Quick Doc Review: Darkon (2006)

The reason I like documentaries and reality television is because they offer me a glimpse into lives I’m otherwise unfamiliar with. Now, how accurately those lives are portrayed differ from project to project, but even a skewed look is a look, you know? Darkon seems like a pretty honest look at its subject matter, but I’m not sure how well it explains that world.

The film focuses on a Baltimore-based group of live action role players who play their game in the fictional world of the title. It focuses mainly on the leaders of two rival countries who wind up going to war, which seems to give it a kind of King of Kong feel, but never quite reaching that level of awesomeness for me.

I had two main problems with how the film was put together. First of all, since I’m not a LARPer, I don’t really know all the ins and outs of it. I assumed that many of my practical questions (where do they do their battles, do they need permits, where do they practice, etc.) would have been answered, but I do not believe they were. It’s difficult to bring people into your life when they don’t explain it all that well. The other major problem I had was a seeming lack of knowing what to cut from the film. There’s a long scene of one of the star’s kids doing a sword routine for no real reason. Meanwhile, there’s a single mother the film introduces, but doesn’t really do much with as the focus shifts from the people in general to the two main guys as their conflict intensifies.

I’m also not sure I fully understood the point or the stakes of the conflict. One guy thought the people should be treated one way and the other another way, essentially, though I couldn’t tell you the details. But, I also wasn’t sure what difference the battle would make or what changes victory could or would bring about for either side. At one point we’re told that if you die in a game you’re out for 24 hours, but do other changes stay longer? I think someone said that countries had been absorbed, so maybe some things like death don’t stick, but other things like land grabs do? Again, I was confused. Maybe this was all in the movie, but I didn’t catch it.

At the end of the day, Darkon’s not a bad movie, but maybe an amateurish one. It got me about 70% into this world, but didn’t seem to know who or what it wanted to focus on. Still, I thought the intensity with which these people play this game impressive. People who don’t LARP might look at these folks and giggle because, yes, it does look silly, but the level of dedication and intensity is no different than people who get really into a sport or even fantasy sports. At least the LARPers get outside and get some exercise while doing their thang.

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