DVD Tales of an Ancient Empire

DVD Tales of an Ancient Empire
DVD Tales of an Ancient Empire

Run time: 86 min
Rating: 3.1
Genres: Action | Adventure
Director: Albert Pyun
Writers: Cynthia Curnan
Stars: Matthew Willig, Kevin Sorbo, Inbar Lavi
A princess is on a quest to unite the five greatest warriors to save her kingdom from a demon sorceress.
Plot Keywords: sword and sorcery, female nudity, sequel
Country: USA
Release Date: 31 July 2010 (USA)
Box Office
Budget: $1,000,000 (estimated)


  1. More accurate title for this film might have been TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE: PART ONE. Those expecting a typical sword and sorcery adventure, featuring many sword fights and sorcery action, dungeons – all that stuff – will be sorely disappointed. Instead we get an ungainly amalgam of the HBO series Rome, with its complex intrigues and characters and Magnificent Seven with its banding and bonding of iconic types for a good cause. Kevin Sorbo fans will not be disappointed as the former Hercules star is at the top of his heroic humorous game. Indeed he is the best aspect of this low budget epic. Without giving away too much, its the story of a dysfunctional family. In its lower class way, a adventure fantasy Lion in the Winter with five bastard children seeking dear old Father and clearly his acceptance and approval. The core story is a legendary mercenary warrior impregnated a number of wenches, evil sorceress vampires, Queens and common village women, in his years of adventuring. Then after bedding them, he moved on to further adventures and conquests. Its not that unbelievable that it probably happened often back in medieval times. Left behind were his children, all wounded and damaged. When we meet each, its clear they are struggling to reach a peace with the abandonment, but its doomed each to shady lives as thieves, whores and essentially losers. The conceit of this movie is that a Princess (Melissa Ordway) needs to find her Father because it was he who saved the kingdom years earlier. She is the love child of this mercenary warrior and the Queen of a kingdom called Abelar. Her quest to find him, brings her into contact with her half brothers and sisters. They need to find Father not just to win back Abelar but, most importantly, to heal their wounds of abandonment. The biggest stretch is the film's primary villain, a sexy vampire sorceress (Whitney Able) was also seduced by the mercenary warrior and produced a child called Kara (Victoria Maurette), who Xia had surrendered her baby, when she was reduced to dust years earlier by this mercenary. Its a bit convolute but easy to track. Kara somehow becomes part of the Queen's court by the time she's a young adult and the movie tracks her quest to become who she really is, child of a vampire. She's chosen to shadow the Princess and to learn where her Father is. For the most part, the film works really well. Ordway is a good Princess, Maurette is a superb Kara, and the action there is are as good as you would expect from the man behind Cyborg and Nemesis There is also a deft comedic touch in the right places – Kevin Sorbo and the other siblings make sure of that – and the gentle laughs are spaced well between the questing. So why is this only a 6 rated film? The problem lies in the bigger story around the bastard kids, which attempts to make their Father a larger than life mythical warrior. The issue is we never get to SEE him. Oh, we hear him (not too good voice actor) and see his hooded shape but never the man himself. He's a total cipher and therein lies the biggest failing of the film. It leads to big expectations of finding Father, then once found, it leads to a great reveal of this great warrior, but the film simply ENDS. Tales of an Ancient Empire gets bogged down repeatedly in its exploration and reveal of the dense back story which initially works in context at first, but soon becomes a millstone around the movie's neck as the characters are forced to talk about Father's legend rather than see his exploits play out. Even this would have been forgivable if not for the ending, which pushes all the wrong buttons in its attempt to be an iconic grand finale and effectively undoes much of the movie's good work. The weak visual effects does the film no favors either. With its limited budget, Tales of an Ancient Empire looks great but this is not the gritty sword and sorcery adventure that many had hoped for – in fact, it hardly even counts as a sequel to the director's The Sword and the Sorcerer. What it does have is a dense, but compelling narrative, a visually inventive style and great bits of acting from the attractive cast. Able, Ordway and Maurette might be a touch too earnest in their performances but they give the film an underlying emotional depth not usually seen in this genre. Both are, of course, gorgeous to look at. Its just too bad it doesn't end with a proper climatic battle.

