KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM, Mostly Just for Nerds
Knights of Badassdom is one of those films that stars all these awesome actors from a slue of many different fandoms but had a difficult time getting off the ground. It stars Summer Glau (Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles), Steve Zahn (Joy Ride, Dallas Buyers Club), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones).
The film starts off with Joe (Kwanten) singing along his own doom metal track in much to the ire of his girlfriend, Beth (Margarita Levieva), who breaks up with him shortly after. Joe spirals into a quick depression only his friends Eric and Hung (Zahn and Dinklage) know how to deal with. The remedy: smokin’ sativa through a bong and drinking lots of booze. Little did Joe know, this was all a “clever” ruse to Shanghai him to a weekend of live action role playing, aka L.A.R.P. Because reasons!
Joe wakes up to find himself already fully clad in armor, in the back of a van, in the middle of a dirt-filled parking lot in the middle of a L.A.R.P. event just getting underway. Here we are introduced to what outlanders would consider the weirdest of the weird. Men and women dressed in fantasy garb, wielding their dangerous and deadly foam weapons with utmost skill and precision. This is where we’re introduced to all the other major players and locations, which…is a little underwhelming. But that’s to be expected. In L.A.R.P. all the major locations are up in the players’ mind palace. What paintball gun-toting hillbillies see as just a piece of land, L.A.R.P’ers see a grand landscape (maybe New Zealand) or a dangerous forest like Mirkwood — whatever the narrative of the mission calls for really. Also in the introduction scene, we meet the rest of our heroic crew, Gwen (Glau), her cousin Gunther, and Lando (Danny Pudi).
Because Joe is replacing another member of the group, a spell must be cast to essentially “purple mist” him into the game. Note that “purple mist” is a term my own D&D group uses to bring a player in and out of game sessions depending on that person’s availability.
Eric, who plays a wizard, has a thing for making his game look as authentic as possible, so of course he has a tome that looks like a mysterious book of spells. Little does he know, he happens to have an actual mysterious book of spells. In the summoning process to bring Joe’s character into play, he accidentally summons a demon from hell, a succubus to be exact. No one notices at first.
Pretty soon, unsuspecting players are dropping like flies…in the goriest ways possible. There’s a scene where the entire bathroom is covered in blood and entrails. Think of the elevator lobby in Cabin in the Woods but on a smaller scale. In another scene, Evil Beth shoves her fist into some poor schmuck’s chest and rips out his heart, which she starts eating. Gross. Oh yeah, and they don’t really pull back any punches in these scenes either. Nope, you see pretty much everything. Kudos to makeup and props.
The final showdown is something of a hilarious yet unfortunate stream of events. First, you have a legion of L.A.R.P’ers ready to battle each other (and a wooden dragon with papier-mâché wings) with foam weapons — the rally speeches and commentary are hilarious during the fight. Then a pissed off, fully transformed succubus charges through the herd of nerds and tears them to pieces. Not exactly the fun weekend everyone had in mind. How they finally defeat Evil Beth is the hilarious part. Here’s a hint below:
Out of all the actors featured in the group, Peter Dinklage is by far the most entertaining. His character, Hung, is a connoisseur of things that will get you high. And he has all the best lines. Just imagine the Imp from The Game of Thrones in modern days and you basically have Hung. It was also a delight seeing Danny Pudi play someone other than his Abed character from Community (but we still couldn’t help seeing Abed playing Danny Pudi playing a normal person).
Knights of Badassdom is a movie only people who have ever delved into high fantasy stories either through literature, table-top games like D&D, or through live-action role playing will truly get to appreciate. On the gamer side, we get to see our typical players: the game master who’s wants to make his games as epic as possible but has only so much help and resources, the enthusiastic player who wants everyone to participate and have a good time, the gung-ho player who charges in with little disregard for his own well-being, the player who takes role-playing a little too seriously, the player who’s all about the points, the noob, and the relative/girlfriend who joined the game for the sake of another player and ended up liking the game as a result.
The movie also features the ultra collective love of metal gamers have. The music kind, not the earth kind. There’s just something about metal that just seems to fit perfectly in the fantasy world, especially if you’re in a fight with a gigantic monster with your comrades.
As mainstream as geek culture is, the general population would not be able to fully comprehend this film. One would probably have to have the most basic of crash courses to comprehend the jargon used in this film. Sitting through one table-top session should do it. Don’t get us wrong, we love the idea of including new people not versed in this level of geekdom, but it would take a little bit exposition. While there are moments that poke fun at elements of LARP’ing, it’s not quite as mean spirited as how films meant for a much wider audience would treat it — purely exploitative (geek-sploitation) and label it as “satire.”