“Look; I am not a fucking retard like Michael Bay!”Uwe Boll
As adept a judge of character as the above quote would suggest him to be, Uwe Boll’s body of work is at least as bad as anything I’ve seen from Michael Bay. My article today concerns Boll’s attempt at a high fantasy epic. Like most of his work, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is based on a video-game. I read a bit about the story of the game, and the movie seems to have nothing to do with it. Most reviews of In the Name of the King dub it one of the worst fantasy stories of all time, but I recently reviewed The Dragon in the Sock Drawer, which was so stupid and utterly mental that In the Name of the King seems all the more bland.
High Fantasy at Its Worst
That said, In the Name of the King does leave a very bad taste in one’s mouth. It feels like Boll made the all-too-common assumption that writing fantasy doesn’t require any effort, and so he wrote a passionless attempt to reproduce the success of The Lord of the Rings.
It seems like anyone who tries to make a fantasy film has to get at least one actor who was in The Lord of the Rings if their film is to be credible, as with Game of Thrones’ casting of Sean Bean. In the Name of the King went with John Rhys-Davies as the magician Merick, and in spite of the script he gives the best performance in the film. As far as I can gather, the main protagonist in the game is a woman named Montbarron, but for some reason Boll casts instead Jason Statham as a farmer named Farmer.
Farmer, it turns out, is actually the son of King Konreid, portrayed by a creepily preserved and comedically miscast Burt Reynolds. Perhaps the most entertaining part of the movie is the laughable performance of Matthew Lillard as the king’s nephew and heir Duke Fallow. There are other actors in minor roles, and you’d be surprised how many known actors Boll was able to enlist. If you know of the actors I’ve mentioned, then it may be apparent that—with the obvious exception of John Rhys-Davies—they are most of them products of their time, ill suited to period pieces, let alone high fantasy. Boll, being the horrible filmmaker he is, went so far as to cast Ray Liotta as the evil magician Gallian, and his high-pitched voice and non-threatening laugh make him hard to take seriously in the role. This is before you take into account that Liotta and many of the other actors speak either in American accents or in very, very bad British ones.
Ray Liotta Attacks Stonebridge
Having just written an article on the plotless monstrosity that is A Song of Ice and Fire, I was relieved to discover that In the Name of the King actually has a plot. I mean, it’s not a good plot, but at least it has one. We are introduced to Farmer as he spends time with his young son Zeph, whom we all know from the very beginning is going to bite it very early on. Farmer’s wife, named Solana, is the worst-acted character of the bunch—that might be Uwe Boll’s doing, though. There’s also Ron Perlman, who tries desperately to stay under the radar, and others who succeed in their quests to be unremarkable.
“I’m sure the kid won’t end up dead…”
The following day, Solana and Zeph go into town to sell their wares; it is here that we get some dull-witted exposition about Farmer’s upbringing in the village, and Zeph says,
“I’m glad he has a family now. I’m glad it’s us.”
I hesitate to state the obvious here, but Zeph’s character is unrealistically warm-hearted for his age. He exists, as most children do in vapid revenge films, for no other purpose than to be as innocent as possible and then be killed horribly so the hero can go out and kill everyone. Every line out of this kid’s mouth makes this all the more transparent.
The town is attacked on this very day, of course, and Farmer rides in with his companions to fight them off. The enemies in question are Krug, which are basically low-budget orc knock-offs. It turns out that some of the poorly-costumed Krug are possessed remotely by Gallian, and these individuals (which the Wikipedia page refers to as avatars) look suspiciously similar to the poorly-designed Nazgûl from Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. When farmer and his companions enter the fray, the shots and editing become almost unwatchable. Farmer confronts one of Gallian’s avatars in the house of his parents-in-law, whom Gallian kills. Liotta’s squeaky, American voice reduces his character to little more than a joke, however.
“Wow… Didn’t See That Coming!”
Zeph is revealed to be hiding in a wardrobe, and Farmer holds off Gallian and his Krug grunts to give the boy a chance to escape. Gallian’s avatar follows Zeph out the door, but for some reason Farmer just keeps fighting the Krug inside the house. He doesn’t actually seem overly interested in protecting his son. Just as Gallian’s avatar closes in on Zeph (despite the boy having run quite quickly the whole time as opposed to Gallian’s strolling pace), Farmer seems to suddenly remember that his son is in danger. He’s predictably too late, and Gallian—in his own words later in the film—tears out the poor screaming boy’s insides.
