L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz


Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

The LensView Home Theatre:




In the Name of the King (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]

(aka "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale")


(Uwe Boll, 2007)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Boll KG Productions & Brightlight Pictures

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 162 min

Chapters: 32

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 16, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 25 Mbps



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1



English & Spanish



• Director's Commentary

• The Making of In the Name of the King (10.20)

• Deleted & Extended Scenes (9:37)



The Film: 4
Dungeon Siege started life as a computer role-playing game, developed by Gas Powered Games for Windows PC and Mac platforms and released in 2002 with a sequel in 2005 and, since 2006, in a version for PlayStation Portable. Some clever fellow thought it was the stuff movies are made of. Or not, depending on the script, casting, direction and production design. Of these the only one that can't be completely faulted is the last. In xxxx's hands, we do have the feeling of a vaguely medieval and mystical landscape, complete with castles, dungeons, moving forests and armies of Krug. It's like Lord of the Rings light. Very light.

The basic story is simple enough: A man known as "Farmer" (Jason Statham) was adopted by the local village as a boy. He farms. Hard. He has a lovely wife and strong boy. But deep in the forest, the Krug, normally man/beasts with nothing on their minds – literally – are attacking the countryside. This is because the evil wizard, Gallian (Ray Liotta), has big plans to rule the entire kingdom and he needs subjects. The Krug will do nicely since they seem to be killing off most of the men and capturing the women, children and anyone else handy for their dungeons – presumably to act as slaves (which is weird, since the Krug seem to function as slaves already.) In their latest sweep the Krug kill Farmer's boy and steal his wife, Solana (Claire Forlani). Their friend, Norrick (Ron Perlman), one of the few completely level characters in this drama, is also captured.



Meanwhile, back at the castle, Gallian has been seducing Muriella (Leelee Sobieski), the daughter of the king's magus, Merick (John Rhys-Davies), so that he can suck out her latent powers [good production work here]. Gallian has also been stringing along Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard) who lives for the day he will usurp the throne from his uncle, King Konreid (Burt Reynolds).

Once Farmer's wife is stolen by the Krug, and Fallow attempts to poison the king, and Gallian motivates the Krug into armies, things move along apace. The movie is long, and seems longer, in part because there are so many non sequitors. The battle sequences, while necessary, seem to bog everything down. Strange, that.

But the movie's biggest liability besides the script is the casting and direction of its actors. Ray Liotta seems to simply be channeling his wild and crazy ex-con character from Jonathan Demme's Something Wild. There is no doubt that Gallian is certifiable, but he is not a 20th century gangster from New Jersey. Jason Statham, an actor in serious danger of overexposure these days, is entirely too stiff for the part of man who only wants to find his wife and avoid political entanglements. As Farmer's single-minded purpose transforms, Statham doesn't. Leelee Sobieski, who once did an admirable turn as Joan of Arc, and therefore should be comfortable in the period, is peculiarly uncomfortable. She acts like at any moment someone is going to ask her to disrobe in front of the entire crew. Perhaps she is the only one in the cast to comprehend what she has been actually asked to do: namely be seen in an Uwe Boll movie.

At first blush, Burt Reynolds also seems out of place, but that's partly because we don't see him as a medieval king. Funnily enough some of the movie's best moments occur when Burt is quietly reacting to his nephew's obviously false declarations of fealty. Ron Perlman, who has made a living playing monsters, is one of the few completely natural human beings in this odd
movie. Rhys-Davies makes a great magus but next to Leelee, he looks more like Rumplestiltzkin. It's funnier than it should be, especially given her general discomfort.

On the plus side, Brian White is convincing as the king's military commander, even though it is less clear to us than it seems to be to him what he wants his troops to do. And there is Matthew Lillard, who is a delight to watch as the incompetent pretender to the throne. He gets this crazy look in his eyes that quickly permeates his entire frame. He is even nuttier than Gallian, if such is possible.

The whole shebang is directed – or misdirected, more likely, by Uwe Boll, who has his own production company so has no one to blame or boast about but himself. The movie, while peopled with the same characters from one end to the other, seems to move between concepts and clichés of other respectable films of the fantasy/action genres, with the result that it has no soul of its own. In my research I was a little surprised to discover an astonishing amount of anti-Boll sentiment in the industry. It deserves no other mention on this website, but THIS link should prove entertaining. 



Image: 6/8
Aside from a persistent graininess that makes its presence awkwardly felt in some places more than others, the image quality far exceeds that of the narrative. Black levels are adequate and yet, except for scenes in the fiery depths of Krug mountain, the image appears strangely thin.














Audio & Music: 7/6
While the dialogue, if we can quite call it that, is clear enough, the audio mix, even with the help of uncompressed DTS HD-MA feels detached from the action. It's as if most of the ingredients are there, but they don't come together into a coherent experience.


Operations: 7
The menu is easily navigable. No tricks, no animations which, in this case, are probably a good thing. I like that there are chapter stops for each of the deleted and extended scenes.




Extras: 2
Perhaps the oddest bonus feature this year is a brief segment titled "Behind the Scenes." In its peculiar way, the title describes itself exactly. It is as if someone was lurking about on the set with a videocam and snatched some disconnected footage of the filming process, but forgot to turn on the audio or make any narrative comments of their own. I caught a few minutes here and there of Boll's commentary, which struck me as more self-congratulatory (he seemed genuinely delighted that he was able to sign up these actors) than revelatory about the making of the film.



Bottom line: 3
Is it possible that Boll was going for camp and not a serious fantasy adventure? Will we ever know? Is it worth two and half hours to form an opinion? Is the Blu-ray sufficiently engaging to make up for the faults of the movie? On the other hand, I've heard that Uwe Boll is already in negotiation with our outgoing president for his next movie. What say you?

Leonard Norwitz
December 20th, 2008










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