[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]
A sequel was also released in 2005, but as far as I can tell, the film is only based on the first game. And it's, yet again, Uwe Boll. The film is considered one of the worst ever made (as is par for the course with Mr. Boll), but even went so far as to be nominated for multiple Razzies and rank 49th in Rotten Tomatoes' 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s.
In fact, a better history might be Uwe Boll's journey to this point instead. Boll's ability to get movies made in and of itself is shocking. His films were massive flops. To quote from Wikipedia, "House of the Dead, which was budgeted at $12 million, made $5.73 million in its opening weekend, Alone in the Dark, which was budgeted at $20 million, made $5.1 million, and BloodRayne, which was made for $25 million, made $2.42 million." He's known to produce terrible films that perform poorly, so how on Earth do people continue to fund him? Well...
Apparently, German tax laws allowed any investors to write off their investment 100%, and if the film lost money (which they all did), you actually got 50% of your money back from the government. In other words, if you pay to make a film and it bombs, you've not only paid no taxes on it, but you've gotten half your money back. This method was how Boll continued to get funded, which actually garnered a lot of negativity. However, the law changed in 2005, and he lost the ability to be funded this way.
What doesn't make sense, however, is that after 2005, Boll was funded for not 1, 2, or even 3 films... but 4. He made 4 films in 2007, one of which was this one (though this one came out January 2008). And this is the most mind-boggling of them all. It's one of his biggest budgeted films, and it has one insane cast... literally, because this list of people should know better than to work with Uwe Boll. So I'm still not sure how he got this huge amount of money, nor am I sure how the hell he got this cast... but he did... and I can't wait to check this puppy out, so let's get to it...
Wait, so... this movie has Jason Statham kicking ass, Ron Perlman cracking wise, John Rhys-Davies as a wizard, Ray Liotta as a cheesy magic-using villain, Burt Reynolds as a king, and Matthew Lillard as a Shakespearean Matthew Lillard. There's also ninjas, cheesy monster costumes, and sexy tree-dwelling/nature-controlling women (one of which is played by Kristanna Loken). And people consider this a terrible movie? Have these people seen other Uwe Boll films? To be perfectly honest, this is easily Boll's second-best movie (next to the non-ironically good Rampage).
Of course, I think a lot of that probably has to do with the casting. Statham is fun in it. Perlman is severely underused, especially in the second half, but he's great in the first half, at least. Matthew Lillard and Ray Liotta steal the show, though, as our two primary villains. Both are deliciously over-the-top and in roles you probably never expected either of them to be in. Lillard plays a Shakespearean-esque villain, even going so far as to speak (or attempt to speak) in the dialect of the Bard. And Ray Liotta is an evil sorcerer. I think that's about enough said on that one. Though the best actual performance comes from Brian White, who seemed to be the only person taking the movie seriously. I guess he wasn't aware he was in an Uwe Boll film.
I also give Boll kudos for going mostly practical. It would have been so easy to do a lot of this movie CGI, but he didn't. Don't get me wrong--there's CGI on occasion, especially toward the end.. But it's actually not that bad. The book tornado attack thing in the climax is ridiculous, but that's about the only poor decision when it came to CGI. Everything else looked fine. The Krug are just dudes in suits. And sure, it can look silly. But I can bet there would have been even stronger complaints had they been pure CGI.
The battle sequences weren't anything special, though they had some moments here and there. Pretty much any time it focused Jason Statham was a standout, as he mixed this medieval sword fighting with his martial arts skills. Also kind of shockingly, there was a surprising lack of blood in this movie. This is more in the vein of Narnia where swords pierce but are never covered in blood. There's no sprays of blood. You see almost none the entire movie. And considering the films Boll made prior to this, you would think he'd go all out with it. Oh, and Jason Statham has a non-magical boomerang that might as well be magical for the way it acts. How is that not awesome, again?
I mean, it's not really a good movie. It's just not terrible. And the bizarre casting and pure silliness of the film makes it really entertaining to watch. A lot of the writing/dialogue is awkward. There's so much going on that the film can't really build on its characters, leaving almost all of them underdeveloped. And just some overall weird decisions (like two scenes happening at the same time, but one is at night in the rain, and the other is in the day with clear skies). It's also incredibly derivative of Lord of the Rings. The Krug are Orcs and/or Uruk-hai and/or Nazgul (depending on rank, of course). Jason Statham is Aragorn. Ray Liotta is Saruman. John Rhys-Davies is Gandalf (...oddly). Matthew Lillard is Wormtongue. Will Sanderson is Legolas (including the hair!). Leelee Sobieski is basically Eowyn. Hell, you could even say that Kristanna Loken and her ladies are just humanoid versions of the Ents.
The film, to me, is a strange creature. Half the movie is actually decent, while other aspects are so-bad-it's-good. There's no middle ground in my eyes. I don't think really anything in this movie is bad bad. It's just not original, has bizarre acting (including almost nobody talking in the same style or accent), and just misses the mark rather often. Still, I found it to be incredibly entertaining. And especially in comparison to Boll's other work, this was actually really good.
I Am McLovin!