Farmer buries his son, and is almost immediately approached by Merick, the king’s personal magus, who tells him cryptically that his king needs him. Farmer refuses to join the king’s army, instead opting to try and rescue his wife, whom he assumes for some reason is still alive.
An Out-of-Place Bit of Bad Comedy
In the very next scene after Farmer buried his only child, Farmer and his friends engage in some light-hearted silliness as they cross a river. It’s scenes like this that make me question whether Zeph’s death (let alone his existence in the first place) was really necessary for the plot, as it seems to have little to no impact on later scenes. If Uwe Boll wanted to have comedic scenes like this, he should have postponed killing the boy until later in the film.
Overacting in Bad Accents
Here we take a short break from Farmer’s stupid journey and watch the equally stupid plot-line involving King Konreid, who, after recruiting a few conscripts to his army, returns to his castle to find a solitary guard sleeping on the job. Duke Fallow, the king’s whiny man-child nephew and heir, who was supposed to be protecting the castle, has removed all but one guard and is discovered enjoying the company of a prostitute on his uncle’s throne. Despite his many obvious acts of treason, Fallow is just sent to his room, where we hear Matthew Lillard’s sad attempt at a British accent.
Almost immediately after this, we find out that Fallow is in league with Gallian, and both their performances are so over-the-top that they’re quite entertaining to watch. When Liotta insists that “things are progressing according to plan,” Lillard flails his arms like a small child and screams in what he thinks is a British accent,
“I cannot wait any longer! I cannot stand the suffering rule of that senile goat!”
And then, wagging his finger at Gallian,
“Make… it… happen.”
Gallian agrees in a most over-the-top manner, and then Fallow apologizes to his uncle Konreid, claiming to have mistaken his orders. For some reason—most likely because he’s an incurable simpleton—King Konreid believes his nephew. We cut to the king and his commanders discussing things that are of little importance.
“You’ve Poisoned Me‼︎”
Muriella, Merick’s daughter who’s been having a secret affair with Gallian, realizes that King Konreid has been poisoned. Through what I assume is telepathy, Merick himself realizes this in the same moment despite being far from the castle. So that we aren’t deprived of some unintentional comedy, Fallow has also been poisoned because of having had breakfast with his uncle. After an overacted scene that proves to be one of the funniest in the film, Gallian gives Fallow the antidote. Merick arrives and seemingly cures the king, rendering the whole poisoning sub-plot mostly pointless. The only real purpose it served was so Fallow could flee the castle and take two thirds of the king’s army with him. Merick concludes rightly that Fallow and Gallian are working together and were the ones behind the attempt on Konreid’s life.
Preparations for War
Fallow tells his army that they are to go north and meet “their new ally.” When a soldier asks why their commander didn’t brief them himself, an innocent enough question, Fallow stabs him and claims that the question was an act of treason, which only draws more attention to his suspicious behaviour. Amazingly, none of the soldiers bat an eyelid at this. Meanwhile, Merick finds out about his daughter’s affair with his sworn enemy; this goes nowhere. We get a brief scene with farmer and his companions in which he, his brother-in-law, and Ron Perlman get captured by the Krug.
Fell Deeds Half-Awake!
King Konreid rallies his remaining third of the army and gives a none-too-impassioned battle-speech:
“God blesses those who die for honour!”
I think Boll tries then to rip off Théoden’s speech at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, except that instead of “Death! Death!” everyone here shouts “Truth! Truth!” at the end. It’s all very stupid and silly.
The Hanging of Farmer
Farmer, meanwhile, has been captured by one of Gallian’s avatars and is about to be hanged from a tree in the middle of nowhere. Liotta’s voice makes an already doltish monologue even harder to take seriously:
“I can read most men like reading scrolls of flesh, but you! You—I can’t see past your scowl. Why is that?”
Without waiting for an answer, Gallian commences with the hanging. Merick again senses what’s going on so he rides off to save Farmer. It seems, however, that this isn’t quite necessary, as in a truly ludicrous manoeuvre he slices the avatar’s throat and frees himself.
“Oh, He’s Fine… Aside From Being Dead!”
Solana wakes up in the slave cart to find her brother has been captured. She asks where Zeph is, and if he is with his grandparents. Her brother replies,
“Yes. He’s with them… but he didn’t make it. He was killed with them the day you were taken.”
When Solana asks if her son died quickly, her brother again replies,
“Yes. He died quickly…”
The scene cuts away at this point, but—judging from what we learn from Gallian later in the film—I can only assume that he follows that up with, “but first they slowly ripped out his entrails and burned them right before his eyes.” Before you think to ask, yes; the acting in this scene is horrendous. Moving on.
