Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2006: The knights of disparity



Ever wonder about the kids who play Dungeons and Dragons and immerse themselves into role-playing games? Or wonder, if as adults, they ever grow out of that “phase”?

No? Fair enough. The documentary “Darkon” explores their world nonetheless, but even given its thorough investigation of why they fight, the question remains.

Why bother?

The movie is part of this weekend’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.


It’s all in a knight’s work in the documentary, “Darkon.”

The Darkon Wargaming Club has been battling and bonding for more than 20 years in Baltimore. We meet the members who design their characters from the inside out for their various fictional countries.

We’ve met them before — in real life and in movies — as Trekkies, Civil War re-enactors and exhibitionists. Those of the Darkon stripe emulate knights and warriors of ye olde mythologie.

They are, by their own admission, mundane people working mundane jobs in mundane lives looking for escape. No lawyers, doctors or firefighters to be found (though one Iraq War vet recounts his real-life battle horror). The recurring theme is that they can be anyone they want to be through their fantasy lives.

Unfortunately for viewers, the movie focuses at length on their drab real selves. If only they’d stay in character throughout the doc … If only they’d bring their sense of honor, courage and nobility to real-life fights to oppose government tyranny, stand up for justice, or build up this country.

We see their battles on and off the field in excruciating detail. I wondered at times if our lords and ladies were showboating to the camera, which managed to swoop majestically over long-planned skirmishes.

Clip: “Darkon” tackles issues of life and death.

It’s an all too serious look at people having fun. Apparently the first casualty of fake war is a true sense of humor.

Not that these players should be played for cheap laughs. But “Darkon” has all the appeal of focusing too loyally to any hobby. I see live action role-playing as stamp collecting for the 21st century: endlessly fascinating to hobbyists, not all that interesting to outsiders.

“Darkon” will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday with opening short “Zombie-American” at the Carver Theatre.


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1 Yip for “Sidewalk 2006: The knights of disparity”

  1. smallerdemon
    Sunday, September 24, 2006, 11:12 pm

    I can count how many times I’ve played RPGs on one hand. It’s boring stuff to me. But I have friends who love it. Who started playing in high school, formed friendships based on it in college, and now are all technologically savvy enough to be scattered all across the country and find a way to still do it (and not with World of Warcraft or Everquest, but ways to do online what they did in person).

    Still, wow, it’s very boring to me. Darkon was not. More than anything, Darkon was a significantly poignant study on being socially awkward, being physically unattractive in the eyes of a lot of people around you, struggling to feel some success in one’s life when all around is personal mediocrity (not success, not failure, just surviving).

    My favorite part of the movie was the interweaving of some of the people’s very sad stories but also how nevertheless you can’t help but laugh at the seriousness with which they take their “game”. I also adored that they filmmakers went to great lengths to portray the battles in the movie quite probably how the players imagine it happening: in huge, wide, enormous scale and scope. The crane shots and helicopter shots really add to giving you an idea about how the players probably imagine the game as epic, although it’s just foam swords and spears.

    It wasn’t as good as Firefly, though, but it was definitely a worthwhile entry.

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