Monday, August 1, 2016

Dwarvenaut (2016) Fantasia 2016

Portrait of Stefan Pokorny owner of Dwarven Forge a company that makes dungeons and cities for use by those playing Dungeons and Dragons. The film follows Pokorny as he sets in motion his third Kickstarter program in order to make a vast city complex. Its a plan that according to Pokorny, and the promotional material, will either be a huge success or bankrupt the company.

Interesting but over long film is nominally about the Kickstarter campaign, but in reality the film is about the cherubic Stefan Pokorny who owns and runs the company and loves D&D. I say nominally because the promotional material's talks about the Kickstarter campaign which would make or break the company is in fact a non-issue. The reality is that the basic goal for the campaign was met within hours on day one and that there was no where to go- except delve into Pokorny's life.

Whether you like the film or not will depend upon whether or not you like the subject of the film. In fairness I have to state that I've met Pokorny somewhere along the way, not in any meaningful way or that he springs instantly to mind, more the sort of thing where I was ten minutes into the film and I realized that he had annoyed me at some convention or other. Whether this makes me incapable of reviewing the film is up to you to decide, because the film is 84 minutes with him front and center.

To be perfectly honest my problems with the film are not with Pokorny who came off as one of my old D&D buddies (yes I played a lot) on a particularly obsessive compulsive day. I can live with him and his over the top behavior. I like Pokorny's enthusiasm for the game and his desire to spread the word. My problem with the film is that unless you really fall in love with the subject and his life this is going to be a tough haul because its all him all the time and I'm not sure there is enough here for most people to really latch on to for over an hour.

Watching the film I somehow got the feeling that the focus of the film changed when the Kickstarter was instantly funded. At one point Pokorny talks about needing to make over 2 million dollars to break even but his original goal was 100 grand and I can not believe that after two previously successful campaigns he didn't know what he was doing. The need for the millions, like much of the action, seems contrived.  He wanted 100 grand and he got it after a few hours, so as a filmmaker where do you go and what do you do to fill out the time required to be considered a feature- you run your subject around to everywhere he ever lived and film him talking about his life.

And while I have no problem with flying Pokorny around the country I have to ask to what end? I don't know why we are seeing it. Why are you showing me this? I have nothing against the guy but what am I supposed to be getting out of this film and his life? I don't know, nor do I really think director Josh Bishop knows either. If the film was more about the game (the film glosses over details of a game that most people don't really know- it assumes you know the game and how its played) or had a real sense of an arc this might have been something, instead its just an over long portrait of a passionate guy that loves Dungeons and Dragons.

DWARVENAUT opens Friday on VOD.

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