People remember the first “Dungeons & Dragons” film with little warmth. It left hardcore fans feeling ridiculed, and general movie going audience scratching their heads. While taken in the context for what it is, entertainment, there is enough content to appease those who entered theaters with low expectations. Sadly that was not enough to elicit a second outing. At least not if failed to offer more than the original.
tl;dr “Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God” (released in 2005, five years after the first installment) is more like watching a Larping session or fan film, rather than an entry into a franchise like DnD.
As I sat down to re:view the film I had a sneaking suspicion that–while the original has some memorable characters and locations–something was amiss as I couldn’t remember anything about this film. Apparently if you haven’t seen it it is new to you, that is doubly true for anything that causes a sort of amnesia. It almost feels like it cast Erase Memory (5e Spell, for the uninitiated) and maybe we are all a little bit better because of it.
While it quickly became clear to me that this review would not be as detailed as that of the first film I will promise to be thorough (enough) and fair (enough) here to give you an unbiased (mostly) impression of what to expect.
The film begins with a more promising atmosphere than the first installment. That impression is short lived, however, and we quickly get a true sense of what we will be seeing throughout the rest of the film. Is this bad? That really depends on your expectations. When you enter into a story (visual, written, or other) like DnD you either know exactly what you are in for, or you do not. In that latter case you have yet to be initiated, the lore is new and for most strange, and it can be hard finding your way around at first. For those of you who belong to this camp the film will immediately (most likely) scare you away.
For the rest of us?
Anyone who enjoys DnD will be fine with most of what is shown throughout the course of the film. Things that will then detract from the experience will be the production quality (that is all around lacking to capture a grand feel) and the special effects (which feel like worse than the 2000 installment).
The true value of the adventure can then be phrased as a simple question: “Is it fun?”
As of right now I am still on the fence about that question. Mainly because it is not something that can be answered with a simple yes or no. The film has more than a few moments that make it enjoyable (without spoilers, we get some decent banter and the roles of the characters are clearly defined) but there are monumental flaws that make even the hardcore[st] fans among us cringe. As a counter to the last point it is fair that this can be said about most franchise films. As fans we will always find aspects to criticize. And to nitpick would be unfair.
We could spend the time going over the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “Wrath of the Dragon God” but that would be overkill. Why? Because it is sufficient enough to say that this film is really only watchable if you are a fan of the franchise. As a whole it is weak, lacking anything to really make it special, and containing many things to make it bad but there is enough there to entertain the fans. While, it may be obvious do not attempt to introduce anyone new to the game to the universe with this film, you will only succeed in confusing them. Other than that all I can think of saying is enjoy!
Ok, so I got pretty wordy here … I apologize. To simply offer visual evidence would have been unfair, as I said there are many problems with the film and the visual quality is the most glaring of them. With that aside I also said that not everything was bad when I was re-viewing the film, that is what I wish to highlight here.
Edit: You may know this already but their is a good alternative to help get your sword and sorcery fix called SAGA. Much of what you will see in SAGA could be pulled from a more grounded campaign.