  2. Some recent Albert Pyun movies have fallen short of his "low budget guilty pleasure" niche. Amid pressure to deliver in what seems to be his highest profile film in years, "Tales of an Ancient Empire" is a dense and stylish start to what Pyun clearly envisions as a series that offers many lusty and very guilty pleasures pleasures head and shoulders above the dreg that is Syfy or Asylum fare. It starts on a rocky shoal of imagery and quality. Its almost as if the first four minutes belonged in an alternate universe of movies. But after, Pyun finds his footing. Coarse, initially convoluted and densely populated by roguish characters, it's an intriguing world that hews closer to "Richard the 3rd" than "The Sword and the Sorcerer" with all the expected back stories that propel the plot. After watching this Part One of these "Tales", I'm hooked, with the disclaimer that this ambitious venture requires a no-reading- the computer screen-while-watching commitment. It's not easy to track and is not meant to be. Above all Tales is about family and the deep wounds that can fester in a child or jilted lover and how that can drive the wounded party to despicable acts. Kevin Sorbo shines best as he perfectly balances the pathos of being a abandoned bastard and the charm of a greedy rogue. Whitney Able (a breathtaking sorceress vampire) and Melissa Ordway (the ravishing Princess Tanis) also provide strong characters and performances. Victoria Maurette struggles a bit with her Kara, a half human, half vampire creature who is never quite as unabashedly sensual as the role calls for. As with most Pyun efforts, Tales is beautifully shot with rich compositions, although degraded somewhat by spotty editing and some dodgy low budget special effects. Cynthia Curnan's script is more literate and clever than is found in this sub- genre. Indeed, its the use of language that distinguishes the film. Certainly, Tales is destined to capture a smaller audience than it's hackneyed sword and sorcery predecessor but it carries a higher ambition and creative verve. I can see fan boys with ADD turning against this but for those who enjoy a rich tapestry of colorful characters and plot lines, Tales is perfectly in your wheelhouse.

  3. First, I must point out that my brain did not turn into a pool of blood, my eyes did not fall out their sockets and I did make it through the entire movie.

    The best news is that is far superior to Jonas Hex, Melissa Ordway is much hotter than Megan Fox and Kevin Sorbo is, well, Mr Sorbo at his very best.

    Bad news is there wasn't really enough money it seems to deliver a consistent fantasy. Effects are quite rough and exteriors and action are minimal.

    As if it were based on a play, most of Tales takes place inside the walls of a palace or tavern. The film surrendered its genre advantage of action fantasy, and tried to compensate with a clever but talky script.

    The film is about a family, both human and vampire. The bastards of a philandering warrior.

    Each of his kids harbors issues of abandonment. Princess Tanis (gorgeous Melissa Ordway) learns she is not the King's daughter at the outset of the movie. The movie is essentially her quest to find her "true" Father who is the one man that can ave the kingdom. Along the way, she meets her half brothers and sisters like Aedan (a devilishly excellent Kevin Sorbo), Rajan (a colorful ex-assassin, now innkeeper and mother, played well by Janelle Taylor), and Alana (Rajan's daughter, played with feisty fun by Inbar Lavi). There is fun in watching the Princess meet up with each sibling and learning a bit more about dear ol' dad at each encounter.

    All align to stop a vampire sorceress (Whitney Able). Able does great work here even though she struggles to speak with the fangs in her mouth and is given only a handful of scenes. She adds unexpected depth and pathos for a fantasy villain. Its really quite a powerful performance that grounds the plot.

    Tales should be praised for its unconventional plot and for its dialogue, which is loaded with eloquent and humor. Whether even estranged family members would say such things to each other is a different matter but it adds spark to the stage bound movie. The interiors, while many, are well shot and the design of the movie, while sparse are well done.

    When this film is criticized for resembling a stage play, this is what is meant; the story is expressed almost entirely through dialogue rather than cinematography.

    It's a movie concerning intrigue and the search for self more than high adventure and killing of creatures(although that's promised in the sequel)

    It had been 28 years since the similar (and superior)The Sword and the Sorcerer, but Tales stands out as a artistic indy style production of Prince of Persia. Where dialogue and character nuance replace epic armies and visual effects. Its a bold idea that works.

  4. This is the first movie I have reviewed here, and I do so as a response to those who are praising this movie.

    I don't know how anyone can honestly praise this movie, it is a shear mess. Editing and pacing were terrible, production quality below most TV episodes. I'm sure the actors did the best they could with what they had but what they had wasn't much.

    This movie is in no way near as enjoyable as "The Sword and the Sorcerer", it is in no way nearly as coherent. This movie made little sense, even with the ham-fisted exposition. The trailer for this movie was better than the movie!

    Maybe this mess could be salvaged by throwing it into the category of "so bad it's good", and that's a big maybe.

    There are only two suggestions I have for watching this movie: either watch it inebriated or, simplest of all, not at all.

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