Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Your Highness

Lady Chocolat and I went to see "Your Highness" on Friday, with several of the guys from my RPG group (plus several of their respective partners, and even some non-gamer friends). It was an enjoyable night.

By my count, there are exactly two ways to make a good fantasy film.

The first is to take the "Lord of the Rings" route, and take the whole thing seriously, filming it as though "this actually happened". That isn't to say there isn't humour in the "Lord of the Rings" films, but it's organic to the characters and the situation, rather than being inherent in the premise itself.

The second approach is to treat the whole thing as absurd, and build a comic fantasy. This is the approach taken in "Your Highness", and it works quite well.

I believe this is why the "Dungeons & Dragons" films failed so abysmally. The people making those films really wanted to treat them seriously, but they lacked the ability to pull it off. Fantasy is expensive - you need a big budget for spells, and monsters, and other-worldly vistas, and so on. The problem is, if you don't have a massive budget, you have to cut corners elsewhere. So, the quality of the script suffers. The quality of the actors suffers (and, if you do somehow manage to get a couple of good actors, they recognise the lack of quality everywhere else, and so just phone it in). The quality of the director suffers (or, worse, the director is a massive fanboi with no actual experience...).

And so it goes. By shooting for seriousness that they just couldn't deliver on the budget, they made a huge mess. They're not even "so bad it's good." They're just bad.

And so we come to "Your Highness". In all honesty, this isn't a great film, but it was a very entertaining one, largely because it embraced the absurdity of the genre as a whole. Plus, they seemed to have channelled every single "bad RPG" moment imaginable, and put them up on the screen - it played out very much like an RPG session might well.

I doubt there will be a sequel. This seems the sort of film that will make decent, but not outstanding money, will do quite well on DVD, will make a loss on paper (all films make a loss on paper), and will not quite earn a sequel. In all honesty, that's probably for the best.

Still, not to worry. I had fun.

#10: "Serenity: Spaceships and Six Shooters", by Lynn Blackson and Jason Durall

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