Darkon (review)

You’ve heard of Civil War reenactors. You may not have heard of live-action role-playing gamers, who enact the battles and intrigues of imaginary fantasy realms. This engaging film introduces us to some of those fantasists, players in a Baltimore-area game called Darkon, in which multiple kingdoms — some good, some almost evil — meet on battlefields on weekends and fight for supremacy. The battlefields are typically school yards or local parks (and it’s pretty funny to see all the players’ decked out in their medieval finery while their 21st-century cars are parked in the background), the weapons are padded so that no one actually gets hurt, and everyone seems to be having a blast. First-time documentarians Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel avoid what might have been the obvious tact here of making fun of these folks, which is a treat, but they go a step further and demonstrate that even guys — and girls; the game is a lot more feminist than the actual Middle Ages were — who dress up in medieval costumes and pretend to whack the crap out of one another for fun don’t take any of it too seriously… except when, maybe, it actually helps them build skills that transfer over to real life. These players are fully self-aware, and pretty self-deprecating, which is probably more than can be said for their more socially acceptable counterparts: the guys who paint themselves in team colors and stand half naked in football stands in subzero temperatures. Extras include multiple commentary tracks and deleted scenes.

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