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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King
Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // March 28, 2006
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted April 5, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

In Germany it's called Die Niebelung and it ran three hours as a TV mini-series. In the UK it played theatrically under the title The Sword of Xanten. If you happen to be in South Africa (which is where the flick was shot), the title you'll want to remember is The Curse of the Ring.

Here in the U.S. it's called Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, and no matter what the flick's actual name is, the story is based on numerous ancient Nordic legends, including a few that helped inspire Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. Yep, it's a magic / dragons / swords / romance / treachery sorta thing, precisely like what you'll find in Excalibur, Dragonslayer, and ... um ... Krull.

Starring German woodblock Benno Furmann and B-movie vixen Kristanna Loken, Dark Kingdom is all sorts of predictable, corny, and trite ... but it falls well short of being "Boll-style" bad and, despite being a full-bore b-movie all the way, manages to deliver some slight cheesy fun along the way. Fans of "spot the face" will enjoy the supporting performances from Alicia Witt, Max Von Sydow, and (get this) Julian Sands -- as a villain!

Stop me when this one sounds familiar: A young warrior, whose parents were killed in a long-ago village raid, beds the Queen of Iceland, slays a mighty dragon, claims an entire chamber of cursed gold, steals a transformo-hat from a grungy wizard, befriends a craven king, drinks a potent love potion, forgets his oath to the Ice-Queen, and basically gets embroiled in a whole lot of medieval melodrama before most of the characters are slain in very Shakespearean style.

Though clearly not made with half the budget of a similarly themed Hollywood flick, Dark Kingdom exhibits a fairly impressive production value, and director Uli Edel takes ample advantage of South Africa's eclectic locations and landscapes ... but the flick also suffers from stuttering editorial approach. Even at 120 minutes, the story feels rushed and choppy. Whatever was left on the cutting room floor between the German mini-series and the Region 1 DVD release might not have been cinematic gold, but it probably would have filled in a lot of nagging blanks. (Whatever happened to that grungy little wizard, anyway?)

Provided you don't watch this type of movie for the acting performances, Dark Kingdom isn't a half-bad little time-waster. It's got lots of twists and turns, a few unintentionally amusing components, and a pretty darn nifty dragon battle. It's certainly not a great film, but hey, this is coming from a guy who proudly owns a copy of the Sword and the Sorcerer DVD, so maybe I'm just a sucker for the whole sword-swingin' sub-genre.

The DVD

Video: A pretty slick anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English or 2.0 French. Optional subtitles are available in English and French.

Extras

Five featurettes are included:

The Sagas (6:59) focuses on the myths and legends that inspired the movie.

The Journey Begins (7:59) looks at the set construction -- practical and virtual.

Our Heroes (10:49) covers the cast.

Swords (5:08) deals with the action.

Sorcery (7:28) pays a visit to the CG dragon's lair.

Interview subjects in the featurettes include director Uli Edel, producers Tim Halkin & Rola Bauer, FX producers Volker Engel & Marc Weigert, and actors Benno Furmann, Max Von Sydow, Alicia Witt, Julian Sands, Kristanna Loken, and Samuel West.

Also included is a trailer gallery hawking titles like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Ringers: Lord of the Fans, Sci Fi Channel: Eureka, The Fog, Dragon's World: A Fantasy Made Real, The Cave, and Godzilla Compilation.

Final Thoughts

Dark Kingdom is broad and obvious and occasionally a bit goofy, but it's still light years better than Blood of Beasts or that ridiculous new Dungeons & Dragons sequel.

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