Unclear Theology and A Long-Lost Prince
Merick finds Farmer and brings him to see the king, and then he reveals that Farmer is in fact the king’s son. We cut to Muriella, who briefly contemplates suicide; this goes nowhere. Instead, she dawns a suit of armour and rides out from the castle. Meanwhile, Duke Fallow reveals to his army that their new allies are the Krug. While speaking to the king concerning the long-lost prince, Merick says that,
“Sometimes the gods know what is best for us.”
This is a constant problem with the film; Uwe Boll can’t decide whether the kingdom of Ehb is polytheistic or monotheistic, and so he just alternates with referring to “the gods” or just “God.”
The Battle of Atrocious Editing
Somewhere in the forest, the two armies meet and Commander Tarish negotiates with Duke Fallow, who tries to frame him for poisoning the king. To the sound of music that sounds suspiciously like a horrible Uwe Boll rip-off of one of the themes from The Lord of the Rings, the king reveals himself to be alive and tells his nephew that he will never be king. The armies Fallow stole from his uncle remain loyal to their king, and Fallow is left with only Gallian’s Krug and a few traitorous soldiers at his command.
Fallow’s Krug move to attack, and the king commands his ninja to—wait! Ninja? Why does a—one assumes—European king have ninja in his army? Are they meant to be rangers, because if rangers wore black, they’d stick out like a sore thumb in the forest—ninja, for that matter, didn’t actually wear black for precisely this reason. Whatever they’re supposed to be, it’s never explained.
Fighting Like Dogs
As the king orders his archers to fire, a big battle starts. The fight scenes are where the film becomes really painful; the editing in particular makes everything hard to follow. This, I think, is a good time to mention that the score doesn’t shift with the tone of each moment as a normal film score would, resulting in some very ill-fitting music peppered throughout the film. Each battle tries to copy one from The Lord of the Rings, but these superficial similarities to better battle scenes only draw more attention to their flaws. Duke Fallow remarks to one of his men during the battle,
“They fight like dogs.”
This has no significance—none at all. At one point, Farmer throws his boomerang, and I can’t help thinking that I could be watching Avatar: The Last Airbender right now. The battle just keeps going… and going… and going… Whereas interesting things happened throughout the battles in The Lord of the Rings, Uwe Boll is content to just have what seems like the same poorly-edited shots on repeat, punctuated by the odd laugh from Ray Liotta. The only really notable thing about this battle is when the Krug start lighting themselves on fire and catapulting themselves into Konreid’s ranks. I can only assume that Uwe Boll was trying to imitate the grisly and disturbing tactics of Tolkien’s orcs, but all I can say is that Boll’s failure here ends up being quite entertaining.
The Murder of King Burt Reynolds
As King Konreid fights in the battle, Duke Fallow catches sight of him and starts loosing arrows at the king. Fallow is on a horse in plain view of everyone, and yet none of the king’s loyal soldiers try to save their liege. Eventually an arrow hits its mark, knocking the king off his horse. Merick gets the king away from the battle as Fallow and his retainers ride away. Farmer, a human, does acrobatics that would rival that of Legolas were Boll’s choreography not terrible. He then winds up hanging by one arm from an enemy horse’s saddle in a strange rip-off of Aragorn in the battle with the warg-riders. Farmer kills another of Gallian’s avatars, and the fallen magus laughs again.
With the battle over, we get music that I swear is a rip-off of the main theme from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The king lies dying in his tent, and Farmer comes to see him. Because Farmer fought so well on the battlefield, the king assumes this must mean he’s his son, and after making sure he knows a not-very-good poem, he’s sure of it. It’s almost impossible to understand a thing either one says, as both Statham and Reynolds mumble horribly. Finally the idiot king dies.
Demented Uwe Boll Succession
Solana arrives at Gallian’s keep, Christwind, and the prisoners are put to work as slaves. Ron Perlman is killed while attempting to escape, and the Krug capture Solana and bring her to Gallian. Gallian, due to his magus powers, senses that Solana is important to Farmer—although it’s unclear why he thinks Farmer is so important. He reveals why he can sense Farmer in Solana, and it’s because she’s pregnant with a replacement son!
The death of the child in the first place is cheesy and a cheap shot because it isn’t necessary for the plot and only serves as a pathetic attempt by Boll to toy with the emotions of the audience, made all the more obvious by the boy’s omni-benevolence. It would have made at least a bit more sense had Gallian been aware of the claim that Farmer and Zeph had to the throne, explaining why he attacked the village in the first place, but he’s shown to be unaware of Farmer’s identity.
