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June 2011

Journey To Promethea

cast: Billy Zane, Jessica Heap, Louis Herthum, Sam Murphy, and Caleb Michaelson

director: Dan Garcia

83 minutes (PG) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
4 Digital Media DVD Region 2

RATING: 0/10
review by Ian Sales

Journey To Promethea

You see them everywhere these days - on Amazon, on dedicated websites,,, assorted forums... Everyone, they say, has a book inside them; but unfortunately for most self-published fantasy novelists, that's exactly where it should have stayed. It's not just the eye-stabbingly bad prose, or the irony-free deployment of every cliché from Tolkien and his multitude of copyists. It's not their failure to draw a character or a character-arc; nor even their creation of a setting which bundles together mismatched periods of English history with no regard for logic, internal consistency or plausibility. These books are not reviled and mocked for any one of these characteristics. No, they are reviled and mocked because they possess all of them.

And so to Journey To Promethea, which is an epic fantasy film rather than a book. It is also staggeringly inept. Its cast look like they were outfitted by the nearest Renaissance fayre, it was filmed almost exclusively in a local wood, the only person in it who can act is Billy Zane - and he doesn't even bother, and the story is mess of clichés ripped bleeding from everything from the Matter of Britain to Dungeons & Dragons. It is, quite possibly, the worst fantasy film ever made - and that's in a field littered with appallingly bad films, such as Hawk The Slayer, Beastmaster, Deathstalker, Barbarian Queen, or The Sword And The Sorcerer...

King Laypach (Billy Zane) is a thoroughly bad sort. He lounges on his throne in his dingy throne-room, surrounded by harem girls. He has already destroyed one country, despite the best efforts of their hero Draden (Gabe Begneaud), who is captured and beheaded in the sort of historical prologue with which bad writers open their bad fantasy novels. But hark, all is not lost because a prophecy decrees that another hero will rise among the people and release them from Laypach's tyranny. For viewers unfamiliar with the forms of fantasy, this is handily indicated by a blue flash which transfers itself from Draden's eyes to those of a young boy watching the execution.

Fast-forward eight years... Magnus (Sam Murphy) and Binon (Caleb Michaelson) are farmer's sons, although their grandfather had been a king. Binon is a master swordsman, but Magnus is good with animals. While they and their people are being herded through the wood by Laypach's royal guard, their father is killed. Binon attacks a guard, but is defeated and dragged off to the castle. Magnus runs away and falls in with hunter Ari (Louis Herthum), who promises to teach him combat skills. Meanwhile, King Laypach wants the prophesised hero found. He sends out his best killer, Kronin (Scott Schwartz), a huge bald man who speaks as though he inhabits the bottom of a large barrel.

And so Magnus and Ari wander about the woods, while they tell each other the history of the land. A dwarf with a yellow-painted face, Grado (Drew Battles), finds Magnus and identifies him as the prophesised hero, though even the wisest of wise-men would be hard-pressed to spot his potential. But that doesn't matter, because his powers will only appear once he has Draden's sword in his hand. And that is being brought to him by Princess Aria (Jessica Heap) and her squad of sword-maidens...

Not one member of the cast can actually act. This is made worse by everyone trying to put on English accents. Thankfully, it's not Dick van Dyke's cockney chimney-sweep, but the results are so variable you have to wonder why they bothered. The story is one long chain of clichés, so there is no suspense since it's blindingly obvious what is going to happen. Even the photography is inept - much of the footage looks to have been shot with an unsteadicam [sic]. In one scene, the two principals sit across a fire from the cameraman, and no lighting plan appears to have been implemented: the picture is both washed out from the flames of the fire and blurred from its smoke.

The only astonishing thing about Journey To Promethea is that Billy Zane's career is apparently so far in the toilet that he has to appear in such appallingly-made movies. Perhaps he did it for a bet. He certainly didn't bother acting in the film; he didn't even appear especially sober. Not that he had much competition from the rest of the cast. Bad films with poor casts are not uncommon. Bad films with bad scripts, bad cinematography, bad acting, bad English accents, badly-choreographed fight scenes, and bad special effects are perhaps less common. But Journey To Promethea certainly qualifies. You'd be better off watching Deathstalker 4: Match Of The Titans...

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