Reviewed By Skylar Gahagan
In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, a new offering from writer/director Uwe Boll, is about as mainstream as you can get (unlike POSTAL, review here). With the popularity of fantasy films at an all time high in the wake of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises, it?s no surprise that studios are scrambling to release the next big sword and sorcery epic. Dr. Boll is no exception to wanting in on the fantasy boom, so without studio help he acquired the rights to the Dungeon Siege series of PC role playing games (something he?s infamous for) in order to bring them to the big screen in what may be the largest, most expensive independent film ever produced. Now I know what you?re thinking - it can?t possibly be a serious entry into the genre, on par with the grand scale of studio output. After all, it IS an Uwe Boll film, so it must be just another ridiculous plotted film with cheesy special effects, corny dialogue, and no talent actors, this time served to fantasy fans rather than the horror set, right? Well, I think many of Boll?s critics, both professional and amateur, will find themselves rather surprised with In The Name of the King, which believe it or not plays out as a fairly solid action-adventure film with an honest to goodness cast of established actors.
The Kingdom of Ehb is in turmoil. Unbeknownst to King Konreid (Burt Reynolds) the evil warlock Gallian (Ray Liotta) is using his dark powers to amass an army of the orc-like Krug and infiltrate the kingdom by manipulating the King?s traitorous nephew, Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard), who longs for the throne himself. When the hordes of Krug begin to ravage the land, they destroy the home of a man named Farmer (Jason Statham), kidnapping his wife and murdering his only son in the process. With the help of his good friends Norick (Ron Perlman) and Bastian (Will Sanderson), he sets out on a quest to avenge the death of his child and rescue Solana (Claire Forlani) from eternal enslavement. Little does he know that his journey will develop into something much bigger as his destiny leads him into playing a role that is vital to the survival of the entire land. It all comes to a head in a classic showdown of good vs. evil, with the fate of Ehb hanging in balance.
So is In The Name of the King just a Lord of the Rings clone like it sounds? To a certain extent, yes - but not exactly. Sure it has a similar look and feel to the LOTR series (lush countryside locations, sweeping aerial landscape shots) and there are some comparable characters and plot points (the Uruk-hai-esque henchmen, the evil black magician, and even a Mordor-like stronghold complete with molten lava), but that is to be expected in much the same way that films like Star Wars or Alien influenced scores of imitators after their release. It would be incredibly difficult to release a fantasy film at this point that does NOT owe something to LOTR in some shape or form.
While In The Name of the King tries to capture the same epic scale of its cinematic big brothers, the production values associated with an independent film, even one that is as large as this (and it is still a very big movie), simply can?t match the money that a studio could offer. The result is adventure on a much smaller scale, which means less on screen magic and monsters, sort of a LOTR lite. But that doesn?t mean that the film does not succeed in providing the most bang for your buck that could be squeezed from the budget (which was still astronomical for an indie), with great CGI effects, costumes, and locations; the money still shows up in the film.
What really sets In The Name of the King apart from other fantasy films is the level of action. Whether out of necessity or otherwise, the smaller sized battles work toward the films benefit, allowing for them to be much more combat intensive than a mere exchange of blows. Thanks to action choreographer Siu-Tung Ching, responsible for the fights in films like House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and Shaolin Soccer, we get a wonderful mix of medieval swordplay and Hong Kong wire fighting, something not really seen before in the genre. The physical prowess of lead Jason Statham, known for his action roles in Crank and The Transporter series, meshes perfectly with this style, creating fierce, hands on melees that leave the viewer feeling right in the midst of them rather than distant and removed.
Overall, In the Name of the King does what it sets out to do ? tell an ambitious tale. It has a few minor flaws, like a plot that jumps around a bit too much (especially in the beginning) and a few moments of hammy acting from some of the big stars (Liota, Reynolds, and not surprisingly Lillard), but not enough to keep it from feeling like a legitimate theatrical quality film, instead of some straight to DVD garbage. It looks polished, flows nicely, and never falls flat on its face. Fantasy fans should definitely check it out. Boll haters might want to give it a shot; you might end up reconsidering some of the preconceived notions you may have about the man and his work.