Monday 22 October 2012

Toronto After Dark: Lloyd the Conqueror


I heard there were larpers 'round Notts. They came out at night, so it was told. I never saw them; I was too busy partying writing my thesis. Then I moved to Tallahassee and I finally saw them. Campus larpers. They wailed on each other in small copse near the library.

Larp, explains Brendan Hunter, hasn't yet permeated popular culture. It exists--has for some time--but is still regarded as a kind of oddity even by geek standards. Hunter is the producer of Lloyd the Conqueror, a live action movie about live action role play. Part of the reason why Lloyd was made, was to explore larp subculture.

Lloyd and his buddies are in danger of flunking English and if they do, they stand to loose their financial aide. Their instructor, Derek, is completely disinterested in their plight. He's got his own problems, anyway. Derek has just found out there will be no larping championship this year, for lack of players. Lloyd's desperation gives Derek an idea, and the two strike a bargain: Lloyd et al sign up for larp and Derek will pass them. But when Lloyd unexpectedly proves to be kind of good at larp, Derek finds he's at risk of losing to his students.

Funny without being derisive, Lloyd the Conqueror is an hilarious introduction to the world of live action role play. We, the audience, tag along with Lloyd as he and his friends suddenly find themselves thrust into larp--an activity they didn't knew existed until their fateful meeting with Derek. Guided by Andy, a retired larper, Lloyd learns all he can about Dwarves and Demons, the larp universe in which their battles are set.

Larp provides an opportunity for people to indulge in fantasy, to be someone else or to craft an identity that better represents their best or favoured qualities. Lloyd and his friends, who did nothing but slack off in school, find themselves working harder than ever to succeed at larp.

Although the film is about Lloyd and his journey to becoming commander of the Forces of Light, the real stars of the film are Mike Smith and Brian Posehn who play Derek and Andy, respectively. Mike Smith takes such glee in playing the bad guy, reveling in Derek's evil aspirations as the learder of the Horde of Chaos. His performance is hilarious and inspired. Playing opposite Mike Smith is Brian Posehn's straight-faced White Wizard, whose wisdom and patience perfectly offsets the absurdity of the plot.

The film has some truly hilarious moments as Lloyd and his friends explore the curious world of larp, but for all its silliness, the movie takes larp seriously because the people who larp are serious about it. Respect for the larpers and their game is never in question, and Lloyd strikes a delicate balance between having fun with and poking fun at its subject matter.

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