I continue my deep dive into the Amazon Prime Torture Dungeon, and I’ve unlocked a special hell of Godawful films. This time we have a “Fantasy-Comedy.” I’ve proven to have an obsessive-compulsive desire to watch every single dire fantasy-comedy ever produced. Will The Gamers: Dorkness Rising break my good movie winless streak, or will it be another eyeball scarring atrocity? Strong bets on the latter. But just for laughs, let’s check it out, shall we?
THE GAMERS: Dorkness Rising (2008)
My first disappointment occurs when it turns out this doesn’t take place in a fantasy world at all. It’s some guy’s idea of doing a film representation of his personal Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign and all of the “humor” and “drama” that goes into that minimal stakes premise.
We open with some Renaissance Faire cosplayers walking through a dungeon. This is intercut with some ultra-cheesy fire graphics over the titles. It’s a standard campaign group of a Warrior, a Wizard, a Thief, and a Cleric. I was amused they had a hired dude carrying all their crap in a giant chest. This is also the last time the movie amused me. There’s some extraordinarily bad fighting and minimal effort special effects, then they encounter the Evil Necromancer. They experience a total party-wipe out with lots of hysterical screaming. And not hysterical in the funny way, either. All of a sudden, we’re back in the real world where these toolbars have been playing this role-playing campaign in the basement of a game and comics store. They opt to play this adventure again because they refuse to give up after failing.
I don’t know where to begin explaining how this movie fails. In the Amazon Prime Dungeon tradition, this is an ultra-low-budget non-movie. It features amateurish acting, terrible jokes, and horrible special effects. It’s clearly shot on bog standard low definition video with incompetent audio.
So they reconvene the gamer group, this time adding (gasp) a girl. The plot unfolds that these asshats don’t want women to be part of their horrible gamer group but they decide to play anyways. The movie gives the guys credit for learning that it’s okay to play with girls and making an effort to play the game properly. They give the girl credit for exploiting the rules to make a ridiculously over-powered character and actually trying to role-play instead of murdering peasants and treasure hoarding. The Dungeon Master is both a terrible actor and a terrible character, but he’s friends with the filmmakers so he gets to be the “star.” In addition to all of that, he’s a horrible Dungeon-Master: antagonistic to the players, exasperated, unimaginative, and he inserts himself into the game as a flawless Paladin. He learns nothing, never improves his gaming skills, and effortlessly wins the girl despite being a humorless, personality-free little twerp.
Here’s a short list of the crimes against cinema that this film commits. All of the characters are annoying butt-holes. The story has no stakes, both in the fantasy campaign we see enacted that makes up the bulk of the film or the scenes of these knuckleheads role-playing. What happens if the characters fail to win the quest? Nothing. And what happens to the gamers if they fail to win the quest? Well, considering they already failed this quest once, I’m guessing nothing. The very worst case scenario would be that they disband the gamer group, which would probably be a positive life decision for everyone involved considering how much time and emotional well-being is wrapped up in playing this game.
But my biggest complaint about the movie is that, in addition to being terribly made and horribly unfunny, the premise is in direct conflict with any attempt at being a good movie. The joke is that they’re not really excellent warriors and they’re not really in a fantasy world. So the fight scenes are intentionally crappy and the world is intentionally cheap-looking. There’s no money for good special effects, and so they are intentionally shoddy. Death has no meaning, as there’s a running joke that the new Bard character dies a hundred times but still sticks around to finish the adventure. Why should anybody outside of this small group of gamers and the actors portraying them give a good goddamn about any of this?
Watching this tedious mess was a testament to my patience. The adventure stops to be reconvened the following week. I couldn’t believe I was only 42 minutes in and there was still an hour left of this crap. Seriously people, at 42 minutes this movie was already 20 minutes too long. Then there’s a break for some ninja versus pirates cosplay and badly choreographed fighting. “Everything’s better with pirates,” says one character. Everything except this movie.
I’m half-embarrassed that I could follow the story at all considering the nerdiness required. There’s some jokes about Dungeons and Dragons rules, so that’s pretty obscure. Then there’s jokes about role-players who abuse the rules. That’s really obscure. And finally it seems to be making fun of some dork’s role-playing campaign, which seems too hyper-specific to spend any amount of money making a feature film about. What is the point of this movie? The main observations are that role-players are the worst human beings, that these games are inherently silly, and finally that girls can be good gamers, too. The first conceit isn’t funny, the second is insulting, and the third is obvious to even the dimmest of bulbs. So I ask again, what is the point of this movie? I will suggest that if a viewer is spending any time pondering the point of a movie even existing then your movie has failed catastrophically.
This really should have been a short sketch that is shown only at Role-Playing conventions and never to be inflicted on people with a streaming service and a passion for watching trash films.