Friday, December 07, 2012

I Watch It So You Don't Have To

"Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness" is not the worst film I have ever seen. It is better than both "Catwoman" and "Basic Instinct 2" (and, I'm sure, some films not starring Sharon Stone). Indeed, it is less of a betrayal than "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and at least two of the "Transformers" films. (That said, it's not as good as "Crstal Skull", solely because it at now point shows Shia LaBoeuf getting hit in the nuts with cactii. Otherwise, it would be a dead heat.)

However, BoVD is not a good film. In fact, it fails on every possible level: bad acting, a rotten script, poor direction, bad music, special effects that make the first season of "Merlin" look good by comparison...

Where to begin...

Well, I suppose the best place to start is right at the beginning. In the first scene...

No, actually, before even that we get treated to the now obligatory fantasy backstory montage, in which Voiceover-Man tells us about the creation of the Book of Vile Darkness, the most evil of all books not 'written' by Katie Price. That's actually quite cool, in a rather grimdark kind of a way.

Anyway, blah blah blah, evil empire, blah blah, BoVD, blah, knights... Eventually, to prevent it being captured, the bad guys decide to split the BoVD into components. So far, so good.

The three components are the covers, the pages, and the ink.

Yes, like "Angels and Demons" before it, "D&D3: BoVD" doesn't even get to the start of the story before disappearing into idiocy.

Anyway, on to the first scene, in which the heroic young knight Grayson finds himself being sworn in as a Paladin. Huzzah! So, he takes all the standard oaths - honour, mercy, loyalty, chastity...

The ceremony goes somewhat wrong, and young Grayson is comforted by the knight who conducted the ceremony, who turns out to be his father. He then passes on some wise words from his own father, who was also a Paladin in the same order.

Yes, it's true - Grayson has just taken an oath of chastity just like his father and his father before him. I guess the writer here had seen "Hot Shots! Part Deux", but didn't get the joke.

The rest of the plot is basically "Finding Nemo" in reverse - Grayson's father gets captured, and the young knight must rescue him with the help of a party of evil adventurers. You can tell these adventurers are evil because they all have either tattoos or piercings. Well, except for their leader; she is clearly the most eeevil, because she has both tattoos and piercings.

Oh, yeah, there is one evil guy who doesn't have tattoos or piercings. But that's okay, because he has a badass mask he stole from the Phantom of the Opera, is entirely made of bugs, and is prone to spouting fortune-cookie philosophy. He's totally an evil Yoda.

Probably the second worst single scene takes place when Grayson decides to equip himself for his Quest!. He visits Ye Olde Magicke Shoppe, called "The Adventurer's Vault", where he buys a bunch of items, including a suit of "Knight's Armour". At which point the shopkeepe asks him "Heroic or Paragon".

See, here we see that the writer was at least familiar with D&D terminology, in exactly the same way that the writer of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" was familiar with the Transformers comics and cartoons. But, as with the earlier film, the writer shows a complete lack of skill in actually using that lore. Frankly, I was surprised the shopkeepe didn't ask to see Grayson's character sheet to verify that he was high enough level to buy such lofty items.

Beyond that, the best way to view BoVD is in the style of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000". Basically, sit around 'watching' the film, but actually proceed to mock it mercilessly as it goes. Like the bit where the Masked Man makes Grayson a necklace, and they think about braiding one another's hair, but in a totally manly way. Or the bit where Grayson trips over his own sword.

Still, it's not all bad. The design of the dragon, and in particular the way it moves and fights, is pretty cool. Well, apart from being stolen from "Alice in Wonderland" and the Jabberwocky, that is. Likewise, the evil overlord is quite cool, what with his sown-up mouth and the two girls who must therefore speak for him.

The climax of the film is extremely topical. Grayson has been captured himself (in a plot twist that makes no sense at all - indeed, even less sense than Silva's plan in "Skyfall"). He finds himself strapped to the torture machine from "Princess Bride", which they are using to extract liquid pain which they will use as ink to rewrite the Book of Vile Darkness.

At this point Evil Girl, who has been turned good by... something or other... decides to help her lover by returning to him his holy symbol (a symbol that, as far as she knows, is utterly useless to him). At this point, Grayson somehow calls on the power of Pelor to send a telepathic message to the Evil Overlord, who then repeats it to all his many minions. And then their heads explode.

Now, you may be wondering how this can be considered "topical". Nonsensical, yes. Beyond even the stupidiy of the rest of the film, indeed. But topical? How so?

Well, the key here is the content of the message. What message is there that could truly cause people's heads to explode, and in large numbers? What could it possibly be?

There is, of course, only one possible answer to this. And, lo, we have verily seen the revealed might and power of this message this very week, when the most seismic of shocks spread through our media, causing exactly this sort of widespread head-'sploding.

Yes, it's true. The forces of evil were undone, once and for all, by the forbidden knowledge that KATE MIDDLETON'S PREGNANT!!! O!!! M!!! G!!!!!!!

#50: "Eberron Campaign Guide", by James Wyatt and Keith Baker

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