That the story concerns Farmer’s ascension to the throne means that the continuation of the bloodline is an important thing to consider, and Zeph’s death rendering him childless also weakens his claim because he has no heir. After Farmer’s death, Fallow’s line will likely get the throne anyway, seeing as Tarish still wouldn’t kill him. Therefore killing off Farmer’s son makes the stakes of the story somewhat lower given his position.
In The Hobbit when both Thorin’s heirs (his nephews Kíli and Fíli) are killed, it means that his quest to reclaim his family’s birthright—not to mention some of Thorin’s decisions as king—has actually lead to the royal line being wiped out. Like the ending of Hamlet, this works because it is the ending to a great tragedy. Had Kíli and Fíli died much earlier in the story, there would have been little point in the quest to begin with due to Thorin already having no heirs. Their deaths at the end, however, drive home that Thorin’s mistakes have cost him everything that was important to him. Zeph’s death in In the Name of the King reduces it from a crummy fantasy epic to a crummy revenge film.
A Replacement Heir
Yet more pathetic is the revelation of Solana’s second pregnancy, essentially providing a replacement child. First of all, the idea of a “replacement child” is almost as messed up as the Timothy Green “practice child” (allowing parents to screw up in unbelievable ways, leading even to their child’s death, before getting a real kid). Secondly, it means that Zeph served no purpose in the story at all.
The deaths of Thorin’s nephews serve a purpose in the story because his house is thus wiped out, but Solana’s pregnancy means that Zeph’s death does no such thing. Thirdly, it is an example of covering up one cheap shot by taking the easy way out. This could all have been fixed by making her overtly pregnant from the beginning of the film—or even having both children be alive at the start. Giving him two children at the beginning and having one die would have served to drive his quest for revenge without weakening his legitimacy as the king’s son.
What’s the Point?
At the very least, the revelation that Solana’s pregnant should heighten the stakes of the story. She and Farmer both have a child to protect, so it’s now even more important that Solana is rescued, not just for the sake of her, but also that of the child—that is, if the director were someone with two neurones to rub together. Under Uwe Boll’s “ingenious direction”, however, the pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with the plot and could have been cut out entirely. Indeed, Solana begs Gallian to kill her—knowing full well that she’s pregnant—so it’s a safe bet she’s not too worried about the fate of her second-born.
There’s another sub-plot involving Solana’s brother and the other prisoners escaping, but that goes nowhere and has no resolution, so we’ll just move on.
Just Kill Him Already!
Muriella kills all of Duke Fallow’s remaining followers, captures Fallow himself, and brings him to Commander Tarish. Instead of executing the traitor on the spot, Tarish orders one of his men to give Fallow his sword and challenges him to a duel with neither one wearing armour. Apparently Uwe Boll didn’t realize that a shirt of mail counts as armour, because they’re still wearing those. Of course Fallow fights without honour, throwing his cape over Tarish’s eyes before attacking him, and they start to fight. Both their attempts at British accents are truly awful. Eventually Tarish bests Fallow, knocks him to the ground, holds a sword to his throat, and says,
“I should kill you. I should kill you…”
But for some reason he doesn’t! After quite a while of Tarish saying that he should kill Fallow but doing nothing, the cry goes out that King Konreid has died, and Fallow—whom the king disinherited, mind you—shouts,
“I am your king! Commander Tarish is bound by honour. He will never kill the new king of Ehb!”
And again, for some reason, he doesn’t! He allows Fallow to get up and start proclaiming himself king. Of course Merick arrives to announce that Farmer is the new heir. However, even now, nothing is done to Fallow! In fact, this is the last we ever see of him. His is the first of many plot-lines in this film to have no payoff whatsoever.
A Lesson in Dynastic Names
For some reason, Farmer’s real name is revealed to be Camden Konreid, which I find confusing as King Burt Reynolds is referred to as “King Konreid.” Is Konreid his given name or his surname? Is the “Konreid” in Camden’s name supposed to be a patronym? In which case, should it be “Konreidson” or “MacKonreid”? If it is meant to be his last name, then I have to complain, as that sounds like an example of someone from a republic (Germany, in this case) not knowing the first thing about monarchy; since monarchy is dynastic, rulers will most often have the same family name as their predecessor so they are referred to by their given names or by what’s known as a “throne name.” Is Reynolds’ name “Konreid Konreid”? Or perhaps it’s meant to be like in East-Asia, where surnames come first, so is “Camden” the family name? I might be looking too deeply into this, but it really confused me when I heard his name spoken.
