Based on the popular fantasy game of the same name, "Dungeons and Dragons" is reputedly a labour of love for director Courtney Solomon, taking some nine years to reach the screen.
The film is set in the mythical fantasy land of Izmer. Empress Savina (played by Thora Birch) is pitted against evil wizard Profion (Jeremy Irons) in a struggle for control of her kingdom. A band of low-lives find themselves thrust into a series of magical adventures in order to retrieve a powerful artefact, much desired by both parties.
The director has an opportunity to present a fantasy quest in the traditional mould; he mostly fails to do so. The various magical episodes - as the heroes race to recover the precious Rod of Sarville - are both clichéd and dull. The moral message, that everybody is equal, is driven home with a lamentable lack of subtlety.
Unfortunately, the performances are little better. Thora Birch's character is a dead ringer for "Star Wars: Episode One"'s Queen Amidala, but is played with even less animation. Jeremy Irons's teeth-gnashing, nostril-flaring turn as the chief baddie is too ridiculous to be scary. Welcome relief is provided by Richard O'Brien's turn as the King of Thieves and Tom Baker as an elven healer. Other performances are too bland to make an impression, apart from Marlon Wayans's role as the hero's sidekick, which verges unpleasantly on racial caricature.
The film had a modest budget ($36 million), and it shows. The look of the production is helped by the use of locations in Prague - the State Opera and St Nicholas's Cathedral are particularly impressive - but too often the sets seem to be furnished with whatever the props department could find lying around at the time. The titular dragons at least help to enliven a protracted and confusing climax.
This movie demonstrates just how difficult it is to make a good heroic fantasy film. It fails to take advantage of the rich heritage offered by the original game, "Dungeons and Dragons". It might just prove acceptable to an audience of undemanding 12-year-olds.