Darkon is a complex, magical place. Knights, wizards, Amazonian and Greek warriors, elves and more inhabit this world, and all fiercely protect their swath of it. Land is important, but acquiring more is paramount; and no one does it better than Mordom, a large, tyrannical kingdom that expands with force and an ultimatum: join us or be destroyed.
This credo is tested when the small but scrappy kingdom of Laconia breaks with Mordom in protest over its fascistic ways. The clash of strength and ego that results rocks Darkon and all within it. This story is tailor-made for a big-budget action flick a la The Lords of the Rings, but it finds home instead in a documentary detailing the live-action fantasy war-gaming club, Darkon. Every weekend hundreds don homemade armor and Renaissance Faire gear, grab their padded swords and shields and head to wooded areas, football fields and public parks in the Washington, D.C., area to create a world amalgamated from history books, movies and Dungeons and Dragons, staged with complexly strategized battles and intense Arthurian drama. Directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel capture these rag-tag gatherings with the power and punch of a cinematic epic, complete with sweeping tracking shots and overhead swoops, kinetic handheld camerawork, melodramatic scoring and scenery-chewing dramatizations. The action is balanced with profiles of the game's players, which rival the action in captivation. Heroes and villains are transformed into office workers, stay-at-home dads, single moms and introverted kids, each of whom use the game to both escape from reality and enhance their understanding of it. Grade: A
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