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30 March, 2009 / Erik

Best of Yakmala: In the Name of the King

This week, we celebrate the Best of Yakmala 2009. Four films that rose above the rest of last year’s Yakmala screenings to catapult into the special catagory “Best of.” A “Best of” film is undeniably enjoyable while still being unquestionably bad. Our films this year are The Room, The Wicker Man (2006), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. I’ll start the week with Dungeon Siege.

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In the land of Hyborea, or Middle-Earth, or Azeroth—I mean Ehb—lives a simple farmer named “Farmer.(STATHAM!)” Farmer lives a good life raising radishes and turnips with his wife and son. OH BUT WAIT! Far away at the kingdom’s seat of power, a lone wizard, Henry Hill … er … Gallian (Ray Liotta) plots to overthrow the good King (Burt Reynolds?) and replace him with the King’s lousy nephew Fallow (Matthew Lillard). Gallian not only has magic at his command, but an army of Orcs ready to burn and pillage the countryside and spread the King’s resources thin.

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So the Orcs—I’ve just been reminded that in this film, the Orcs are called Krugs—burn and pillage Farmer’s quite village and Farmer unleashes his inner STATHAM, easily killing every obstacle in his path. His victories come at some price as his wife is kidnapped and his son dies at the hand of a Black Rider. Oh, this time, there’s no special name for it. It’s a Black Rider. Also, the Riders are controlled directly by Gallian. This matters for some reason.

Following the attack, the King, his Captain, and his Mage(!) come to Farmer and ask him to enlist with them to fight the Krug. Farmer declines and instead assembles a small band consisting of his friend Norick (Ron Perlman!) and his wife’s brother to seek bloody revenge on the Krugs by marching to … um … a forest of Wood Lesbians.

The Wood Lesbians lead them out of the forest and into a Krug camp where Norick is capture and Farmer’s brother is … um … I think he dies. No wait! He is also captured.

Farmer is taken to the Tree of Woe by one of the Black Riders, but is saved by the King’s Mage (John Rhys-Davies in another thankless role). He brings Farmer to the King, who reveals Farmer to be his lost son, heir to the throne of Gondor!

I mean Ehb.

Oh yeah, in the middle of all the Wood Lesbians and Krug camps, the King led a march against Fallow’s detachment of men and Krugs. The King fell to Fallow’s seventeenth attempt to hit him with an arrow.

The King dies and Fallow cheers as he believes he is now king. HOWEVER! The Mage announces that Prince Farmer is the rightful heir. As his first kingly duty, Farmer delivers this speech. “Tonight we nurse our wounds; bury our dead. Tomorrow: we march on Christwind Hold and gouge evil from its shell!”

So the next day, Farmer, the Mage, his daughter, and the leader of the Wood Lesbians break into Gallian’s castle while the rest of Farmer’s forces defend Helm’s Deep.

I’m not kidding.

While the main force of Ehb fights the Krug, Farmer and his pals enter Christwind Hold, defeat Gallian and um … the movie abruptly stops there. The leader of the Wood Lesbians just leaves the movie during the early part of the attack. Fallow is taken away, but never seems to pay for fatally wounding the King. There’s also a subplot about the Mage and his Daughter that is just too silly to recount. Watch for the dumbest Orc ever filmed as he sets himself on fire and knocks himself into a tree!

I firmly believe director Uwe Boll saw “The Two Towers” and believed he could make it for a tenth of what New Line spent. Unlike previous Boll efforts like “Bloodrayne,” I think he believed he was making a good fantasy film. There is rare dedication in this picture and the line “gouge evil from its shell” is heartfelt. So much so, that Boll adds someone shouting “gouge evil!” in ADR.

This film is made bearable by the presence of STATHAM. It doesn’t matter what decade, planet, or heist might be happing, STATHAM gives the situation his all. He never flinches at how ripped-off the whole thing looks. Also, he kills Orcs good.

“Dungeon Siege” is also notable for being a film in which Matthew Lillard is not the most jarring part of the production. That honor goes to Ray Liotta. I kept waiting for the voice over to kick in and say, “Ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a Mage.” Lillard, for his part, looks like he stumbled onto the set from another movie, but Boll never bothered to correct the mistake. Lillard’s expressions make to the movie a lot of fun to watch.

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In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is probably the most inept, but watchable, fantasy film we’ve viewed at Yakmala. It panders and rip-offs as much as Eregon, but doesn’t feel as cynical. It’s also the best Boll picture. Unlike his previous work, it does not have extensive flashbacks.

At least that is true in its theatrical version. There is 165 minute director’s cut that we may one day watch.

If nothing else, the film gave us the rally cry, “Gouge Evil!” For that, we are eternally grateful.

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