Farmer doesn’t talk much. He goes by Farmer not because it’s his name, but it’s what he does, and he figures that “you are what you do.” Mostly, Farmer farms. He also takes care of his wife who, by the same logic, Farmer would call “wife,” and his son, Zeph (“kid.”). He doesn’t seem to do much else except grunt, scowl and play with odd forms of weaponry.
The FBI might keep a close eye on Farmer if he lived in the 21st century. But since he exists only in a fantastical world spawned by a moderately successful video game, law enforcement officials have better ways to spend their time—like dealing with a race of grunting, bipedal creatures called the krugs.
Krugs are essentially mud-encrusted, Lord of the Rings-style orcs without the makeup-and-prosthetics budget. They nevertheless ransack the countryside, spreading fear and mayhem. These krugs are (we’re told several times) a stupid lot, but they’re acting smarter these days because they’re under the control of an evil wizard named Gallian, who telepathically orders them about.
Why? Well, he’s evil, of course. Not to mention the fact that his hair and wardrobe suggest a cross between Liberace and Elvis.
He’s also brokered a deal with Duke Fallow—a simpering nephew of the local king who hankers for his uncle’s seat o’ power. Together, Gallian and Fallow hope to take over the kingdom and spent the rest of their natural days laughing deep, belly-style villain laughs while rubbing their hands fiendishly.
Eventually, however, Gallian’s krugs cross paths with Farmer and his neighbors, kidnap Farmer’s wife and kill his kid. And for Farmer, that’s going just a bit too far.
This is a story about the conflict between good and evil, where the evil is really, really eeevil while the good is only relatively, well, good.
Farmer has some issues, and he’s so taciturn that only about every third word is intelligible. But when he speaks, he sometimes delivers nice platitudes like, “Nothing worthwhile comes easy.” He also has at least a passing regard for life: When he throws a boomerang at a group of crows sitting on his fence, it’s to frighten them, not kill them. And he seems at least a little miffed when krugs kill his only son. He risks his own life to save his wife.
The good guys pay homage to honor and justice—showing their adherence to these ideals by screaming those words before launching into battle. Merick, the king’s magus (that’s a wizard), tells Farmer that there are things of “greater importance than the loves and losses of our particular lives.” And the king tells Farmer that “wisdom is our hammer. Prudence will be our nail. When people build lives with honest labor, courage never fails.” Now if that’s not worth putting on a refrigerator magnet, I don’t know what is.
Gallian is a caricatured villain who gleefully cackles such lines as, “You have no idea how powerful madness can be.” Accordingly, audiences certainly won’t be compelled to sympathize with this character’s evil scheming in the way some serious dramas invite us to do—though they may wish he’d start singing “A hunk, a hunk of burning love” to spice things up a bit.
The land of In the Name of the King is laced with magic, used by good guys and bad guys alike. Those who wield this magic are depicted as vaguely shaman-like, though the source of their power is never clearly identified. Magic ability is apparently passed on through bloodlines, and it seems to be a dying art. Merick sagely tells Gallian that they’re the last two magicians alive. Gallian uses his magic powers apparently to possess krugs, almost like some classic Hollywood demon possessions.
Elsewhere in the film, spiritual references reflect both polytheistic and monotheistic understandings of deity. Sometimes characters talk about “the gods,” as in, “May the gods save us” and, “Sometimes the gods know what is best for us.” Other times they seem to talk about God as a single entity, as in, “God blesses those who die for honor and truth.” Farmer (perhaps sarcastically) questions why God did not save the innocent lives lost at the hands of krugs.
Farmer’s wife, unaware that her son has been killed, asks her brother if he’s with his grandmother and grandfather (who were protecting him at the time). Her brother answers the question literally, saying yes, he’s with them. The fact that he knows they’ve all been killed indicates her brother’s belief in an afterlife.
As Farmer’s wife, her brother and another man named Norick are carted to krug headquarters, Norick mournfully asks whether this is where they “pay for our sins.” “No, Norick,” Farmer’s wife says. “This is where we pay for our virtues. Sin is more than welcome here.”
