Apr 19, 2014
Dungeons & Dragons (2000) (part 10 of 10)
Before Profion can finish off the hero somehow, Marina leaps in! With a staff in hand, she knocks the Rod out of his hand. Yay, Marina! The other party members have teleported in too, so they can all take part in a big epic final fight!
Or not. Profion knocks Marina down, zaps the dwarf with some kind of magic electric stunning thing, and zaps Norda with a different looking kind of magic electric stunning thing. It was too much to hope that they’d be allowed even a moment of competence, wasn’t it?
But in the confusion, Ridley manages to grab the Rod. He taunts Profion, saying “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size?”
Where are these lines coming from? Did the screenwriters roll percentile dice and check a big chart for results? Even the worst James Bond puns have some connection with the on-screen action.
Profion, naturally, doubts that Ridley can use the Rod of Sevillanas, but Ridley glowers harder and raises the Rod higher. Somewhere in the CGI battle scene a red dragon pauses. I guess distracting dragons is kind of like controlling them.
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Marina shouts for Ridley to bring the dragons “down upon” Profion and destroy him. Not the best idea when you’re five feet away, but maybe Marina’s in a suicidal mood. Anyway, the idea is to give Ridley his moment of temptation.
And what a moment it is. I’m going to let the pictures tell the story for a minute.
And the big decision? Why, of course, Ridley rejects the Rod’s power, saying to Profion, “I won’t become you!” Don’t worry, kid, I don’t see you playing Klaus Von Bulow anytime soon.
Profion’s face lights up at the idea that he might get a chance with the Rod again, but Ridley decides that if he can’t have it, nobody can, and smashes it with his sword. Meaning that instead of burying it with an undying skeleton, the Forces of Good or whatever could have just broken the damn thing, without even sending a few short dudes on a 900-page quest. And I just thought it looked cheaply made.
Unfortunately, just blowing up the artifact won’t end this story; we still have a villain to dispose of. In the confusion the Empress has managed to land on the balcony, striking a dramatic pose—well, she’s in the frame at least. She and Profion have a brief standoff, in which he once again proves to have several hundred times her screen presence.
At this point, the filmmakers are running out of ideas, so to finish off the Empress, Profion conjures up some sort of a… thing. It’s a skeleton, it’s gold, it’s got red eyes, it’s got no legs, it’s also a ghost, and it throws the Empress to the ground and sort of claws at her or humps her back and I have no fucking clue.
Profion spouts gibberish as the vaguely uncomfortable assault continues. The Empress, however, manages to grab her own scepter, and activates it with a lens flare (You have other optical effects, goddamn it).
This summons a gold dragon, who pops up behind Profion and eats him in one chomp. Hmm. I guess this was the Empress’ plan all along. Well, I still think she was slow to implement it, but hey, can’t argue with results.
The dragon falls back from the tower and flies away with a certain badass swagger, leaving the survivors to look out from the ledge. Apparently killing the bad guy instantly ended the battle, because all of the dragons are flying around peacefully now, like big scaly doves.
Time for one last swooping city shot, and I swear this jumbled compilation of the Ivory Tower, Cloud City, and the Vatican is starting to make geographical sense. The time has come for the Empress to liberate the people, in voiceover:
Empress: People of Izmer! At long last, I do declare that you are now all equal. Let the celebration begin!
Not exactly the Emancipation Proclamation, is it?
As she’s saying this, the scene fades to an ivy-covered cemetery, where Ridley—Oh, God, he’s gone emo! Or is possibly a pirate from the cover of a romance novel. The all-black ensemble is because he’s visiting Snails’ grave, which is marked by a bunch of rocks stacked on top of each other. You’d figure the Empress would have shelled out for a nice tombstone, but there’s the repairs to the city from the whole dragon war, plus, y’know, Snails.
I’d also like to point out that Norda, Marina, and the Dwarf are there too, and they’re all in their standard adventuring clothes. Apparently they just stopped by here on the way to lunch.
So Ridley gets to deliver one last big monologue mourning his friend. Like all extended dialogue in this movie it’s just one cliché on top of another—he tells Snails that the cheering we hear from the Empress’ speech is “all for you”, his life’s never gonna be the same, etc. I forgot it as soon as I heard it.
Somehow Ridley held on to the Eye of the Dragon, and places the gem on the pile of rocks that is the gravesite. “You finally got it,” he says. “Your big score.” Judging by his taste in stolen goods, Snails might have been happier with a stuffed pigeon or some drapery, but it’s the thought that counts.
Another round of cheering starts up in the background, and Ridley says he has to get going to be knighted. Because Snails was teasing him about being “Ridley the Savior” earlier, you see. It’s all a rich tapestry. With that, the hero bids his fallen comrade a sad adieu.
Interestingly enough, at one point this was actually where the movie would have ended. They had some climactic knighting scene planned but never shot, and the alternate ending on the DVD is just Ridley saying all this and walking away. I generally don’t think a darker ending is automatically a better one, but this could have at least given the film something of distinction. However, the filmmakers ultimately decided that something cheerier was in order. And by “cheerier”, I mean “brain breaking.”
A wind kicks up. Leaves blow everywhere. The camera briefly gets a fuzzy soap opera filter. Snails’ name disappears off his grave marker by some kind of magic, and the Eye of the Dragon starts glowing. Ridley picks it up and turns to Norda, who simply says, “Do not question your gift. Your friend awaits you.”
Now, by “your gift”, does Norda mean that Ridley now has magic contact-the-dead powers? Or worse, that he can resurrect the dead? Travel dimensions? Rearrange the fabric of space-time? Meddle with the primal forces of nature?
All this for Snails?
Here comes the topper. All four heroes realize some sort of mystic journey is in store, and put their hands together on top of the glowing jewel. Flashy special effects turn them into streams of energy which, as the music reaches its one hundred and first crescendo is as many minutes, fly through the graveyard and into the streams of sunlight, and we fade to black, and the credits roll.
You know, the first time I saw this film, I just filed this scene under “Magic He’s-Not-Really-Dead Scene #15235” and paid no more attention, but on closer inspection, this is pretty fucked up right here. I’m almost disappointed not to know what would have happened next, because it would at least have to be more spectacular than this film. Saying that, however, I realize they’d have screwed it up too.
This entire film is just a cavalcade of disappointment. It’s a general disappointment in that the movie, the first and so far only major film adaptation of a role-playing game, and not just any RPG but the very first and most well loved, is a shoddy piece of crap. It’s also disappointing as a bad movie, because it’s so dull and dry. It’s disappointing as cheap spectacle because there is none, it’s disappointing in its use of at least some talented actors, it’s disappointing that this was made just before they started making good fantasy movies again, and on every viewing you can uncover more little moments of wasted potential.
And the sad thing is, I almost want to give the filmmakers a break. This was Courtney Solomon’s big pet project, and after listening to both commentary tracks, I’m acutely aware of all the really awesome and badass stuff that he wanted to put in the movie but couldn’t because there wasn’t any money. But you can only make that excuse so many times, and I’m not even sure his original idea would have been that good a movie to start with. The whole thing is just a failure of the imagination, and for a movie based on a game which is all about imagination, that’s pretty tragic.