“Dungeons and Dragons. This time with a dungeon. And a dragon.”
The original movie sat in my “pending” pile for so long, that the sequel showed up about a week after finally reviewing it. So I thought I might as well fast-track that one, and see how it compares. The answer is likely, not quite as well, much though it goes over the same, well-worn fantasy/D&D tropes. Our four adventurers from the first movie are still about, though haughty cleric Teela (Posener) now has a dead sister, which she blames Marek (Stone), the rapidly XP-gaining magic-user. is warned by her mentor, Gojun Pye (Kevin Sorbo, in much the same kind of cameo are last time), that evil necromancer Szorlok is watching her, seeing the darkness which lurks within her soul.
Szorlok and sidekick Kishkumen are searching to reassemble the titular artefact, which was cracked to four pieces in a previous age. Cutting to the chase rather faster than the script here does, they capture our hereoes, along with newcomer Hairgel the dark elf [ok, not his actual name, but you’ll understand why I call him that when you see him] and hold Teela as a hostage, using her as leverage so her friends will retrieve the stone.
The film seems to have forgotten that it was the characters, and the interplay between them, which was its predecessor’s strongest suit. When we get that, it still shines, yet you’re well into the second half of the movie before the party is reassembled and gets going on anything resembling an actual adventure. Up until then, you get a rather boring set of navel-gazing, mostly based around Marek agonizing about whether she is being turned to the dark side, with a side-helping of angst from Teela.
The script also decides to inject romantic elements this time, with Teela falling for the group’s fighter, Thane (Johnson), and if you don’t like that one, why not try Marek and Hairgel’s blossoming relationship. It wasn’t just the 12-year-old boy in me who was wrinkling his nose up at all this sissy stuff. Things do perk up a bit more in the second half, when there is actually a quest to be competed, with the poison infecting Teela adding a useful “ticking clock” to proceedings. However, the battles were underwhelming, both against a pretty mediocre CGI dragon, and facing Kishkumen and his forces, whose main tactic appears to be to form a circle around their target, then attack one at a time. If you’ve seen a seventies martial-arts film, you’ll know the technique.
Not to say it’s worthless, with Marek’s character and powers developing nicely; she’s clearly more adept than she was first time out, when a puff of smoke was a challenge. With great power, as we all know, comes great responsibility, and I just wish the makers would put more effort into that aspect. Because if the planned five films come to pass. they’re going to need the balance to tilt away from tedious romance and whiny soul-searching, and back toward thrilling adventure.
Dir: Anne K. Black
Star: Melanie Stone, Adam Johnson, Jake Stormoen, Nicola Posener