In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (Germany/Canada/United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

In the Name of the King is a second-rate regurgitation of The Lord of the Rings. Everything about it, down to the set and costume design, apes Peter Jackson's epic trilogy. However, while The Lord of the Rings was a grand story of scope and power, In the Name of the King feels small in more ways than one. It's a lot like Eragon, except that this movie at least has the virtue of concluding rather than leaving us hanging. In the Name of the King has a cheap look and feel; whether the problems are budgetary or the result of a limited vision, the story and characters never achieve enough of an independent life for this to be worthy of the "homage" label rather than the "rip off" one.

It's impossible to talk about this film without discussing the director. To say that Uwe Boll does not have a good reputation among serious cineastes is to understate the matter. However, while Boll isn't the most accomplished filmmaker, he's not the worst out there. Boll doesn't care what his critics say about him (he's the guy who offered to box all comers) and he dismisses negative reviews as the products of small, jealous minds. He believes he's a great filmmaker (but so did Ed Wood). Boll especially likes using computer games as source material for his films. In the Name of the King is loosed basely on Dungeon Siege, which I vaguely recall playing at some time and which seemingly had little or nothing to do with this movie.

There's a strange contradiction at work with Boll. His movies never seem to make any money yet they continue to get distribution. Despite his abominable reputation, Boll attracts reasonable casts. For In the Name of the King, he has lured in Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, and Burt Reynolds (among others). Granted, none of these are A-listers and some are has-beens, but they are "known" names. With about ten films on the slate in stages ranging from pre-production to final editing, it's pretty certain that Boll isn't going away.

In the Name of the King begins with Farmer (Jason Statham) the farmer, who lives with his lovely wife, Solana (Claire Forlani), and his beloved son, Zeph (Colin Ford), in an out-of-the-way home. Farmer's peaceful existence is about to come to an end, however. A raid by a band of krugs (which look suspiciously like Peter Jackson's orcs) results in Zeph's death and Solana's capture. Farmer vows revenge and, accompanied by his bow-touting neighbor, Norick (Ron Perlman), and Solana's brother, Bastian (Will Sanderson), he embarks upon a quest to track his wife and visit death upon those responsible for what happened to his family. But the situation is bigger than just one man. The land is about to be torn by war. On the side of good are King Konreid (Burt Reynolds), his faithful magician, Merick (John Rhys-Davies), and his friends and advisors. On the side of evil are the vile sorcerer, Gallian (Ray Liotta), next-in-line-to-the-throne Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard), and an army of krugs. The final battle will pit Merick against Gallian, Konreid against Fallow, and will reveal the major role Farmer eventually plays in this drama. And if you can't figure out what that is about 20 minutes into the movie, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Despite the movie's desire to spin an epic tale, it feels overlong and repetitive. The production has a drab, murky look that makes the land seem like a depressing place in which to own real estate. The music is overbearing to the point where it's a distraction. The less-than-special effects appear underfunded (despite a purported $60 million budget) and, except for a bit of coolness showing how wizards travel, look pretty cheesy. The battle between krugs and humans is filmed in such a way that we aren't supposed to notice the limited number of extras involved in the action. Boll might be trying to imitate Peter Jackson but he doesn't do a good job. Wandering through Middle Earth was like going on a journey of discovery. Wandering through the world of In the Name of the King is like getting lost in a local patch of woods on a rainy day.

Ray Liotta does his usual good job of chewing on the scenery, apparently having prepared for this role by studying Jeremy Irons' equally impressive turn as an evil wizard in Dungeons and Dragons. Matthew Lillard turns in the kind of embarrassing performance which is so bad that words fail me. Duke Fallow is more annoying than the McDonald's Chicken McNuggets rappers and I wanted the actor to go away. Meanwhile, as Farmer's sidekicks, Will Sanderson and Ron Perlman attempt impersonations of trees. Burt Reynolds looks uncomfortable in his royal costume; his helmet always seems to be crooked. The women - Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, and Kristanna Loken - don't have much to do except look fetching beneath the occasional bruise. Jason Statham retains his dignity and doesn't have to utter a single instance of profanity to do it. Finally, John Rhys-Davies, the only member of the real Lord of the Rings troupe to appear here, brings a level of class to the proceedings. No matter how excruciatingly dumb the dialogue is, Rhys-Davies is able to deliver it with the gravity of Shakespeare.

As bad as the movie sometimes becomes, the battle scenes are generally well choreographed and the final conflict is about as well done as one can reasonably expect. In fact, had the editing been tighter, resulting in a more economical running time, this might have been an enjoyable motion picture. As it is, however, it is poorly paced and drags at times and there are too many instances in which the movie's worst and most derivative aspects are allowed to come to the fore. Still, if this isn't Boll's best effort to date, it's better than his usual output. If he can continue to improve, his name may no longer be synonymous with a punch line.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (Germany/Canada/United States, 2007)

Run Time: 2:05
U.S. Release Date: 2008-01-11
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1