Dungeons & Dragons (2000) (part 4 of 10)
In a scene that was actually retained in the movie, though I kind of wish it wasn’t, we’re outside the tavern, and Damodar is paying off some hoodlum who presumably led them here. He directs his men to enter with what, tragically, is the film’s most memorable piece of dialogue:
Hath? We’re using “hath” now? Can you just randomly mix present and Shakespearean English like that? Who does Damodar think he is, the Mighty Thor? In any case, I’m not sure Bruce Payne was deliberately trying to come across as a Saturday morning cartoon villain, but all that’s missing is some fake reverb.
Meanwhile, back in the scroll (and part of me really enjoyed typing that), Ridley opens a box sitting on a table, and out pops a pencil drawing standing in for the unfinished effect of a wraith.
The wraith designates Ridley, the one who entered the scroll first, as the “Seeker of the Rod.” Ridley insists that he isn’t, and that Marina “really wants to seek” the Rod, but the wraith insists that the one who enters the scroll “must seek the Rod.” This is me not making the obvious jokes for once, just to show that I’m capable of it.
The wraith says the Rod brought about an ancient war, that to find it they must undertake a Quest, and that if they fail they’ll be eternally cursed. Somehow. He’s kind of unspecific.
Ridley tries to back out, but Marina just glares at him, which convinces him to go along. How can you be whipped by a girl you don’t even like? (Maybe he was wowed by her Tina Fey impression. It’s not bad, I admit.)
Out of the box pops a map which will lead them to the cave where the Rod is held. However, before they can get it, they have to stop at Antias City to find the “Eye of the Dragon”, because the Dungeon Master just bought the Antias City and Environs supplement and is hell-bent on working it into the campaign. Ridley takes the map, and the deleted scene ends.
I’d just like to point out one thing before we continue. That whole business with the skeletal dragon illusion thingy which wasn’t, in the end, necessary to the plot? They had money for that, and for ten thousand CGI exterior shots, but they couldn’t finish the effects for a scene that delivers key plot and character elements? This is just bad production, and this isn’t the only time we’ll see completed unnecessary effects and scenes that could have used that money instead. The filmmakers literally had years to pare down the script and they still couldn’t figure out which parts were important. This is a sign.
Regular movie starts again from here:
After Damodar camps it up outside, we cut to the Dwarf, lying on his back. No, wait, don’t leave! It’s not what you think. He’s just narrating some story to Snails, about the time he fought some dudes who were poking him with spears, and it’s probably best that we don’t hear too much of this. Snails is trying to look for distractions, and sees a reasonably attractive elf girl with a Jane Wiedlin haircut heading for the bar.
Snails is smitten, but the Dwarf isn’t impressed. Elvish girls “ain’t got no meat on their bones!”, and he suggests that Snails get himself a nice 250-pound dwarf woman, “with hair on your chin you can hang on to!”, pantomiming to demonstrate. Snails walks away in disgust, but honestly, I have to say it’s kind of cool that the writers saw fit to throw in a borderline psychopathic character with no real role in the plot. It’s like the heroes are adventuring with a diminutive hobo.
Snails heads over to put his moves on the elf-girl, who in close-up has a certain Jolene Blalock quality about her (though maybe a bit more attractive). Just to spoil the surprise right off the bat, this is the tracker Norda that Profion was talking about. She’s played by Kristen Wilson, who does an okay job but seems to occasionally confuse “elf” with “Vulcan” (see above.) Her character also has vaguely defined powers of prophecy that will come into play maybe twice.
(I just now noticed the cloves of garlic that are strewn around the bar. Apparently Sumdall has a significant vampire problem.)
Needless to say, Snails’ smooth talk is embarrassing, but Norda’s looking for someone just like him anyway. Snails orders them a bottle of the house’s best/cheapest wine, but before this random encounter can develop into an actual scene, Damodar and his baddies enter. They see Snails making time with the elf lady, but Damodar tells them to hold off, since they need Marina. In a close-up, we see that he has little claw points on his gloves, which is supposed to be fearsome, but he just looks like a kitty.
