Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008)

And you guys thought Uwe Boll sucked. Here we have the picture with the longest title in his filmography that I will simply call Dungeon Siege from this point on. The last time I mentioned Boll, I nearly had my head torn asunder simply for saying "he is not the worst filmmaker in the world." Finally, I actually have HARD evidence!

Dungeon Siege! Or, In The Name Of The Return Of The King. Let's go with King for short. Since this is a Uwe Boll film, we know the source is a video game. In this case, it's one I'm not sure I'm familiar with. In the land of Eph, forces of evil are gathering their armies to march on the forces of good, led by King Burt Reynolds. Within the realm lies a quaint little farmhouse. It's here where the story gains its focus. In the farmhouse lives a man named Farmer (Jason Statham) who, we learn, also IS a farmer. This is not just some crazy coincidence for Farmer tells us "I believe a man should be named for what he is" or perhaps that was just Norick (Ron Perlman) putting words in his mouth again. Farmer lives on a tiny beet farm with his lovely wife Solona (Claire Forlani) and inquisitive young son Zeph (Colin Ford). Applying Farmer's philosophy to their names, we can only assume that Solona means "money pit", while Zeph is another word for "sword implanted in face". I'm just kidding about the "money pit" line. Solona is actually a good wife, who pulls her own weight by taking their wares into town to hock at the market. It's a beautiful set up where All is right within the kingdom of Eph.

EXCEPT at the castle, the surrounding vista of which is established in a shot stolen, I mean borrowed, from the Return of the King vault, where an evilish wizard named Galleon, played with immeasurable wackiness by Ray Liotta, has snuck into the bed chambers of the princess Muriella (Leelee Sobieski) for a late night screw. The head of the castle, some might refer to him as the King, is regally played by the one, the only Burt Reynolds. His heir is the wicked Duke Fallon (Matthew Lillard) who uses words such as "bequeeth" and "behoove" and "bestill" and never met flying spittle he didn't like. It's an extraordinary performance. These opening scenes, the "big picture" scenes as I refer to them (because they deal with the important people in Eph, the royalty) also introduce us to a good wizard named Gimli (after apparently having the fat sucked out of him) played by John Rhys-Davies (Sliders).

Back to the little picture, Farmer's wife and son have reached the village with their turnips. A band of krugs attack. You may be wondering what a krug is? Remember the Uruk-hai? Not really the same thing. The krug's are just a bunch of dudes wearing rubber masks. Boll wisely never holds a shot on their face for long. See, he's getting better. Anyway, they attack and kill most of the village.

Farmer and his sidekick Norick run into town and kill as many as they can. Boll has obviously improved on his action scenes as well. Instead of slow-motion matrixy riffs, he just let's Statham do his kung-fu thing while circling the camera around him really fast. I felt a little ill, but I chalked that up to being hungover. Victory is achieved by Farmer and his allies, but at a tremendous cost. In an homage to Jason Vorhees, poor Zeph lives up to his name ("sword implanted in face") after seemingly sprinting across the entire country while an evil krug (mind controlled by the dastardly Galleon) mosies along after him. Solona was captured and if the krug are as evil as they seem, likely raped, tortured, murdered, and impaled upon a stake. Farmer and his brother in law, in a touchingly whimsical scene, bury Zeph. The slapstick ensues as they race to see whose side is filled in first. The audience loved this part because they laughed and laughter is good. Then, Farmer, his brother in law Bastion (played by a different Will Sanderson then the one from Blade Runner), and Norick enter the haunted Cedric Forest, where they encounter Ents and the like, in hopes of rescuing Solana.

At this point, the excitement was too much and I had to go empty my bladder. When I came back, someone was in my seat, so I took one in the back.

Apparently, I missed a whole hell of a lot! Farmer, looking much different, is now in 1898 Texas, digging in some mineshaft. He strikes oil, by accident and, before we know what's happening, has his own company and later, after a tragic accident, another son. What the fuck is going on here? When did Boll get so arty? Fifteen minutes passed without a single word of dialogue. Apparently, Farmer entered some time vortex in Cedric Forest and Norick and Bastian were both likely Krug-ified. Farmer even changed his name to Plainview, I guess because he now speaks plainly. Most likely, it's because the only thing he can see are vast empty plains.

Something happened to the score as well. It went from being heavy handed and, to put it kindly, laughable to being tense, brilliant, and scary. Boll usually does his own scores and I can say with great confidence that this one is Oscar worthy.

Years pass and eventually Plainview, having renamed himself Driller, and his son go to Little Boston, California on a hot oil tip. The community of Little Boston grows under his watch, but not without a conflict between Driller and the preacher, Eli. I was a little confused because Eli's brother Paul was the one that gave Driller the "tip" and they were played by the same person. There was a hint of recognition in Driller when he first meets Eli, but the issue is quickly dropped. Until Eli, in one of his frequent fits of rage, wails on his father for allowing Paul to bring this stanger, this oil driller named Driller, to their town. At this point, I realized they weren't the same character. Or, if this was all taking place in Driller's mind, does it really matter?

Statham is unrecognizable at this point as Driller. He also gives, by far, his best kung fu-less performance. His character hates everyone, most of all himself. He embraces H.W. at first, clearly as a means of promoting his business, but also as a replacement for Zeph. Unfortunately, that's something H.W. can never live up to, especially after an accident leaves him deaf and all Driller can think to do is send him away. This is not the same turnip farmer we knew and loved earlier in the film, pre time-vortex. Eventually, a man comes to Little Boston claiming to be Driller's brother named Henry. How Driller, a man who has been in this Universe all of ten years, could have a brother is beyond me, but he falls for it. The end of their relationship is hauntingly tragic and sends Driller into a spiral he will never fully recover from.

The central conflict is between Driller and Eli, the preacher. Eli needs money for his church and basically extorts it from Driller. Driller beats Eli to a pulp. Eli humiliates Driller in front of his congregation. The war wages on and on for many ageless years. What's in that Little Boston water, anyway?

How the fuck did Boll accomplish this? It's Citizen Cane by way of Stanley Kubrick. Driller, driven to madness by wealth, drink, and the memory of the family he left behind in the magical kingdom of Eph sits in his vast mansion, surrounded by "yes" men. He rejects his son, whom he now looks at as a competitor, for one last time. Eli stops by to visit and the audience is treated to a scene no one knew Boll had in him, a brilliant, humorously dark take on the Cane mythos, a scene which ends with Driller saying "I'm finished". And then the audience laughed. Again.

I theorize that the events of the latter part of the film took place in Farmer's head. After finding his wife dead somewhere in Cedric forest, he retreated into his own mind where he spent his remaining days trying to live the good life. In this case, he failed miserably.

Boll might win an Oscar. Keep it up Uwe.


Sam said...

Hee--it's amazing what you can miss with a little bathroom break.

Gianni said...

Wow... It's almost like you saw two different movies... not that it would be possible!

Beepy said...

I have the feeling that the movie would make no better sense if you hadn't taken a bathroom break. In order to maintain the respect that I have for you, I'm going to imagine that you are dating the woman who takes the tickets and therefore got in for free.