Mar 31, 2014

[Movies] Knights Of Badassdom (2013)

I try not to fall for the allure of movie trailers too much, but sometimes we have no choice, really. Some of them are pretty well done in their efforts of decently conveying what a particular movie may be about. And I say "may" since we all know how trailers do their best to feature the best bits of any movie and ignore the less interesting bits.

Knights of Badassdom was a movie that got me and my partner, Tobie, pretty excited when the trailers first started circulating. After all, this was a movie with geek culture at its heart and a pretty interesting cast of actors for a genre movie. On paper it seemed like this movie would be a shoe-in with fans for one reason or another.

But the actual end result was...rather disappointing. I mean there's still a lot to be loved about the movie but I guess the anticipation for the movie over a number of years (unexplained post-production delays) left us with some pretty high expectations. And I've sat on actually writing this review for a bit given that major question - was my disappointment related to unrealistic expectations or just an actual, honest assessment of the film on its own.

Synopsis: Knights of Badassdom is a 2013 comedy horror movie directed by Jo Lynch. The screenplay had been written by Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. Filming for this movie had begun all the way back in 2010 but the movie was only released last year after multiple delays due to post-production concerns or something along those lines.

A magical book manages to find its way into the hands of Eric (Steve Zahn), a geek who remains pretty heavily into the traditional RPG scene. He has no idea what it really is and sees it as a great prop to use when he and his friends LARP (live action role-playing). As part of a big celebration of sorts, a major LARP has been scheduled and Eric and Hung (Peter Dinklage) decide to drag along their friend Joe (Ryan Kwanten), who hasn't been all too active in the gaming scene but has recently broke up with his girlfriend, Beth.

As the LARP begins, Eric reads a random page from the book and somehow manages to summon a real succubus into this world. And since Joe was part of the spell, the succubus appears to have Beth's form. The group doesn't notice this at first but in other parts of the woods different LARPers end up getting killed by the succubus. In time the group does encounter her and they need to find a way to vanquish it despite being regular guys.

Okay, so the movie that I had ever encountered that included LARPing was probably Role Models, although in the movie they called it LAIRE (live action interactive role-playing exercise) for some reason. And given who my partner had gotten me into RPGs, it was certainly a movie concept that we were excited to see. Not only was it a movie with LARPing as a central part of the story, but it also featured some pretty cool actors who already have a pretty good career in genre entertainment.

But as the movie began, things started to get a little awkward for one reason or another. Let's ignore the LARP purism related to the use of foam weapons as opposed to more realistic-looking (hence more dangerous) weapons. The whole ex-girlfriend angle for Joe and how he agrees to join the LARP despite essentially being kidnapped by his friends seemed a bit of a stretch and yet also underdeveloped. He just goes with it.

There was a clear effort at trying to make the movie play on classic horror movie tropes and such. You had a demonic monster which also had a fair amount of sex appeal. You had lots of blood, gore and other ridiculous ways for people to die. You had protagonists who seem to get by mostly on luck and random chance. And for bonus geek credit they also threw in Summer Glau as a badass LARPer. What geek doesn't appreciate Summer Glau for one reason or another, right?

But the movie had trouble in the second half as the whole cat and mouse chase with the succubus didn't really go anywhere and the deaths remained largely meaningless. Plus there was the whole LARP battle that started out sort of cool with funny names for the different factions but in the end it's just a lot of mindless screaming. We never really get to immerse ourselves in the LARP experience nor do we get to properly figure out what the battle is really supposed to be about.

Knight of Badassdom is pretty fun but it  feels like a bit of a waste of potential to be much greater. It's not quite good enough (or bad enough) to immediately become a cult classic either, which you think this movie should be a shoe-in for. In the end the movie is just okay, which gets a decent 3 attempts to add Dungeon Master narration to their efforts out of a possible 5.

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