Darkon

Listen to Zach and Bill’s podcast review at Movie Bonfire 

What happens when you get a group of role-playing fanatics together in the parks of Baltimore? Epic live-action medieval warfare in the made-up land of Darkon, of course. For longer than a decade, a group of “weekend warrior knights” has gathered together to camp out, wage battles against each other, and just have a fantastical, subculturific good time.

Following the exploits (both real-life and imaginary) of numerous participants in this fantasy role-play, this documentary by Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer reveals the inner-workings of these people’s lives, in much the same vein as the Star Trek fan documentary Trekkies.

As Darkon opens, the audience becomes privy to the fact that “it is a time of unrest in the realm of Darkon.” This unrest stems from the fact that one of our leads, Bannor of Laconia (stay-at-home father Skip Limpan) has declared Keldar of the Mordomian Empire (businessman Kenyon Wells) to be an unfit ruler. With sections of the documentary taking place entirely in the mystical land of Darkon, audiences are immediately drawn into the created drama taking place there.

The costumes, foam swords, wooden shields and one giant plywood castle front, serve as elaborate set pieces for a world that otherwise exists entirely in the minds of the game players. But the filmmakers aren’t simply focussed on the game itself or the rules there-in. Instead, we get a nice mixture of Darkonian action and a showcase of typical work/life balance.

And while the exploration of the protagonists’ lives are compelling and watchable, the filmmakers’ greatest accomplishment is that audiences won’t end up feeling like laughing at the earnestness with which our heroes devote themselves to their imaginary kingdoms. In fact, though we do get the distinct impression that many of the practitioners may be a little too into role-playing, for the most part they end up coming off as average people who have found a creative and exciting hobby.

After winning the Audience Award at the 2006 SXSW Film Festival in Austin (and making the official selecton in 17 others), Darkon is being released to DVD on February 26th.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Anyone with even a passing interest in documentaries
Stay Away if: The thought of adults in costumes, swinging foam swords doesn’t sound appealing

To purchase Darkon, visit Amazon
For more information (and to view the trailer), visit the film’s homepage
For more reviews by Zach Freeman, visit HubPages

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