Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire – August 23, 2018

Swords clash and destinies collide in this epic story of bloodlust and vengeance. Xia, a demonic sorceress, has sworn to destroy Queen Ma’at and her kingdom of Abelar. As Xia and her army of vampires terrorize the land, the queen dispatches Princess Tanis to find the one man who can stop Xia – Oda, a cold-blooded mercenary who is revealed to be Tanis’s biological father. Joined by a thieving rogue named Aedan, Tanis begins a danger-filled quest that pits her against the sister she never knew – a half-human, half-vampire creature determined to kill Oda.

Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Albert Pyun
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Michael Pare, Sasha Mitchell
MPAA Rating: R
Final Score: 2.5/10

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This was a mess of a movie. It starts going downhill right from the beginning when they open with a reality show interview as one of the characters narrates the story. It could have worked, but the next 10 minutes undermines it completely. A combination of narration, actors on a green screen and an overlay graphic of the backstory being told is used to set up the plot. But the dialogue is boring, and the actors seemed like they were playing around, so the entire sequence drags on. There are some good parts to it, though the story is a bit cliché, and the main character of the story is not the usual legendary hero. He’s not a good character, morally or story wise, but one thing the movie does is subvert the trope of good heroes. None of the characters can be considered heroes. The opening transitions into the main plot of the story in the present time. The rest of the movie is about the kids of the main character getting together and reclaiming their home, although, except for one, they don’t really care about it. It is not a very imaginative story, and the movie doesn’t progress smoothly. Flashbacks are used to give the second main character some history, but they are much too long and take screen time from the present-day story. Which is the reason we end up with the characters that we see.

How to put this kindly. The characters sucked. Once they are introduced into the story, they are forgotten about. One character gets developed. Tanis is the secondary main character and is featured in a lot of the flashbacks. Aedan, Rajan… the other two, they are ignored so that the plot can move forwards. Any development is told through narration. Oda is the only other character that is focused on as a character, but he doesn’t change from the terrible person that he was at the beginning. There is no one here for you to root for or care about. This comes down to the omission of character interactions. Any scene that could have built the characters up were instead used to forward the plot. The movie is only an hour and a half and most of that is just plot and flashbacks. We don’t know the motivations of the other characters. Why do they go with Tanis? Besides the fact that the plot demands it. All the conflict and fighting should affect the characters, but it doesn’t.

There isn’t much to say about the fight scenes in the movie. The movie would have been better off without them. Nothing about them is exciting and they only happen to move the plot forward. The vampire attacks work because there isn’t any choreography to make them look good. They’re just brutal wrestling matches. Swordfights require more work to get right and it is not done here. Green screens with nonexistent enemies, throwing sword blades, none of these are exactly exciting. Our best chance of a good fight was the final battle but that was not even shown. Maybe that was a good thing if it was going to be anything like the other fights.

It was a surprise that the special effects were as good as they were. Maybe its just because everything else is so bad, but the vampires are not terrible. There is nothing to complain about except maybe that they are a little generic. The way the story is set up insures that they aren’t scary, but they could have worked if the rest of the movie was up to par with them. The boat scene, on the other hand, is just plain awful. They must have blown their budget on the vampires. The rest of the special effects are okay. The establishing shots of the city are tolerable, and the reanimation of one of the vampires is good. It shows that the story was the problem, not the special effects.

It’s sad to see a movie like this. Fantasy as a genre seems to draw writers who neglect the characters of the story. Action and adventure are the main priority. But when that fails, what’s left? Fantasy can be just as deep as any other kind of film, if they are written like that. This movie’s not. And what we’re left with is evidence for people to use when they say that fantasy movies don’t work.

 

Point breakdown

Plot: 1/2 – Good story about reclaiming your home, but we don’t see any of it.
Characters: 0/2 – Nobody gets any worthy development.
Conflict: 0/2 – The fighting is told to us and the characters don’t struggle.
Special Effects: .5/2 – Some of the vampire make up is good.
Sets/Costumes: 1/2 – The middle eastern styled robes are cool, sets not so much.

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