Gallian has apparently seduced Merick’s daughter, Muriella, and we see them together on top of a bed, talking and giggling and smooching. Later, the two have a falling out, and Muriella tells Gallian that she is not his “harlot.” Gallian responds that he takes what he pleases, including Muriella’s “virtue.”
Farmer and his wife also spend some time smooching and writhing about on a bed. When Farmer asks his wife what she wants, she says, “What everyone else wants. A little passion.” Her wardrobe seems to consist only of cleavage-revealing dresses.
Several other characters display cleavage, including buxom maidens who live in the trees of the land’s prerequisite forbidden forest. A serving wench sits on Duke Fallow’s lap, and the Duke plays with the tops of her breasts, saying in a high voice (meant, presumably, to mimic hers), “You make my bosoms wiggle.”
In the Name of the King rivals Saving Private Ryan in terms of body count, if not actual blood.
There are several interminably long battle scenes, most of which are relatively bloodless. Farmer does thwack the head off several krugs, who spew ribbons of inky black liquid when they die. One particularly sturdy krug rides a horse with scores of arrows sticking out of him, so that he looks like a pincushion. Several krugs willingly have themselves set on fire, after which they climb into catapults and are launched into the opposing army. Krugs and men alike are slashed, stabbed and bludgeoned: When a man goes down, a handful of krugs tend to surround him and, presumably, pummel him with their weapons, though the actual blows are obscured by the encircling krugs.
Audiences see lots and lots of dead bodies on the ground at several junctures. Krugs visibly snap the necks of Farmer’s mother- and father-in-law. We also see a krug pursue Farmer’s son through the wilderness until the boy falls down. He raises his hand to ward off the fatal blow.
[Spoiler Warning] Merick and Gallian engage in a magic sword fight, in which several swords parry and thrust while the two magicians stare at one another, stock still. Farmer and Gallian engage in their own sword-and-magic duel: Farmer makes a thin cut on Gallian’s head (causing a trickle of blood to run down the wizard’s forehead) and later cuts Gallian’s throat. (Again, the actual cut goes unseen.)
Gallian poisons the king and (accidentally) Duke Fallow, who both indicate they’re in a great deal of pain. Fallow shoots the king in the chest with an arrow. Farmer is unsuccessfully hanged by a krug, and Farmer and his companions are snared by very active forest vines. Later, traitorous men and one krug are shown dangling lifeless from the same type of vine. Muriella ponders suicide. Farmer is attacked by books—a scene that underlines the film’s apparent disregard for any sort of literary quality at all.
Characters let loose one “b–tard,” one “d–n” and one “h—.”
Duke Fallow, in promising the king that he plans to turn over a new, more honorable leaf, proposes a toast to the king. “Drinking wine in the morning is not a good way to show reform,” the king tells Fallow, who promptly pours the glass of wine on the floor. The king, Fallow and Farmer are given doses of medicine to help them with various ailments.
Farmer isn’t just quiet: He’s downright rude. He only reluctantly talks with his neighbor, Norick—who, incidentally, seems to be Farmer’s surrogate father and best friend. And he talks nastily to the king before turning his back on him. Some folks think he’s arrogant, while others think he’s just speaking his mind. (I lean toward the former assessment.)
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale aspires to be part Braveheart, part The Matrix and part The Lord of the Rings. And that’s all it manages to do: aspire. It’s telling, I suppose, that the film is directed by Uwe Boll, whose last several films, Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead among them, have spent a good deal of time on Internet Movie Database users’ list of the 100 worst films ever—rubbing cinematic shoulders with, ahem, classics such as Baby Geniuses 2, Daddy Day Camp and From Justin to Kelly.
Though the film’s protagonists occasionally say some good things, those moments of courage and clarity under fire are hardly enough to rescue this script from its own ineptitude and from waves of violence, winks at illicit sexuality and murky magic.
While some movies make an intentional mockery of virtue, this one does so unintentionally. And that, as Shakespeare says, is the most unkindest cut of all.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.