STUDIO: Warner
MSRP: $24.99
RUNNING TIME: 105 min.

The Pitch

“It’s all the D&D geekery, without the graph paper and dice!”

The Humans

Mark Dymond (Die Another Day, The House of Mirth), Clemency Burton-Hill (Until Death), Bruce Payne (Hellborn, Sweepers), numerous British actors of varying talent

The Nutshell

Set some ages after the practically unwatchable first film (and thereby wisely ignoring it, along with the 80s animated series, of which I still have fond memories), Wrath of the Dragon God finds bald baddie Damodar (Payne) awakening from a lengthy slumber in a vengeful state of mind. He has designs on using a sinister orb to summon an ancient dragon and punish a nearby kingdom, but the residents aren’t about to sit idly by and let that happen. So square-jawed swordsman Berek (Dymond) comes out of semi-retirement and assembles a party of sundry NPCs that includes a cynical thief, a surly female warrior (a barbarianette?) and a couple of spiritual spell-slingers.  Off they go on their campaign, checking for traps and searching for secret doors and rolling for wandering monsters as they trek through the dungeons and encounter the dragons (giving full credence to the title), building sufficient experience points to reach Damodar’s lair for the big showdown.

"Demogorgon’s Balls! I pass out for five minutes, and you damn Trekkies get all busy with the permanent marker!"

The Package

The look and sound of the disc are confined to the realms of the adequate, but the special features should hold plenty of treasure for fans of the old-school role-playing game.  An insightful behind-the-scenes featurette and a conversation with D&D creator Gary Gygax go into considerable detail on the process of bringing the game to life (and trying to get it somewhat right this time). Less interesting to the casual viewer is the audio track, featuring a project manager from D&D license-holder Wizards of the Coast and two players offering commentary on the movie in character, a few minutes of which was enough to make me wish I could cast a Deflect Boredom spell.

Looking at the dailies for Basic Instinct 2 was indeed cause for concern among the producers.

The Lowdown

It’s been well over twenty years since my last D&D session (and we pretty much used to make up our own rules anyway), but there seem to be more than enough Guide references and Monster Manual appearances present in Wrath of the Dragon God to please the legions of gamers. Though we’ve still yet to see a single mind flayer or githyanki or even a gelatinous cube, at least we finally bear witness what happens when a teleportation spell is off-target.

There are a few ambitious sequences in the film, even if the production values are often closer to Sci-Fi Channel original picture than WETA handiwork. The direction and cinematography are reasonably competent – dungeon master Gerry Lively has a background as DP on a number of low-budget horror movies like Waxwork and Hellraiser: Bloodline – and the actors are tolerable and often spirited in their parts. But with all the mystical mumbo jumbo and the script’s confounding elements (Damodar wants to rule ruins?), the adherence to the source material will be lost on the average viewer, who’d probably rather just plunk their LOTR extended edition into the player.

6 out of 10