STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: $24.96
RUNNING TIME: 132 Minutes
Five "making of" featurettes

The Pitch

Ring of the Nibelung
for cable viewers who don’t feel like sitting
through Wagner’s opera."

The Humans

Witt (Alia from Dune!), Kristanna Loken (Bloodrayne), and Benno Fürmann (The Order nee The Sin


In the original myth cycle, a crafty and hideous
creature named Alberich steals the gold of the Nibelung, which had been guarded
by three fickle mermaids. The power of the gold, fashioned into a ring, and his
own cold heart sets him on a path to bringing down the gods, the valkyrie
Brunhilde, and the hero Siegfried. But mostly the gods.

In Dark
Kingdom: The Dragon King
(which is just a wretched, banal title for an
interpretation of this myth), the gods are shunted to the background, as they
were in
Troy. Instead,
the story focuses on the period of the myth about three-quarters of the way
through, with courtly politics and curses driving the lovers Brunhilde and
Siegfried apart, while treachery and murder surround the fated treasure of the

(If you didn’t guess already, the Ring cycle was
also a massive inspiration for The
Lord of the Rings
. Nothing’s made from whole cloth.)

Max von Sydow said it, not me.


Don’t go into this one expecting a Dungeons & Dragons substitute.
It’s less an adventure than a chronicle of the personal tragedies that carpet great
epics — the individual oaths, betrayals, and debts of honor that lead heroes
to their destructions. What little magic is present isn’t marked by flashy CGI,
and there is only one dragon, the former giant Fafnir.

The plot of the myth, as solidified by Wagner and Bullfinch, isn’t
strictly followed, but an appropriate tragic spirit rules the story, so the
deviations don’t grate as much as they could. This is an oddity among consumer
fantasy (at least until Beowulf
comes out) in that, like the poetic epics, it is concerned with the downfall of
the heroes and the destruction of its own myth. When great men and women are
involved in bitter rivalries, happy endings don’t crop up that frequently.
Epics are about the meddling of gods and exposing the flaws of those heroes who
carry history on their backs, proving it a greater burden than mortals can

Dark Kingdom does a
decent job capturing that feel — moreso than Troy did with The
actually — but falls short of being a true epic by the bungling
of the portrayal of Siegfried. Benno Fürmann doesn’t seem to have a convincing
actorly bone in his body. His monotone performance is dull, and so his heroics
end up seeming too rehearsed. There is a space in epics for grandly declaring
one’s lines, but unfortunately the writers here dispensed with a lot of that
sort of language in favor of more expository (and necessarily shallow)

Every thousand years, Fafnir would return to Earth to hunt xenomorphs.

The trouble with adapting epics is that modern
cinema (and fiction) is all about inspiring a connection between audience and
character, whereas the epics were about archetypes interacting, avatars of
philosophy clashing, and impersonal gods interfering. None of these qualities
translate well for a modern audience, so there’s always the vague sensation
that something is missing.

Dark Kingdom is a
modest success, a different sort of movie aimed at an audience that doesn’t
mind a little distance from their entertainment, as long as they are repaid
with heroism and tragedy — the actions, but not the emotions.

Soon after, Siegfried found himself covered in a strange green moss
and dreaming of fame and fortune.


The audio
here is top notch. With a good setup, the dramatic notes in the script are
supported by bass-register rumblings that put me in mind of the Earth shifting.
The mix is Dolby 5.1, and strikes a nice balance between the different elements
of the soundtrack, the only exception being occasional points when the music
overwhelms the dialogue.

transfer is clean, though fairly bland; this isn’t a film with a lot of color,
since most of it takes place in barren lands, in caves, or surrounded by ice.
What little color there is has been deliberately washed-out.

As for
bonuses, you get five brief featurettes that feel like Internet exclusives: cut
down pieces of marketing that are short enough that the poor bastards on 56k
might still pull them down.

6.6 out of 10