The Dwarf, sensing trouble, overturns a table and calls out “Bar fight!” Everyone takes this as their cue to start slugging each other like they’re in a cheap Western. The Dwarf pulls Snails and the scroll out of harm’s way, and we get the following exchange:
Dwarf: With an elf? They think humans are a joke!
Snails: All right, I lied! I just wanna hit it!
I chuckled, but then I’ve seen this movie several times. It’s like how you can’t give rich food to someone with severe malnutrition; actual humor would probably kill me.
Outside the Inn, the heroes have escaped into the woods. Either it’s a park or the city just stops after a few blocks. Snails summons Ridley and Marina out of the scroll by making some gestures. So now anyone can just use magic things by gesticulating in the right way. Why are the mages in charge again?
Despite having had a moment in the cut scene, Ridley and Marina are back to bitching at each other when they rematerialize. Snails pushes Marina away and drags Ridley aside to tell him about Damodar, and to symbolically assert his rivalry for the hero’s affections.
Marina uses this scene as an opportunity to infodump about the Rod and the Great War (not our Great War, I’m assuming), and all of the stuff we would have seen had the money not run out. Map to the temple, Eye of the Dragon, I summed it up above, let’s move on.
Snails wants no part of the big epic struggle that’s about to be fought, and it’s hard to blame him. Unfortunately, Ridley has promised to find the Rod, and Snails, on hearing this, freaks, especially when he infers that he did so to impress the hot chick. Ridley pulls the old “Well, if you don’t want to go along…” trick, and then the “there’s lots of money to be made angle,” but it climaxes in Snails throwing an epic hissy fit.
You may have noticed that so far, I’ve been taking it easy on Marlon Wayans. Giving him a little credit for the occasional funny line here or there. Reminding you that he was in a better movie that same year. This is where the good will ends.
Wayans’ performance in this scene is an absolutely embarrassing fit of attempted comedy. Snails is by turns babyish and cowardly, his voice gets really high pitched, and while I’m not quick to call racism on a movie, this is a broad and unambiguous shuck-and-jive “feets don’t fail me now” black-man-as-craven-thief routine that will offend even the most jaded viewer. It’s only a couple of minutes long, but the pain lasts forever.
Eventually Snails buckles under the strength of Ridley’s Smug Bastard aura, and agrees to go along, though he’s still pouty. Mini-Ron-Perlman decides to come along too for no good reason, but wants to know who’ll pay him. Marina says they’ll work it out later. The Dwarf, who still has pieces of chicken in his beard (yay for continuity, but ewww), solemnly says, “That’s a terrible way to do business,” as the camera goes for a close-up. I’m thinking now that the Dwarf is an action hero in a movie taking place parallel to this one, and we’re getting random catchphrases and badassery.
When the Dwarf moves out of frame, the camera reveals Norda watching the group from the bough of a tree, which is a neat effect. Her character has yet to contribute to this film in any substantial way, but one thing at a time.
Next comes an effects shot that just confuses everything. It’s a CGI matte painting of a bunch of towns sitting on plateaus which are held up off the ground by very skinny, fragile spires, with bridges connecting them to mountains elsewhere.
It’s a neat (if impractical) idea, and a nice effect, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t line up with anything else in the movie. The very next shot will show our heroes entering Antius through a normal gate from ground-level woods. In short, I have no clue why we’re being shown this.
The live action version of Antius is introduced by a Johnny LaRue crane shot of a busy medieval marketplace, complete with a guy in the stocks shouting “I didn’t do it!” Sadly, odds are he’s not the director. People are selling furniture, bolts of cloth, baroque candelabras, brass instruments, basically any old-looking prop the filmmakers could purchase in bulk. I’m not sure they didn’t film this part of the movie at a Renaissance Festival, though there’s a tragic lack of women in low-cut blouses.