Sunday, May 29, 2016

DragonHeart


   Who wouldn't like to see a movie where Sean Connery voices a CGI dragon? Eat your heart out Cumberbatch. DragonHeart is one such movie, and it also features Dennis Quaid putting on a grizzled voice and rocking a medieval hairdo. This is already fantastic. Also, David Thewlis plays a villain and he's so clearly channeling Alan Rickman's sheriff of Notingham. It's a performance full of scenery chewing, and it's wonderful. Overall, DragonHeart is a harmless, straightforward adventure flick that never reaches the heights of genre classics, but also manages to be a few cuts above bargain bin material. It's simple, and that's okay.

   The movie's selling point in 1996 was probably it's epic CGI dragon. While it was more than likely stunning to me as a kid, now... it's... at best, endearing. It's hard to be objective, because at times it looks super silly. I'll concede that it's still better than your average SyFy movie of the week's special effects, but still. You can't watch this as an effects flick anymore. It's early CGI. We're just now perfecting the medium, and people are still complaining it looks super fake. God forbid any of those people have to watch DragonHeart. It's a movie you have to be a bit understanding with. 1996 was a whole world away.

   Nevertheless, personality shines bright through whatever dated special effects might take a modern viewer out of the movie. Sean Connery voices the dragon with wit and humor, it's a fun performance. As is Dennis Quaid's. He's full of snark and sarcasm, but he marries it with plenty of brooding and a withered sense of nobility. Quaid's character ends up as a embittered dragon slayer, who eventually has to team up with the last dragon alive to overthrow a wicked king with a mixed history between them both. It's a fun story,for sure. But aside from the existence of dragons and a few seconds of magic, this world, this setting... it's very plain. No sorcery, no other effects set pieces.

   It's a straightforward and rather simple revenge story, it just kinda happens to have a dragon in it. This doesn't feel like a land of magic and fantasy. This isn't a 'quest' tale either. It all takes place in more or less the same areas, on grassy plains and in villages that all look alike. The action and the plot seems to move in circles, both big and small. Characters keep circling back to familiar locations, and familiar standoffs. The movie is never boring, just plain. I enjoyed it. Connery's Dragon and Quaid's dragon slayer have an interesting camaraderie. Their dynamic together provides plenty of humor and chuckle-worthy gags.

   In one scene, Quaid is fighting the dragon, and manages to get swooped up in it's mouth- to be eaten. So he sticks his sword into the roof of the dragon's mouth- effecting a stalemate. If the dragon bites down, killing Quaid- the sword is driven into his brain. It's funny because it drags on for an absurdly long time. If anything, the movie de-glamorizes the whole concept of being a dragon-fighting knight. It's tedious, exhausting, messy, and not a heroic thing at all. Especially in a movie where dragons aren't evil in the slightest, only misunderstood.

   When all is said and done, DragonHeart is halfway between a sweeping fantasy classic and an old B-grade medieval action flick. Unsurprisingly enough, it's got it's heart in the right place and is a rather feel-good tale all around. It's got enough production value to not feel cheap, and enough charisma among the cast (which is brimming with familiar faces) to carry the story through it's thin parts. It might not have a massive scope, but then again it is a movie that seems to value characters and ideals over action and effects. DragonHeart is certainly worth a watch for genre fans. It's innocent, simplistic, and energetic, and those qualities fall by the wayside all too often in this genre.

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