“Rise and Fight”
Directed by Uwe Boll
Starring Jason Statham, John Rhys Davies, Ron Perlman, Clare Forlani and Burt Reynolds
When his community is destroyed by rampaging Krugs – beast-like primates who have somehow acquired weapons and organisation, Farmer the Farmer (Statham) sets out to rescue his captured wife (Forlani) and avenge his murdered son. Meanwhile, the King (Burt Reynolds, I shit you not) and his magus Merick (Rhys Davies) must content with dual power grabs by the weasely Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard) and the malevolent magus Gallian (Ray Liotta).
Hijinks ensue, featuring as many Lord of the Rings knock-offs as they could muster and no fewer than three sets of tree ninjas.
What’s wrong with it?
In the Name of the King is a film with barely an original idea to its credit. Ostensibly based on the Dungeon Siege computer games, it is more of a Lord of the Rings mockbuster with Jason Statham cast as the most unlikely Hobbit stand-in imaginable.
Having got onto the cast, let’s stick there a minute. Ray Liotta is apparently channeling the same air of complete no-fuck-is-given that the late Jack Palance brought to his B Movie wizard performances, almost sleepwalking through a role that requires menace on a nuclear-magnetic level. As a result, it would be difficult for Leelee Sobieski, as his duped lover, to maintain the energy in their scenes even if she were trying, which I don’t think she is. Even John Rhys Davies is hard-pressed to lend vitality to the scenes that he shares with either of them.
The plot is convoluted, attempting to blend Farmer’s revenge tale with the Kingdom of Ehb’s high politics with extremely limited success, and the ‘lost prince’ reveal is neither shocking nor especially effective. The film is ponderously long; like, Peter Jackson long, but without Jackson’s energy. Leave us not mistake here, it’s not that Jackson’s films don’t want some cutting, just that this wants it more. It is also full of characters, enough so that it can get confusing. It was unclear for some time whether Muriella (Sobieski) was the King’s daughter or Merick’s, which would be bad enough if Gallian’s seduction of Muriella wasn’t supposed to have been a specific attack on the magical power of Merick’s bloodline to unbalance magic (a factor that was very much told instead of showing).
There are three sets of tree ninjas, because as well as Lord of the Rings, someone had been watching House of Flying Daggers. Coming back to Jackson, the duel between Merick and Gallian is an obvious lift from Fellowship‘s wizard duel, but without any practical effects it ends up with Rhys Davies and Liotta just standing and looking at one another.
Overall the interaction with any CGI effects is poor.
Boll clearly knows some of the tricks of movie making, but not how to use them. The ur-example in In the Name of the King being a scene in which action and music build to a furious crescendo to build dramatic tension, but the scene is Farmer burying his son and the pay-off is that the son is now buried. It doesn’t even lead to a temporary meltdown for Farmer; it’s all overture and no symphony.
What’s right with it?
Statham is a likable lead, and Rhys Davies, Perlman and even Reynolds provide stalwart support, with many secondary roles such as the generals of Ehb a strong third tier.
While the CG bites, the film is relatively strong in basic cinematography, practical effects and fight choreography. In large part I suspect that this is a result of casting people with stunt fight experience, rather than on-set training, as the one notable damp squib is the supposedly even duel between Commander Tarish (Brian White) and Duke Fallow, where it is painfully clear that Matthew Lillard has no stunt fighting experience at all.
How bad is it really?
Let’s be clear here, this is the Citizen Kane of Uwe Boll movies, and I’m not making a joke about it being long and convoluted, although I could. As B movie mockbusters go, this is pretty fucking epic.
It is, however, still a B movie mockbuster.
Best bit (if such there is)?
I actually really enjoyed a scene where the King persuades Farmer to take up his mantle by explaining that he understands farming because the King must know the land.
What’s up with…?
- The tree ninjas? Seriously, the King has a personal guard who shoot bows while clinging to tree trunks with their knees, there are vine-enchanting wood nymphs and tree-scaling kurgs as well.
- Duke Fallow? He’s a useless arsehole, and it’s unclear why either the King trusts him or Gallian considers him even vaguely useful. In the DVD version, Tarish flat out offs him, even though he’s briefly considered to be the King, and no-one cares.
- Krug-a-pults? After successfully launching a volley of flaming missiles, the krug army decide the next volley should be flaming krugs! In the next battle, they don’t even set themselves on fire before launching.
Production values – The film makes good use of the epic landscapes of British Columbia, giving it a look that is quite different to its otherwise obvious influences. It is well blocked, lit and shot, even in the massed battle scenes, with good sound and a slamming orchestral and heavy metal soundtrack. Where it falls down is on the woeful CGI effects. 9
Dialogue and performances – While not amazing, most of the performances are at least workmanlike, with Liotta and Sobieski standing out by their blandness and Lillard by his outragous, OTT shrieking. The lines they have are not classic, but there are no stand-out howlers either. 12
Plot and execution – The plot has reason, direction and consistency. Unfortunately, it is not clearly presented or explained, leaving the audience confused. 16
Randomness – The plot of the film is fairly free from randomness considering the length and pedigree, but there is a fair bit which comes in from the scenes that have been crow-barred in to copy from other films. 14
Waste of potential – As noted above, for a B-movie mockbuster video game license directed by Uwe Boll, this is pretty spectacular. 4