Dungeons & Dragons (2000) (part 5 of 10)
Our heroes enter the bazaar, and Snails immediately starts pocketing random objects in a feeble attempt at a running gag. He’s not very subtle about this, and people seem to notice, but I guess shoplifting is considered a hobby in Antias. He recognizes a suspicious and shifty-eyed purple creature in the crowd, and he and Ridley tail the Deep Space Nine refugee.
Apparently our purple friend is related to the Thieves’ Guild, and Ridley asks him if he knows where they can find Xilus, who’s in charge. The purple guy tells them to get lost and tries to intimidate them by putting. A. Few. Extra. Periods. In. His. Sentences. He does some weird tongue flapping thing to finish, and leaves, making me wonder why a criminal underground organization would pick as its lookout a goofy looking alien with a neon skin tone. Not only did they waste money creating this expensive makeup (complete with a blinking third eye), its presence actually causes the scene to make less sense.
Marina is admiring what appears to be an ancient shower curtain when the Dwarf admonishes here: “If I ain’t drinkin’, you sure ain’t shoppin!” Which would be funny if someone had said something about not drinking. He drags her over to Ridley and Snails, who is camouflaged in useless crap, apparently to stay out of sight as they keep an eye on the Purple People Eater, now talking with a green-skinned pirate. Remember, folks, secret underground crime organization. The party follows the two day-glo critters through the Bazaar, Snails picking up even more vendor trash along the way. By the end of this sequence he has a stuffed cat.
Appropriately enough, the underground thieves’ guild is located underground, in a lively indoor market which I guess is less wholesome than the one above it. Ridley and Snails recognized some toughs who kidnapped a duke, in a story that was assuredly more interesting than this one, but our band of heroes is quickly captured by the purple guy and a bunch of guards.
Of course, they’re just going to end up seeing the person they came to see anyway, so let this be a lesson: if you ever find yourself needing to make contact with the head of a major criminal organization, go to a place of commerce and seek out the most conspicuous person there, and make a really obvious attempt to follow them wherever they go. (Note: the Agony Booth and its associates cannot be held responsible if you end up being savagely beaten by street performers.)
Ridley and Marina (the dwarf is absent for no particular reason, and Marlon Wayans wasn’t available to shoot this scene) are taken into an opulent—albeit cramped—chamber to meet Xilus, head of the thieves’ guild, currently lounging in a chair being waited on by fly honeys.
Ridley makes his trademark smug-as-all-Hell introduction, and Xilus turns around, and thank you God, it’s Richard O’Brien! O’Brien, who created The Rocky Horror Show and its film incarnation as well as playing Riff-Raff, is not a particularly versatile actor. However, he’s great at playing smarmy bastards, so we’re in for good times, albeit briefly.
After smacking Marina on the rear for grins, Xilus offers to help Ridley. It turns out that the Eye of the Dragon is located at the center of the Antius Guild Maze. “You finish the maze, you win the prize,” he promises, in a reference to O’Brien’s stint hosting the British game show The Crystal Maze. For those who never saw it, it was basically an excuse for O’Brien to prance up and down corridors while bewildered teams of contestants tried to solve bizarre puzzles, and it’s not far from the kind of thing an eccentric Dungeon Master would throw at a group of D&D players. It would have been cool if they just spliced in 15 minutes of the show here, but we’re not so lucky.
Ridley asks if anyone has solved the maze before, which makes little sense since if anyone had, the prize wouldn’t still be in there (or they’d have to swap in a new magical artifact each week). Xilus assures him that anyone who tries, dies. For appearances, they’re still given the home game and a set of steak knives.
On to the maze! Which looks kind of impressive from above, in dim lighting. However, I’m just going to deflate any expectations you may have right now: the maze is three rooms, each with a fairly basic Indiana Jones deathtrap inside.
Incidentally, getting to this DVD’s special features involves a silly interactive mini-game in which you “navigate” the three rooms, selecting which icon object to use in each one. It gets tiring after a while, and though you’ll know how to get through once you’ve seen the movie, the downside of that is that you have to see the movie. Catch 22, I tells ya.
Two rusty doors snap open and shut as Ridley enters the room. Nice of the dungeon designers to make this place handicap accessible. No sooner than our hero has taken a few steps in when a blade shoots up from the floor, directly threatening his crotch. Never let it be said that this film doesn’t have its moments.
