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Midnight Chronicles
cast: Charles Hubbell, Dawn Brodey, Sam Landsman, Steven Sweere, and Matthew Amendt

writer and director: Christian T. Petersen

100 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
Midnight Chronicles is based on the fantasy role-playing-game Midnight from Fantasy Flight games. I was unfamiliar with the RPG but its setting can perhaps best be summed up as: Lord Of The Rings, but the Dark Lord won. The Dark Lord in question is the fallen god Izrador, alias the Shadow in the North, and priests known as legates enforce the Shadow's oppressive rule.

When legate Mag Kiln (Charles Hubbell) is sent to Blackweir, he's given two tasks: to track down a missing legate and to ensure the completion of a Shadow temple. With the aid of sarcastic sidekick Kruce (Sam Landman) and feisty acolyte Chuzara (Dawn Brodey) Mag soon discovers that Blackweir's corrupt mayor and master-builder are behind the delay, leaking details of the temple supply wagon caravans to mysterious one-armed outlaw, the Hunter (Steven Sweere). But more ancient and supernatural forces are also at work delaying the temple's completion; forces capable of killing even the most powerful legate. Could there be a link to the strange, unwanted symbol slowly appearing on the back of Mag Kiln's left hand? And what of the prophecy (there's always a prophecy) predicting "the awakening of the Harbinger and the last king" in "the place of secrets"?

Google Midnight Chronicles and you'll find rumours that this was originally to be a pilot for a TV series. Which makes sense given that it doesn't really end so much as stop, leaving major plot threads hanging, especially that concerning Gaelen (Matthew Amendt). It doesn't really work as a standalone film. There's too much backstory, and too many characters to keep track of, with too little introduction given to most of them (especially the strange female assassin with the odd facial markings). And its target audience is clearly knowledgeable fans of the RPG rather than the general viewer.

If the film weren't hamstrung enough by being based on a Tolkien rip-off and a script that bites off more than it can chew, it also has a first-time director and a cast of largely unknowns from Minneapolis. Unfortunately, this lack of experience shows. The pacing, especially of the first half, is at times glacial, full of talking and meaningful pauses, the dense storyline and sheer number of characters suited more to the leisurely unfolding arc of a TV series than a film. The special effects are good, for the most part, though the assassin's tower is unconvincing. And as for making the main protagonists agents of the Dark Lord, it is a brave move but not an entirely successful one.

Dawn Brodey, Sam Landsman (who has the best lines), and Steven Sweere try their best to engage audience sympathy for their far too sketchy characters. But Charles Hubbell, more usually a voice actor, lacks the charisma necessary for the lead role... though in his favour, he does sport a magnificent widow's peak.
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