“Knights of Badassdom”
In the past, being considered a geek or nerd was something to be embarrassed about. Liking comics and video games would cause you to lose a few cool points, but being into stuff like Dungeons And Dragons made you a social outcast. But thanks to the mainstream media, comic books and their characters are cool, video games are almost as a big a money maker as films and playing board games is in the norm. There is subculture of these which has still remained mostly unnoticed by popular culture. L.A.R.P (Live Action Role Play) takes what is normally played in basements, constricted to note pads and dice rolls, and becomes a real world extension of the mystical realms born from the minds of people like Gary Gygax and JRR Tolkein. People gather in woods and fields, adorn themselves in armor and equip foam weapons. Taking part in quests and epic battles, it’s middle earth come to life. With slowly growing exposure in recent years, it was only a matter of time until the world of LARP was given a movie of it’s own.
And so we have Knights Of Badassdom, in which a group of friends unwittingly summon an evil Succubus demon from an ancient spell book while taking part in a LARP weekender. The demon goes on a bloody rampage, and its up to them to save the world. At face value it seems like a funny, enjoyable movie with geeky in jokes, gory violence and a decent cast. The kind of thing that wouldn’t go amiss during movie night after a few drinks with friends. Well, that’s what I was hoping for. At least it’s got the violence. For what is meant to be a dark comedy, there is very little in terms of actually funny material here. The main running joke got a light chuckle a few times here and there at the beginning of the movie but after the twentieth time of hearing the “Yay merrily…dude you suck” sort of line, it just stopped being amusing and became tiresome. What’s worse is the jokes don’t stretch any further, and for a world that is based around imagination it’s apparent very little was used once the writers found something to go with.
Most of the characters are one dimensional, with little or no back story. Theres the cool ex nerd “Joe”, the stoner “Hung”, the guy who never grew out of it all “Eric”, the other guy who never grew out of it all and has a problem with the cool ex nerd “Ronnie”, and the hot chick “Gwen”. There is minimal substance to any of them, but Hung and Ronnie are the stand outs and the only two characters saved thanks to the actors playing them. Hung is played by Peter Dinklage, who has gained a huge fan base thanks to his outstanding role as Tyrion Lannister in Game Of Thrones. All we are shown of his character is he’s a stoner, which really makes his performance all the more impressive because somehow he feels like one of the more fulfilled characters. I find it hard to dislike Dinklage in anything and even in this underused, badly realised supporting role he is on top form. Ronnie is played by Jimmi Simpson, best known as Liam McPoyle in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. His snarky attitude and frantic delivery of lines, both as his role of game master and real world Ronnie are excellent. He brings an energy to the character which made me want him to have had centre stage as the lead. The writers gave Ronnie an unexplained and convenient knowledge of the ancient book with which Eric accidentally summoned the Succubus. This can be looked past thanks to Simpson’s performance, but only just. Joe, Eric and Gwen (Played by Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zhan and Summer Glau respectively) are very lazily written. There’s a romance between Gwen and Joe which is just thrown in near the end that lacks any passion whatsoever. Gwen is little more than eye candy for the male viewers and could be completely left out with the story functioning just as well.
Joe and Eric are the weakest of the lot, which is awful considering they’re the main characters. I found it hard to care about them at all, and their actions were so inexplicably moronic at times the characters lost all credibility. At one point they read a page at random from the book to try and vanquish the demon. And later when the demon has been transformed into a giant fire breathing beast thanks to that random page, Eric tries to block a fireball by thrusting the book (which he is still holding) in the way. It’s mentioned near the start that Eric has recently become a millionaire but this is never referred to again and it makes no impact on his character or the story what so ever. It’s this sort of thing that makes you wonder why it’s even included and whether it was meant to be expanded upon or not. This extends to the story itself, which stays basic and feels very rushed.The resolution of the movie was just as awfully written and made no sense. I won’t say what it is, but I think it was intended by the writers to be a full circle sort of moment. But really, it just made the whole thing tacky and disappointing. Also, the writers apparently didn’t know how to end the movie, because we cut from the resolution of the final battle to the “What happened next” still frame style titles cards which were pointless and really show lack of imagination.
The directing and camera work were okay, I couldn’t really find anything bad or good to talk about there for the most part. The lighting was awful during the night time scenes however. The actual surrounding areas were well lit, and the moon light was effectively simulated giving a spooky and daunting feel. But for some reason, anyone in the scene was lit up as if in day light regardless of where they were. I understand that’s so you can see the people clearly, but it was so jarring it took me out of the immersion. Something you would hope any director would want to avoid happening to their audience.
There are only really 2 redeeming factors other than Ronnie and Hung for me and they come are the production value of the special effects and the music. The practical effects are impressive for what I can imagine wasn’t a big budget, with convincing bloody gore and a real costume for the beast form of the demon which gave a throwback feel of 80s monster B movies. The CGI when used was okay but nothing mind blowing, again because of the low budget. Costume design was mostly authentic with the style that LARPers can pull off, mostly home made costumes with very little details. Some of the players have elaborate real metal or decorative gear, but that was actually used for the characters who took themselves a bit too seriously or were higher in rank so it worked well. The music was written by Bear McCreary, who scored for big name TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead. To go along with Joe’s obsession with all kinds of Metal and the Middle Ages theme of the Role Play, the music feels like a homage to the mystical legend obsessed style Metal of the late 70’s/early 80’s. With classical instruments dropped in with wailing guitar and thundering drums, it really adds to aesthetics and lends the battle scenes an epic touch.
I have to say, I had to watch this movie a few times. Not because I wanted to but, to be brutally honest, because it was so forgettable I needed to remind myself of it. I had very little fun with this, which is a shame. When I first heard of this movie, it made me think back to those LARP scenes from the 2008 movie Role Models and how entertaining they were. When I saw that this was basically those scenes with a monster slasher theme thrown in, I was really excited. But after watching this I realised something. While Role Models managed to bring to life the world or LARP in around 15 minutes or so, Knights Of Badassdom failed to make a decent show of it in 85. I would give this a miss, at least until it makes it’s way to Netflix or other Video On Demand services. Even them, you won’t miss much if you don’t see it.