Ridley steps clear of the crotch blade and looks at the light coming in from small openings in the wall. Putting his hand in one of the light beams, Ridley triggers a giant pendulum to swing down from the ceiling, and he throws a bone down the corridor to trigger the rest. If I didn’t know better I’d say he’d stepped into a Castlevania level.
Watching from above are Xilus, Marina, and a bunch of random extras. The thieves are making bets, which appalls Marina (though it may be easier to list the things which don’t appall her). Xilus helpfully explains that they’re not betting on whether he lives, but how long before dies. I’ll take a piece of that.
Ridley disappoints us all by leaping on top of the swinging blades and jumping from one to another, somehow ending up at the other end of the corridor. The disappointed thieves walk across the observation chamber to look into the next room. It occurs to me that being able to do this defeats the whole “maze” element.
Room #2 is a small chamber full of tiles with eyes on them. As Ridley steps on a couple, flames shoot out from the sides. Ridley pulls out a couple of swords and tests the tiles one at a time, until he finds that the red ones are safe. The far wall, sensing that this isn’t very entertaining, starts closing in to make him rush forward, and some of the tiles start turning over just to be dicks. The far door starts sliding shut, but our hero’s stunt double leaps through it just in time. “Very light on his feet, isn’t he?” observes Xilus. I think you’d have to ask Snails, but he’s not here.
The final room is the smallest and cheapest of all. On the far end is a complex looking lock; as Ridley looks for an opening, a bronze hand clutching an hourglass pops out and the spiked ceiling starts descending. Around the lock itself, various spikes start whirring around and flame spurts block his way. Things very briefly look bad for our hero, but he decides to cut the Gordian knot by smashing the hourglass with his sword. This makes the ceiling pop back up, and the vault opens. That was a harrowing thirty seconds.
And that’s it. That’s the entire Antias Guild maze; it doesn’t even seem like there are other rooms we don’t get to see, especially since Ridley leaps directly from the eye chamber to the vault entrance. The obstacle course at the end of Double Dare took longer to get through. We’re supposed to believe that nobody has conquered this before, as though agility and the ability to think outside the box are skills that professional thieves have not bothered to develop. Nitpicking at the plausibility aside, I’d like to point out that this is the most elaborate action sequence in the movie so far, and it’s lasted a little over five minutes. Adventure!
Okay, there’s technically a little bit left. Ridley walks into a glowing red chamber lined with Aztec carvings for some reason. He dons an unbearable smirk and pauses for a minute before the Eye of the Dragon, hence allowing the director to steal an iconic movie shot.
Needless to say he takes the gem, after saying “nice”, which is apparently his attempt at a catchphrase. Applause rings out from the apparently very easily entertained Thieves’ Guild, and we cut to Ridley being swept up in Xilus’ stride as the guild leader congratulates him. Xilus says he’s waited 15 years for someone to get the Eye, passing the time songwriting and appearing in Spice World.
The maze—such as it was—was apparently a test; Xilus says that he figured that anyone who could get through it could get into the vault. He then goes on to surprise absolutely no one by asking Ridley to hand over the jewel. Ridley’s notion of honor amongst thieves is shattered, meaning that the screenwriters have allowed Ridley to be wrong about something. If I didn’t know any better I’d say we were within range of actual character development.
Also, Snails is back, if anyone cares.
Xilus is just starting on the traditional “would be a shame if anything happened to your face” spiel, when a blue henchman of his is felled by an arrow felled by one of the Crimson Brigade. Yes, Damodar has sashayed into the underground market, and he’s trespassing on Xilus’ turf. This can only mean one thing—a Bald Overacting Standoff!
Damodar: You must be joking.
Xilus: I never joke when mages trespass in my guild!
And yes, the boldface is necessary. Imagine that line being delivered by Brian Blessed, minus a hundred pounds, all his hair, and most of his melanin. O’Brien is going for the gold!
Ridley tragically disrupts the most entertaining confrontation in the film thus far by grabbing a torch. He starts to set the map on fire (oh, yeah, you may have forgotten but there’s a map) and promises to put it out if they let him and his friends go. Damodar again proves his utter gutlessness by backing down. I swear, Profion doesn’t torture this guy enough. Xilus wins the standoff by forfeit.