A cat by any other name

Hollywood magic



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I have seen bad movies before. There is no lack of them in the world, and despite my best intentions, I've seen quite a few. Sometimes you go to the theater with the knowledge that this movie will probably be bad, but you're willing to see it for some other redeeming factor. Sometimes you get lucky. Last night, we did not.

We went to see Dungeons and Dragons tonight. Before you start snickering, we all assumed that this would probably not be very good. But as it was a crowd of gamers, we figured we had to at least go, just to see what Hollywood thought of our little subculture.

Hollywood apparently thinks that people who role-play have IQ's that put them in par with your average kumquat, and aren't capable of understanding the difference between acting and not acting.

I don't know quite what happened. I don't know if the director was in the middle of a vendetta against the writer, or if the person who wrote the lines refused to give any other insight except "Stand here and be...um...dramatic", but it was bad. So bad that it was amusing, despite how seriously it tried to take itself.

The acting reminded me a great deal of that which was seen in Star Wars: Episode I (a statement that, I'm sure, will anger you hard-care Star Wars fans, but tell me honestly that you thought that that movie was well-acted and I will ask you what drugs you were taking at the time). However, Star Wars at least had a few people who redeemed themselves, despite the director's best intentions. Not so with Dungeons and Dragons. Not remotely so. Jeremy Irons' character was a one-dimensional bad guy - complete with wild gestures, grimaces that were supposed to make him look more evil (but often made him look as if he was pondering revisiting his dinner), and dramatic statements of his evil intent. It would have simply been easier (and a good deal less painful to watch) if they'd merely painted "I'm the bad guy" on his chest and had been done with it. His sidekick was just as bad, and what's even worse is that I've seen this guy in other films and he really *can* act. Perhaps the fact that he was forced to wear badly applied silver-blue lipstick throughout the film inhibited him, who knows. The empress's long drawn out speeches to the mages' council were painful, and serious moments became laughable because of how woodenly the lines were delivered.

The plot was typical of an AD&D game - one run by a novice Dungeon Master, that is. There were gaping holes, but gaming usually requires the players to suspend belief in reality and in feasibility quite often, so it was, ironically, true to form. The characters acted the way I would expect first level characters to act, played by people who'd just picked up the books and were reading along, and even the incredibly bad acting was somehow reminiscent of first-time players I've seen (I was probably just as bad when I began gaming so many years ago too, sad to say). However, while quite appropriate to a group of new gamers, these little quirks only proved the incompetency of the either the writer, director, actors, or perhaps some dismal combination of all three.

We discussed various reasons for why it was so bad, after we had escaped the theater and managed to stop our hysterical laughter. Perhaps, one person offered, this was to show that gamers are really not evil Satan worshipers, as the religious right-wing likes to claim. "See - how evil could they be if they're truly *this* stupid?" they would exclaim and go home to worry about the nasty influences of Harry Potter and leave the gaming community alone for a while. The more practical reason, however, is most likely that the company that markets the AD&D books and materials has started to realize that their average gamer these days is over 30, and if they're going to make any money, they really need to hit a younger crowd. And what better way to get younger people all fired up about the game than to make a movie out of it!

If this is truly what Hollywood thinks of the gaming community, there's a lot of us who should be more than a bit insulted. And it seems we have more insult to come - the film ended with an obvious lead-in to a sequel. The only way I'd be willing to watch that thing again would be if we rented from the bargain shelf and watched at a party where we could yell and laugh and poke fun at the sheer badness of it, and we had a remote control to forward through the truly painful parts.

Dungeons & Dragons was struck by a Curse of Bad Everything. And unluckily for those of us who were watching, haste spells don't work in real life, and there *was* no saving throw.