Toronto After Dark 2012: Lloyd the Conqueror Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Lloyd the Conqueror

Starring Brian Posehn, Mike Smith, Evan Williams, Scott Patey and Jesse Reid

Directed by Michael Peterson

Most people have heard of Dungeons & Dragons, the game where players take on the roles of fantasy characters (elves, dwarfs, knights, rogues, etc) and using pen, paper and dice play out adventures fighting dragons, orcs, goblins and any evils their “dungeon master” can think of. But what happens when pen and paper doesn’t quite fill that void anymore? What if you want to dress up in costume and actually hit people using foam weapons? That’s when you enter the world of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing).

Lloyd and his two friends, Patrick and Oswald, are your regular slackers. Leaving projects to the last minute is standard fare. When they leave their Medieval Literature project to the day before it’s due only to get sucked into playing a video game, eventually falling asleep and having to improvise their project come the morning, they end up getting a failing grade and risk loosing their financial aid. Their only hope? Beg and plead with their professor to give them a redo. Their devious teacher Derek upon hearing their “we’ll do anything” plea decides that the trio of less than stellar students should join his LARPing league. Along with the guidance of the wise wizard (game store manager) and the addition of an elven ranger (love interest and overzealous self protection instructor) the group sets out to defeat the dark lord Derek.

Lloyd the Conqueror is a very low budget film. It might even be considered a micro budget film. Everything from locations, to actors, to costumes shows a lack of funds. This is especially apparent when you consider the costumes worn by some of the extras (played by actual LARPers) were a lot better than those worn by the main cast.

Much of the humour in this film revolves around making fun of the LARPing subculture and those that are involved. I’m not sure if actual LARPers might take offense to being made fun of, but I would hope that they would be able to laugh with the film as much as I did. If you can find it within yourself to forgive the shortcomings of the film you’ll find a very entertaining and extremely humourous movie. The additions of funny men Brian Posehn and Mike Smith not only adds a little star power to the film but their comedic experience has clearly benefited the entire production.

One aspect about Lloyd the Conqueror that I couldn’t help but notice is that because the scope of the project was so small, it seemed out of place with the feature film world. I continue to think that if the filmmakers involved had gone the route of a web series a la The Guild, Pretty in Geek or Legend of Neil, it would have garnered a bigger and better response, likely been seen by more people, and in the end, managed to find its proper audience. In its current form, I’m not sure Lloyd the Conqueror will survive.

A film like Lloyd the Conqueror is not an easy sell to general audiences. LARPing is a very small demographic and even if you open up the field to fans of similar fare (RPG, fantasy, gaming), Lloyd the Conqueror would on the surface, seem to have at most a Comic-Con level fan base. But, while Lloyd may not be accessible for general audiences, this often loyal fan base should easily get a laugh or two out of this film… if they are ever able to see it.

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Fantasia 2012 – Lloyd the Conqueror Review (Matt Hodgson)

Fantasia Film Festival 2012

Lloyd the Conqueror

Starring Evan Williams, Mike Smith, Brian Posehn, Tegan Moss, and Harland Williams

Directed by Michael Peterson

I decided to check out Lloyd the Conqueror in one of Fantasia’s late-afternoon time slots simply based on the poster alone. Not only did the poster look awesome, but the quote at the top, ‘In our heads this is friggin’ epic’, was hilarious. The film is about Live Action Role-Playing or LARPing, the real-life incarnation of a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game. As it stands, I have never actually participated in LARPing or seen an actual LARP in progress, but from what I understand it is quite a popular hobby, taken very seriously by many. LARPing clubs exist across North America, and it was about high time I learned what the fuss was all about. While Lloyd the Conqueror wasn’t the side-splitting comedy I was expecting, it certainly its funny moments, but the real reason to see Lloyd is for the heart-warming LARPing story within.

Lloyd (Evan Williams), Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scott Patey) are a group of regular guys. They watch movies, play video games, drink beer, and slack off when it comes to school work. A particular ill-prepared class presentation lands them in the doghouse with their irritable teacher, Derek (Smith). Unfortunately for the friends, the subsequent terrible grade puts them in the undesirable position of losing their financial aid if they cannot get the grade up to a C. Derek would normally not give these lazy students a second chance, but it just so happens that the forces of a light need another team for Derek to demolish in his LARPing league. Without another team Derek will not be able to become this year’s champion and continue his tremendous win-streak. The friends join the league to try and save their financial aid, as Derek has promised them an A if they can defeat him. It doesn’t look like Lloyd and company have a hope in hell of defeating Derek, but that’s before Andy, a level 80 white wizard, takes them under his tutelage. Do Lloyd and his companions have what it takes to defeat the sinister Derek? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, it’s going to be epic!

As I’ve already mentioned, I was expecting Lloyd the Conqueror to be hilarious. I had a bit of a problem with some of the dialogue driven humour that seemed to rely on crude jokes that felt a little dated. However, there were certainly plenty of comical moments that worked and the jokes drawn on the LARPing material were very funny, original, and intelligent. Brian Posehn and Mike Smith are the comedic veterans of the cast and they do an admirable job as polar-opposites. Andy is soft spoken and a true nerd, while Derek is abrasive, offensive, and must have had a very spoiled childhood. I can imagine a young Derek with the latest edition of the D&D monsters compendium in his hand while other less privileged children stare on in awe. The rest of the cast is also quite good, particularly Williams and Patey. I think Patey has a wonderful comedic career ahead of him if he chooses to go down that road.

The story of Lloyd is really what kept me glued to the screen. It was easy to identify with Lloyd and his friends and it was even easier to loathe Derek. It sounds strange to say it, but once the actual LARPing began, the movie gained a magical quality. Particularly effective was the juxtaposition of costumed LARPers and modern day technology, as cellphone towers or airplanes were often in the background of shots. Instead of being comedic, it really drives home just how creative and powerful the imaginations of LARPers are if they are able to disregard their mundane environments while enjoying their favourite pastime.

Funny, touching, informative, and entertaining. You will be rooting for Lloyd and against Derek until the final minutes.

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