A funeral is held for the king, and despite the actors doing their very best, only John Rhys-Davies is able to give a decent performance in this scene.
It would have been more moving had the other aspects of the movie been good, but Uwe Boll was having none of that. Instead we spend time on characters we don’t care about at the funeral of another character we don’t care about. After that, Merick and Farmer decide to take out the Krug army at its source: Gallian. Muriella volunteers to join King Farmer in the assassination, and they set off on their brief journey to Christwind. The shots that follow are some of the most blatant rip-offs of The Lord of the Rings in this horrible movie, and believe me when I say that this movie has a lot of those.
Uwe Boll Must Be Allergic to Payoff
“No exemptions! No one! Not you! Not the Farmer! Not your poor screaming boy whose insides I tore out!”
After Gallian monologues to Solana, he sends his army to meet Tarish’s in a shoddy rip-off of the Battle of the Hornburg. Of course, this being an Uwe Boll film, the editing is terrible and the derivative lighting changes from shot to shot.
Farmer, Merick, Muriella, and the actress who played the lead in Bloodrayne (another of Uwe’s “brilliant” efforts) arrive at Gallian’s keep, and Merick teleports to where Gallian awaits him. Thus begins another ridiculous fight, this time a duel between the last of the magi. This consists of John Rhys-Davies and Ray Liotta standing still on opposite sides of a room while floating swords clash in the centre. Usually when you have characters fighting in this manner, their movements are connected to those of the objects or elements involved. Obviously the best example is the bending in Avatar, but even Harry Potter has them wave their wands to make things happen. Here, however, the most anyone does is pace nonchalantly about their corner of the room.
I must say that this scene is quite interesting in one respect; very seldom do you get to see a one-on-one scene between such a great actor as John Rhys-Davies and one as horrible as Liotta. Eventually, though, Gallian mortally wounds Merick, and the audience breathes a sigh of relief that such an amazing actor won’t have to suffer through the sequels. Muriella arrives where her father lies dying, and Merick gives her the last of his power before he dies. Unfortunately, just like everything else in the movie, this will have no payoff whatsoever.
The Final Duel
Farmer makes it into the fortress, and then we get an even more insane duel between Gallian and the newly-crowned king. Farmer, a mere human, performs crazy flips and the like, and for some reason Gallian fights him with a sword. Perhaps he’s toying with him, but so little in this film makes sense that I find it hard to accept such logical explanations where they do appear. Then we get a truly mad scene where Gallian shackles Farmer in a tornado of floating books. Muriella tries to help her king—only to get immediately knocked out.
The Wrong Hero
Now, this is another thing that doesn’t make sense; Muriella is the only character at this point who could conceivably stand a chance against Gallian. Farmer doesn’t possess the magical abilities needed to match someone as powerful as Gallian, and he is seemingly his equal merely by virtue of main-character-status. Muriella, on the other hand, has just lost her father to the madman; the thing that separates her now from Farmer is that she actually has magic—not to mention more of a character arc than anyone else in the film. By all logic, Muriella should be the main character; at the very least, she should be the one to slay Gallian!
However, against all logic and all common sense, Muriella gets taken out and Farmer slices Gallian’s throat, destroying his avatars and stripping the Krug of their will to fight. This is the equivalent of having Bilbo—and not Bard—be the one to kill Smaug (something Tolkien realized early on was a stupid idea). Their enemy defeated, Farmer and Solana make out, and then the movie abruptly ends, leaving every single sub-plot entirely unresolved.
A Hollowed Feeling in Your Gut
In the Name of the King is one of the most unsatisfying films I’ve ever seen. With so many sub-plots, you’d think at least one of them would culminate somehow—but no! Literally every plot-thread is abandoned on the spot, leaving us with an empty feeling when it’s over. The only really positive thing I can say about it is that it was filmed right here in Victoria, so the locations are beautiful. Other than that, it’s horribly written with actors who just want it to be over and numerous plots that go nowhere.
Beyond that, it’s lacking in creativity and passion. This movie is an example of the worst of fantasy, the sort of thing that many people assume the genre to be. Epic Fantasy isn’t supposed to be like this, but Uwe Boll clearly put no effort into trying to make a good story, instead going for the barest minimum that could remotely be called fantasy.
It’s not quite as insane or incoherent as The Dragon in the Sock Drawer, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it so-bad-it’s-good like My Immortal; instead, In the Name of the King is just unpleasant to watch. Awful as this film is, it’s hard to believe that a sequel to it could jump the shark. Nonetheless, Boll was able to do just that in In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds, which I shudder to think I’ll be reviewing soon.