Movie Review: Knights of Badassdom

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A group of Live Action Role Players accidentally summon a demon and must fight it to protect mankind.

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Joe Lynch, 2013

While roleplaying in the forest, rich LARPer Eric (Steve Zahn) starts using a book he bought online to read authentic-sounding spells and make his roleplay more realistic. Meanwhile, his best friend Joe (Ryan Kwanten), mechanic and aspiring doom metal rock star, is dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva), who has the entirely incomprehensible desire not to be dating someone who thinks a personalised doom metal song is the height of romance. With the help of his stoner friend Hung (Peter Dinklage), Eric ropes Joe into coming back into nerddom for a LARPing weekend. Using his new book, Eric casts a spell over Joe that causes a succubus to come to life in the form of Beth. Now Eric, Joe, and Hung must kill the demon with the help of fellow LARPer Gwen (Summer Glau) before she kills everyone in sight.

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Guess who the main character is? No, actually, not Peter Dinklage.

 

It’s always really sad to me to see movie about nerddom that are a) really disparaging of nerdy fun and b) frequently more conservative than the mainstream. Following in the grand tradition of films like Revenge of the Nerds and Fanboys, the women of Knights of Badassdom are reduced to sexist, sexualised tropes: the hot love interest (lust interest?) who kicks ass (Summer Glau, of course, since the role was practically tailor-made for her) and the rampaging maneating bitch who, in this case, literally becomes a succubus. They even throw in a sexy lesbian make out scene for good measure! (Well, sexy until the gore, anyway.) Also, in spite of the fact that they show a few female LARPers, the three women I’ve already mentioned – the succubus, the love interest, and the lesbian make out girl – are the only women with lines. For a movie about LARPing, the movie is also downright nasty about the hobby. The movie seems to imply that it has to be legitimised in some way, which is insulting and ridiculous. I was expecting it to be more silly and fun then it actually was.

That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its benefits. There are some really terrific practical gore effects; the make-up team really went to town on demon!Beth. Jimmi Simpson is having a blast as their slightly antagonistic friend and gamemaster Ronnie Kwok, who was embarrassed by Joe years ago and never quite got over it. Peter Dinklage does seem to be having fun as Hung, a stoner dudebro role that I doubt he gets offered with much frequency. As the movie does away with shallow stereotypes and lazy sexism and builds towards the rollicking finale, the movie gathers momentum and characterisation starts coming to the fore. Eric, rather sensibly, decides he wants nothing more to do with magic, while Ronnie discovers the hero within him. Also, any finale which features a robot dragon, a giant hell demon, zombie Peter Dinklage, and a doom metal musical number is worth a watch. It’s just a shame about the journey the film took to get there.

Knights of Badassdom on IMDb

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