Major films at Comic-Con want to keep their cards close to the vest, but the smaller films need to show more to get some attention. Knights of Badassdom is a smaller film but it’s got a great premise: a group of LARPers (Live-Action Role Players) head out into the woods, end up doing a real spell, and accidentally summon a blood-thirsty demon. As the demon starts picking off LARPers, three friends (played by Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, and Peter Dinklage) have to find a way to defeat the demon. It sounds like a fun blend of comedy, horror, and fantasy and it’s one of my most-anticipated panels of the Con. Major films sell themselves, but Knights of Badassdom has a shot at winning over an audience unfamiliar with the flick.
Hit the jump for my recap of the Knights of Badassdom panel.
[Update: We've added the trailer after the jump.]
They’ve got LARPers up on stage. One shouts at the audience “The Knights of Badassdom has begun!” We then see the trailer and it’s a blast. It starts off with movie trailer voice saying “In a world…within our world…they created a world…” the humor of LARPing, the guys then accidentally summon a succubus because Zahn plays an amateur sorcerer who randomly picks a page out of his spellbook. Then there’s a ton of action, more laughs, and some serious gore as well. Hopefully the trailer goes online soon because geeks are going to love it.
Director Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) comes on stage wielding a foam sword and clearly so happy to be there. He’s followed by Ryan Kwanten (who plays Joe, a guy who’s new to LARPing and not much into it), Jimmi Simpson, Danny Pudi, Michael Gladis, Margarita Levieva (the succubus), Summer Glau, and Peter Dinkalge.
Lynch says Knights is an adventure film. The genre combines chills and thrills and spills and that the genre has everything put together. He likes that he got to do a little bit of comedy and a little bit of horror and a little bit of drama. And a little heavy metal doesn’t hurt either. Furthermore, not everyone in the cast is safe from the monster. However, it’s not a film that everyone’s going to embrace because regular folks dress up in medieval costumes. Lynch reached out to LARPers to add authenticity to the rules and even had them on set and in the movie. It’s faithful to the LARPing community and not simply mock them. “If one person after seeing the movie grabs a foam sword, then we’ve done our job,” says Lynch.
Kwanten explains that Joe is the entry point for the film because he’s new to LARPing and he comes in with an air of pessimism. He’s just broken with his girlfriend and decides to give LARPing a shot because of his LARPing friends and discover that folks take it very seriously which only makes him see it more humorously until the succubus is summoned and things get crazy.
But before the LARPing gets going, he meets Summer’s character who is a really hot LARPer. She’s not super hardcore like other characters but she’s also fun loving and can take the story seriously but also step out a little bit and be reserved and cool, and that’s why she and Joe can connect at the beginning.
Peter says that unlike Tyrion, his character “Hung” in Knight is “completely miscalculating. And as to why his character is called “Hung”, Dinklage jokes, “Wait till the DVD…” He says the relationship with Joe and Steven Zahn’s character is very fraternal. Hung may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he loves LARPing even though he’s a bit irresponsible and has a deep love for narcotics.
Lynch says that they had a “LARPing bootcamp” where everyone learned the rules and then just said to go off and fun. And then Peter Dinkalge “smote” everyone in the cast and then went to craft services. “It was the double-sword action”, says Dinklage. Lynch says that everyone really cared about their character like Danny asking how his hand should be if he’s cleric or Zahn asking how many “lightning bolts” he could throw.
Levieva says the succubus takes the form of Joe’s ex-girlfriend, Beth. She walks around in a blue prom dress and her face is always smeared with blood. She had fun playing a creature that you’re not really familiar with and doing a lot of “animal work”. “There was a lot of ‘growl-training’ for ‘Succu-beth’,” adds Lynch.
Pudi plays “Lando”, and he says that there are similarities to the Star Wars character: a rogue, a thief, and a scoundrel. He says you never see where Lando lives so he believes the character lives in the woods and he’s not really friends with anyone.
Simpson plays Ronnie, another kind of villain in the film. “He’s a terrible man, I guess. I play a lot of terrible men, generally,” says Simpson. How is this character different? “He’s a terrible guy with a headband.” He’s the dungeon monster and runs the LARPing world and hires his friends to be the wranglers. Joe thinks Ronnie is the guy who lives and breathes LARPing and in that world he is king, but Joe thinks it’s all ridiculous. However, while Ronnie is perhaps more of a “Demi-god”, Gladis plays the Red King and leads his own faction. Gladis says his character is on the Henry V part of the kingly spectrum. Lynch adds that Gladis got even the real-life LARPers worked up. And Gladis says the LARPers “were the best scene partners in the world and they’ll be the soul of the film.”
We then get to see a clip from the film. In the clip, this is the first time that Joe is being trained by Hung about the skills of LARP. The scene begins with Hung doing shrooms, stretching, and then explains the rules about how hitting different body parts are worth different amounts of points, if a limb gets hit it’s useless until healed, and other miscellany LARP rules. He then tells Joe to watch how double-sword action works but Joe gets distracted by Summer Glau’s character. Hung then quickly takes down Joe, puts his swords around Joe’s throat and Glau shouts “Finish him!” Joe then gets fake decapitated and Hung tosses the imaginary head to Glau and I’m left wondering why the romantic relationship in the film is between Joe and Glau’s character and not between Glau and Hung. But the larger point is that the scene is incredibly funny and the actors seem like they’re having a lot of fun.
Lynch explains that while LARPing is a sub-culture, the film does its best to make the culture accessible to those unfamiliar with the world. However, the film is about being all you can’t be and doesn’t Comic-Con really express that idea? But the larger idea is that you can aspire to be something greater than yourself even if you’re bullshitting your way there.
Lynch has also spoken a lot about how heavy metal is part of the film and that composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) put together a metal mix and that he’s putting together a metal score for the movie.
They show the trailer again but unlike Immortals, it feels like they really want to keep the film in people’s minds because I’m sure people could come to the mic all day just to ask this cast of genre actors more questions. The presentation certainly lived up to my expectations and I hope that the film will as well.
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