I'm watching it tonight, and with about 16 minutes of movie to go, I can tell you that it is, without a doubt, the worst movie I have ever seen.
It's obviously an expensive production, but it seems dismally mismanaged. The special effects are lush and expansive, but their insertion into the film is so ineptly realized that it's noticeable. This is no problem in amateur and low-budget productions, but IMDB says Dungeons and Dragons had $35,000,000 and studio backing. $35 million is fairly modest for this type of film, but the amount and quality of CGI suggest that they didn't skimp on the special effects budget, which makes such marked visual incongruities inexcusable.
The dialogue fluctuates between pseudo-high fantasy and contemporary street slang, which could have been made to work, but here it doesn't. Casting Jeremy Irons as a heartless megalomaniac seems perfect in theory, but his scenes play as if he's overdoing it in exasperation to piss off the director. Same with Bruce Payne, who doesn't normally suck. Nearly everybody else sounds as if they're doing their first readthrough of the script, and the performances are awful. It's not a stylistic choice -- it just plain doesn't work. Having the closed captioning on makes the film even worse because the pauses and stresses in the dialogue occur at unnatural places. Only Richard O'Brien seems well-cast. It's the type of role he likes to play, and he's the only good thing about the film.
The characters and conflicts are too uninteresting for me to care about what's actually happening in the story, which is convoluted. D&D spent something like nine years in pre-pre-production. I suspect that during this time a script was written, and then seriously trimmed and reworked every time somebody had a new idea for a cool special effect. The final film is so messy that I don't even care enough to wade through the story to figure it out. That's the real problem. It's ambitious, but it's dull. It's like a long drive home with an intoxicated friend who is determined to tell you a long joke which he can't remember. I found myself constantly wondering when they were going to get to the good stuff, only to realize that what I was watching is the good stuff. It's just poorly thought out and poorly executed.
I'm one of those people who complains that producers ruin the best art, but if I could get rid of all the producers on earth, I wouldn't do it. The reason is made clear by Dungeons and Dragons. A glance through the crew shows that the film had 19 producers, which is quite a few, but most of them don't appear to have had much (if any) prior experience in Hollywood, so I imagine that they were mostly there to wrangle funds and tell the effects guys to give the monsters bigger eyes. Joel Silver is conspicuously listed, and with his experience one would expect the film to be better. My guess is that between the number of lesser producers and the amount and quality of special effects, it didn't occur to him that freshman director Courney Solomon might not be very good at what they were paying him to do. If Silver -- or some other producer -- had taken an active role in the film, it could have been saved. It wouldn't be infinitely better, but I might not be posting about it.
Solomon, incidentally, is wrapping production on An American Haunting. D&D was his first film (at least, his first feature), and he has nowhere to go but up. Presumably he'll get better with experience. If not, well, I'm sure he has other talents.
Incidentally: Regarding the ending of the movie, when D&D came out, all of my friends complained about the ending, so I was already anticipating it. They didn't say what happened, just that the end of the movie was weird/dumb/out of place/whatever. Frankly, all this time I'd assumed that it must end in the middle of the climactic scene. Suddenly we'd hear a middle-aged woman shout out, "Henry! It's 11:00! Time for your friends to go home!" Cut to the main characters sitting around a card table in a messy basement. They pack up their character sheets, promise to pick the game back up tomorrow, and go their separate ways.
For those who haven't seen the movie, it doesn't end that way. The ending didn't bother me, except that I think my version is better.