J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Dwarvenaut: Kickstarter, the Motion Picture

Only a documentary filmmaker would consider a Kickstarter campaign to be a logical unifying dramatic focus for a film. In this case, Dungeons & Dragons scale model maker Stefan Pokorny was out to raise $2 million to fund the prototypes of his modular, easily retailable fantasy city models. Seriously, two million. Who does he think he is, Veronica Mars? In between gamer conventioneering and his regular Dungeon Master stints, Pokorny will record plenty of PBS pledge break-style pitches in Josh Bishop’s The Dwarvenaut (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to remind everyone who sent Pokorny money to fund his company’s product development we technically haven’t cured cancer yet. Sure, the little stone houses and passageways of Valoria could save who knows how many lives, but the friends and family of the estimated 1.6 million new cases that will be diagnosed and the 595,690 who will succumb to the disease this year just might find cancer research a slightly more pressing cause. Still, it is Pokorny’s backers’ money, so they have the right to spend it how they wish. Presumably, his company Dwarven Forge has to make payroll, so you can’t blame him for taking money from suckers.

Still, viewers will get tired of hearing Pokorny talk obsessively about his latest campaign to craft Valoria. Pokorny is an enthusiastic fellow, which could very well be charming in person, but is absolutely wearying on-screen.

Frankly, the film probably would have worked better if it placed Pokorny more broadly in the context of role playing history. We see him attend Garry Con in Wisconsin, but Bishop largely expects viewers to understand the RPG contributions of Garry Gygax, for whom it is named. Of course, the awkward truth nobody in the film ever addresses is the fact Paizo’s Pathfinder game eclipsed D&D as the most popular fantasy RPG years ago and never looked back.

In person, Pokorny is probably a very nice guy and an effective recruiter for D&D, but after watching an hour of Dwarvenaut, you will be rooting for an evil wizard to launch a hostile takeover of the Dwarven Forge. The doc’s cringiness is quite surprising, especially considering how charming Bishop’s first film was. That would be Made in Japan, the profile of Japanese country music recording artist Tomi Fujiyama. Not recommended, The Dwarvenaut launches today on VOD platforms.

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