While watching In the Name of the King I couldn’t help but think of Eragon, the last blatant Lord of the Rings knockoff wannabe to traipse across screens. Both movies lift items liberally from Peter Jackson’s masterpiece, but what surprised me about Dungeon Siege was how much more capably the whole thing is handled. Eragon, with its bigger budget and bigger fan backing came off as nothing more than a sad, derivative shadow of the greatness achieved by Jackson. In the Name of the King at least tries to mix a little originality in with all the LOTR robbery and surprisingly, with its much smaller budget, proves immensely more entertaining.
It stars Jason Statham as a farmer named Farmer, thrust into the middle of a battle between the forces of evil and a noble king when his family is attacked by a bunch of Krunks, who have absolutely nothing to do with urban dancing. Instead they’re basically a bunch of Orc wannabes, toss them in a pile with all the other things in the film lifted from Lord of the Rings (like spinning wide shots hovering over vast landscapes) and stop worrying about it.
For a farmer, Farmer is one hell of a fighter and he soon puts together a band of characters to help him run around killing Krunks. The movie turns into a grand, epic adventure loaded to the hilt with famous faces who normally wouldn’t belong in chain mail, but for some reason prove oddly interesting here. Burt Reynolds for instance, is the film’s titular king. He plays him as if they’ve just stuck a crown on his character from Evening Shade. It’s a weird performance, but every time he’s on camera the movie suddenly has this strange, impish glimmer.
The whole thing works that way, a movie which by all rights should be a disaster, but for some reason has this joyful little sparkle. It’s directed by infamous independent filmmaker and frequent video game adapter Uwe Boll, whose previous efforts have included such cinematic travesties as House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and BloodRayne. Here though his iniquities as a moviemaker are almost entirely overcome by the sheer joy he seems to be putting into what he’s doing. The plot is odd and the characters are often goofy, but the special effects are down to Earth and the battle scenes are well staged and free of the excessive CGI that plagues so many other movies.
I guess what I’m saying here is that In the Name of the King works in its own weird, inexplicable way. Sure Leelee Sobieski looks like she’s wandered accidentally into the wrong movie and yes, Ray Liotta seems a lot of the time as if he’s reading off cue cards; but Boll manages to hold this disaster in the making together by infusing it with unexpected energy and twinkle. He’s made an epic, of a sort, and if you see it with appropriately lowered expectations you might just walk out not hating it.