Darkon is a documentary about the activities of the Darkon Wargaming Club. The members of this organization role-play the conflicts of rival fantasy kingdoms in the ordinary suburbs of Baltimore, MD, in public parks and fields. The movie makes sure you know that there is a poignant opposition here.
The camera always seems to be panning and/or lingering poignantly over the city of Baltimore and its environs while the members of the Darkon Wargaming Club ponder the contrast between the romance and chivalry of Darkon and the absence of these qualities in the rest of our society. Like most "serious" art these days, Darkon spends way too much time drawing attention to the imaginative faculty as some elusive source of pathos and wonder in our sad-bad world--instead of, you know, directly engaging the faculty in question.
Why are we being shown a dramatic overhead view of Baltimore? Is there going to be a foam weapon battle to take over the city? Or will it instead be a personal battle for the viewer, as he or she attempts to stay awake during a boring visual meditation on urban decay or some shit?
Yet, these flaws belie a compelling story, one that brings to life the "Overfiend's Axiom" related earlier in this review. Darkon truly shows what happens when two kings, following very different models of military leadership, do battle.
The movie's protagonist is a kindly, bearded, childlike man named Skip Lipman. Why is he the protagonist? It is the same reason that hobbits are the heroes of Lord of the Rings. Skip is a dreamer and a family man, "with the soul of an adventurer," according to his wife. His ways are simple, and his pleasures. It is suspect for America or England to have any other type of hero.
Skip was born into a family that ran a gaming company, which shows that games and fun are part of his essential nature. He is no longer in the company after he punched out the boss, his brother, which shows that he is plucky, wayward, and emotional.
Skip has clearly enjoyed the comic and movie 300, because in Darkon he runs a country called Laconia. His army wears Greek-inspired helmets designed by him and his best friend/second-in-command, a mage in an elephant mask. He employs a "one of the guys" style of leadership, such as was presumably customary in the red-blooded, freedom-loving city-state of Sparta. Truly, in his role as "Bannor of Laconia," he resembles nothing so much as a petulant kids' sports coach.
When Darkon isn't making pronouncements about the psychological meaning of live-action role-playing games, it recounts the epic struggle between Skip Lipman and his antithesis: a blond, focused, intense, permanently sneering, high-ranking IT professional named Kenyon Wells.
While Skip participates in Darkon because he likes pretending and games, Kenyon participates because he doesn't see a distinction between Darkon and reality. While Skip and everyone else talk about what losers they are and how they pretend to be heroes in-game to escape from their unheroic lives, Kenyon never tries to justify Darkon.
Kenyon concedes only that the game has helped his social skills. No doubt that is because he naturally sees all human interaction as governed by an underlying system of rules; the game is merely an outside environment that corresponds with his natural inclinations.
While Skip has the "soul of an adventurer," Kenyon has the soul of a commander. He has systematically acquired power and land for his empire--the straightforward, half-assedly-named Mordom--over the entire 16 years he has been playing.
Darkon is about the conflict between the "good" king, the man of emotion who only wants the world's love; and the "evil" king, the man of action who lusts after power, even in a game world (and when is politics not a game? by contrast, the concerns of the "good" king are ultimately outside the game: his son, his family).
Skip Lipman wants badly to be a hero. He decides to "punch out the boss" one more time in his life. He foments a rebellion against Kenyon's empire on the dubious premise that Mordom's military victories are immoral. The might of Mordom, he says, denies the weaker countries a chance. Will the gambit of this gentle Demosthenes meet with success?
That depends on the Dark Elves.
Rating: this movie is okay.
Posted by xerxes on Fri, 27 Jun 2008 18:20:16 -0400 -- permanent link