Susan and Ed watch Empire’s 25 worst movies of the last twenty five years. Because we have too many brain cells and we need to kill some off before our heads explode.
Unlike Showgirls, Dungeons and Dragons falls straight into the middle of the so-bad-it’s-good category. This is partly achieved through a script that uses every hackneyed fantasy cliché you can think of, and partly through the judicious use of Jeremy Irons. He appears to have realised that he is the only good actor in the movie, and attempts to compensate by acting at least ten times as much as anyone else. Playing Profion, the evil mage who wants to rule in place of the current empress (Thora Birch), he is able to utilise his eyebrows of power to the full. Attempting to foil him are Ridley (Justin Whalin, who children of the nineties will know from Lois and Clark) and Snails (Marlon Wayans, in a role so offensively racist that I forgive him all the terrible films he has done since). They end up helping a young mage named Marina, which is lucky for her because she is useless at everything other than screaming.
The writers have tried to play it safe by following the classic quest movie setup of ‘get all the things on this list, then fight the bad guy’. Unfortunately much of the explanation is garbled, so it’s not clear why the good guys are doing what they do. The sudden appearance of a Crystal Maze episode is particularly strange, though at least we have the pleasure of seeing Richard O’Brien playing himself.
The bad guys, on the other hand, are perfectly clear: Profion wants absolute power and doesn’t see why a child should be given it instead. He employs a competent henchman and, yes, a little bit of torture, but in the end the henchman is rewarded for pulling through. I call that firm and effective leadership. The empress, on the other hand, reacts to being asked to give up her staff of power by calling up her dragons and flame-bombing her own ruling council. Not impressive for a supposed pacifist. If the dragon had eaten the empress instead of Profion, I would have been quite happy. Plus we would have got more Jeremy Irons. Whether he’s scoffing, leering or getting his rage face on, you couldn’t ask for more emotion from the role.
The predictability lasts right up until the ending, at which point I can only assume the writers ran out ideas, dropped some acid, and wrote down the first thing that came into their heads. (I would say spoilers approaching, but seriously, is anyone going to read this who hasn’t seen the movie? Didn’t think so.) This being a movie made in the late 90s, the black guy dies via heroic stupidity/self sacrifice halfway through. At the end Ridley places the magic stone that Snails sacrificed his life for on his grave, it starts glowing, and then turns all those watching into little red comets of light. This makes no sense, even in the context of the extreme stupidity of the movie. Save us, Jeremy Irons; you’re our only hope.