: There is a lot of potential for character development, but there was very little. What are the motivations of the individual party members? I’d be happier for a longer feature with more character development, and drop the dead weight of the more useless scenes. Although these are newcomers, there is potential. 1/5
Effects/Visuals/Audio: Overall decent, but some of the special effects seemed deficient. Some of the flying mechanics seemed off, and the dragon itself seemed to not be completely rendered, especially in the neck – unless it was meant to be an undead dragon, but I didn’t get that from the plot. 3/5
DVD Packaging/Extras: Not a lot of extras. The main menu is animated with scenes from the movie within the orb. The standard plastic case is included, with an artistic rendition of a scene from the movie adorning the front. 2/5
Overall: Do I think this was a bad movie? No. It wouldn’t win any awards, and would never make it with the mainstream crowd, D&D fans should definitely take a look. 2/5
Total: 1.8 out of 5.
D&D is not necessarily something that can translate into a short feature. This will probably be the last live-action production in the franchise, but there is always hope.