Here’s one for all you Games Workshop regulars.
Rhinehart would lose his mind.
In the game, so it is in life. Three Dungeons & Dragons game masters from across the US take director Keven McAlester into their lives over the course of a year.
Did you ever watch Judd Apatow’s series Freaks and Geeks? Young Sam Weir and the other Geeks used to spend their evenings around a table playing D&D. They were 14 years old in 1980 when the show was set. Had they kept playing, by 2006 at least one of them would likely resemble Richard Meeks of Tacoma, Washington; the first of this film’s stars. The other two are Scott Corum from California and Elizabeth Reesman from Mississippi. All three have devoted a big chunk of their lives to gaming in all forms from D&D to LARPing to online RPGs like Warcraft.
McAlester’s camera spends a considerable part of the year from summer 2006 to summer ’07 with each of these three gamers, devoting a lot of screen time to their home lives away from the game table. These segments run the gamut from entertaining to uncomfortable to almost voyeuristic as we get to see the three leads go through their day-to-day lives. The film is broken down into five chapters titled – with the grandeur common to these games – things like “Expedition To The Outlands” and “Darkest Night”. These chapters follow the typical Hero’s Journey pattern of which the games are full, and structures the film to show each gamer facing up to their own challenge. For Richard it’s accepting his history of disappearing on people. Elizabeth is on a quest to find love with someone mature enough to accept her geekiness but not have it be the entire basis of the relationship. Scott’s is the most emotional of all: he’s trying to achieve his dream of being a fantasy author while also becoming the host of a public-access cable show.
McAlester has found a solid theme to base his film on. Each of his stars is trying to improve their lives against a backdrop of middle-class America’s continuous economic decline (illustrated sharply by the ruined buildings behind Elizabeth in one interview segment – remnants of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast). It’s a clever idea, but unfortunately these stories aren’t hugely compelling ones. The Dungeon Masters runs less than 90 minutes but the middle 40 or so felt interminable. I think the film suffers by only having three subjects. Widening the scope could have kept the film’s thesis intact while creating a much fuller, richer experience for the viewers.