I’ll be honest, I’ve been dying to see the Knights of Badassdom since I first about it. I mean, seriously, what’s not to love? It’s got Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn, Danny Pudi, Joshua Malina and Summer Glau with Ryan Kwanten in a lead role and Tom Hopper as a completely over the top gamer. There is enough geek cred here to make a Wil Wheaton blog post jealous and the trailer was just over the top enough to keep my interest piqued.
See? Doesn’t that look like a terribly silly but ultimately badass film well worthy of your time and effort?
Well it is… and it isn’t.
The story about this film (not to be confused with the story of this film, which is pretty well summed up by the trailer) is that it started filming in the summer of 2010 and went through all sorts of issues, ultimately being sold to a distributor who didn’t particularly care for director Joe Lynch‘s vision. The new producers took the editing of the piece away from him before ultimately getting it, in a truncated form, out in front of the public. The problem with this is definitely a case of too many cooks who don’t understand what they’re dealing with. The film starts off well enough, with Zahn and Dinklage (Eric & Hung, respectively) as Live Action Role Players (LARP – the next evolutionary step up from Dungeons and Dragons) who are trying to help Kwanten’s Joe get over a bleeding fresh break-up with his long term girlfriend. They do this the only way they know how, by shanghaiing him into that weekend’s big LARP event. Actually, this is a great moment. Turns out Joe used to be a pretty good D&D player and as his friends, Eric and Hung are merely helping him try to get himself back on track. This is what friends do for each other.
They all end up at the game where we meet the rest of the cast and this is where things start to go wrong. I don’t know where the fault can be placed for this, but it quickly starts to feel like the film is making fun of the LARP experience rather than celebrating it. We’re meant to feel for the characters, but the story devolves so we don’t pity the situation, we pity them – and I might be naive, but don’t think you’d get this kind of talent for this kind of budget if it wasn’t about the heart of the fan base. Even so, the performances keep strong. Dinklage (who is also listed as an executive producer) seems to be having a great time and Glau is certainly taking a poke at her own sexiness. Even Margarita Levieva as the summoned demon is top notch and more than a little bit scary.
But as the film heads into the climax, the other LARPers seem to be treated as idiots and the ultimate monster, the demon they have to vanquish is worse than a John Carl Buechler creation. The final battle, involving a zombiefied Hung and a lip syncing to a death metal ode to the plot of the film we’re watching, is downright absurd.
As many other critics have said, this isn’t the film we should have gotten, but glimpses of it can be seen gliding below the surface. We can only hope that now that the feature has hit theaters, a definitive director’s cut may not be far behind. Until then, there are definitely “monsters in need of pummeling!”