Welcome to the Bad Movie of the Week! [See the Archive.] Perusing the internet last week, I came across a movie reference in this article and at once a new quest was revealed to me. A very young Tom Hanks stars in this moralistic tale about the dangers of a thinly disguised version of Dungeons & Dragons.
Mazes and Monsters (1982)
Plot: Four socially awkward college freshmen bond over a mutual interest in the fantasy roleplaying game “Mazes and Monsters.” They seek additional excitement by playing the game in the “dangerous and mysterious” local caverns. Yet the ultimate danger proves to be the game itself, as Robbie (Hanks) becomes more and more immersed in his character until he ends up wandering the streets of New York, unable to return to reality.
Read on for the final rating:
[Robbie is believed to have disappeared in the caverns.]
Daniel: “What do you guys think happened?”
Police Lieutenant: “One of the players Robbie played with got carried away and killed him.”
Daniel: “That’s kind of far out.”
Police Lieutenant: “Mazes & Monsters is a far-out game. Swords… poison… spells… battles… maiming… killing!”
Most implausible moment: The notion that roleplaying games cause people to stab muggers and then jump off the World Trade Center isn’t easy to sell. However, Robbie’s traumatic family history and Hanks’s decent performance add a thin veneer of plausibility. Could it be temporary insanity, a bout of schizophrenia perhaps? Nope. In the final scene, Robbie’s friends visit him only to find out that he has been permenently transformed into an addle-brained nutcase unable to do anything but babble vaguely about magical quests. Wow, way to drive the message home.
Nerd-tastic bonus: 1 (out of 1 possible). While I’ve never played D&D, it’s clear even to me that a lot of the gaming in the movie is bogus, with its emphasis on the accumulation of treasure and other silliness. Still, there was a pretty amazing amount of nerdiness on display; a few more junk food wrappers and it could be a documentary.
Final score: 4½ (6 is worst). Mazes and Monsters is a shamelessly ridiculous movie based on a shamelessly ridiculous book that exploited and exarcerbated the public’s fears about the relatively new phenomenon of Dungeons & Dragons. Taken seriously, therefore, it’s quite offensive to common sense, and Will was all for giving it a 5 or a 6. On the other hand, the movie is reasonably well made, and I for one felt that watching Tom Hanks turning in an Oscar-worthy effort for such an absurd premise was definitely worthwhile.