Plot: What’s it about?
The land of Izmer has been divided for some time, between the Mages who rule the area and the commoners who possess no power. But the commoners are not alone, as Empress Savina (Thora Birch) seeks to bring equality to her lands, even if that means a lifetime of sacrifice and work. Her status as high ruler is protected by a scepter, which controls the golden dragons and provide Savina with the power she needs to keep her throne intact. But someone wants her to vacate her power and that person is Profion (Jeremy Irons), a tyrant who wants to exploit Izmer for his own personal gain. In order to dispose of Savina, Profion must gain control of the scepter and to do that, he tries to convince the Council of Mages that she is unfit to continue her hold on the piece. He uses tricks of course, but he manages to achieve his mission and now, Savina’s hold on Izmer stands in grave danger, which means bad news for all those who live within the kingdom. Now in order to save her people, Savina must harness a power even greater than before, which involves the help of some unlikely heroes. Is Izmer doomed to ruin under the rule of Profion, or will Savina and her new friends be able to thwart his efforts?
This movie was hammered by critics and audiences, quickly exited the multiplexes, and now sits before us as a special edition disc. I had heard a lot of negative press on this one, but since I am a fantasy film lover, I went ahead and stood in line on opening night, which I am glad I did. I wasn’t blown away by Dungeons & Dragons by any means, but it was a fun ride and offered a lot of cool visuals, which is about all I expected. Yes, there are plot holes and the special effects sometimes falter, but the sense of magic and adventure is present, which was enough to entertain me for that short amount of time. I can understand why some folks didn’t like it and all, but I think their expectations were perhaps geared a little high, which skewed their opinions. I was looking forward to this disc to see how well repeat viewings held up and I have to say, I had just as much fun the second time around. This is not rocket science and it will not change your life, but you like fantasy movies, then I recommend Dungeons & Dragons as a rental. If you’re a fan however, New Line has outdone themselves with this release, so don’t hesitate to spend the cash.
I’ve always liked the screen presence of Jeremy Irons, so I was interested to see how he would approach his role in such a fantasy based picture. As it turns out, Irons chose to go over the top and not just a shade either, he overacts like the dickens and seems to love every second of it, which is cool. I am not one of overacting in all cases, but Irons outrageous approach is good enough here and in truth, I think it adds to the film’s enjoyment in the end. Sure, he won’t be remembered for this role or given any special awards, but Irons seems to be having fun and that speaks volumes of his talents, perhaps even sportsmanship in this case. If you want see Irons in his more typical work, then I recommend Dead Ringers, Lolita, Reversal of Fortune, Stealing Beauty, Chinese Box, and The Man In The Iron Mask. The cast here also includes Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, American Beauty), Justin Whalin (Serial Mom, Child’s Play 3), Marlon Wayans (Senseless, Scary Movie), Bruce Payne (Highlander: Endgame, Solarbabies), and Zoe McLellan (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Stranger In My House).
Video: How does it look?
Dungeons & Dragons is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a release from New Line and as such, the image is excellent and in this case, I could find no flaws to lower the score. This is a visually driven picture and it needed an impressive transfer, so New Line delivered the goods and then some with this release. I saw no evidence of compression errors and the source print looks flawless, which is the groundwork for any reference level visual presentation, if you ask me. The colors stream across the screen in vibrant hues, with warm, natural flesh tones and not even a trace of oversaturation. The contrast is just as excellent, with razor sharp black levels and a very strong detail presence. Dungeons & Dragons is a gorgeous film and thanks to this flawless transfer, it brings the intense visuals to home theaters in fine form.
Audio: How does it sound?
As if the visuals weren’t enough, the audio provided here is even more impressive and I assure you, that is a bold statement. The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is hands down the finest audio option I’ve heard of late, with an immersive atmosphere and no flaws to speak of. The surrounds are used often and to effective means, even in the more conservative scenes, which adds depth beyond belief. This is the kind of movie where you want to be sucked in and this track helps there, really pulling you inside the flick and making you forget you’re at home still. There’s power at times, subtle use other times, but in the end, it all plays out to sheer perfection, impressive work indeed. The sound effects, musical score, and vocals all come across in fine form and never falter, even in the slightest. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track, as well as English subtitles, just in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc is part of New Line’s Platinum Series and just as you’d expect, it comes filled to the brim with goodies of all sorts. At the top of the list are two audio commentary tracks and of course, they offer different perspectives on the production. The first track features director Courtney Solomon, D&D co-creator Dave Arneson, and actor Justin Whalin, who provide a casual, but informative session. Although some technical stuff is covered here, this is pretty much an informal session, with more anecdotes and stories than anything else. On the other side of the coin is the second track, which features Solomon and Arneson again, this time joined by cinematographer Doug Milsome. This option deals with the more technical side of the production, which is very informative of course, but might not be of interest to some viewers. Next you’ll find a nice selection of deleted scenes and that includes an alternate ending, which is cool indeed. As you watch these unused clips, you can also choose to enable the director’s comments, if you so wish. A look at the special effects process is also included, in which you can watch as four sequences evolve on their trek to the big screen, pretty sweet stuff. You can also view two featurettes, which run for a total of about thirty-five minutes and give a welcome glimpse behind the scenes. One looks at the history of the Dungeons & Dragon game, while the other focuses on the production, so all the bases seem to be covered with these two pieces. The disc also includes some talent files, DVD ROM content, and the film’s theatrical trailer.