Sony // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // April 3rd, 2007
"There is a curse on the kingdom of Vallon brought on by a battle between two royal brothers for their father's throne."
You may have forgotten Gryphon, which appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel way back on Jan. 27, 2007. At least that's what Sony, which quickly released the TV movie on DVD with the slightly different title of Attack of the Gryphon, apparently hopes.
In case you missed it or have forgotten it completely (both likely possibilities), the movie takes viewers to the mythical kingdom of Lockland (actually Romania), just as the castle is being surrounded by Delphites. Amelia (Amber Benson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has just carried her wounded brother back into the castle. The King (Adrian Pintea, The Elite) hears his son utter, "This war must end. You can make it end," with his last breath, but instead tells Amelia that her brother's last words were, "Avenge me!" Armond the Sorcerer (Larry Drake, Darkman) offers to bring a gryphon statue to life and place it under the king's control. Naturally, Armond has forgotten the last part by the time he and his scantily-clad brides release the gryphon. He's the one who's controlling the winged, dragon-like monster, a fact Amelia astutely notes when Armond flies away on its back.
To keep both their lands out of the control of the evil Armond, Amelia and Delphite leader Seth (Jonathan La Paglia, Seven Days) must work together. It's not long before these two adversaries will be playing together, too, but teamwork will be a tougher sell for Lockland's king and Seth's mother, the Delphite queen. As Amelia and Seth journey through the forests to their destined battle with Armond and his gryphon, their journey is tracked on a parchment map. I thought I'd mention this in case any of you are fans of budget-cutting cliches.
The main thing running through my mind was that Amber Benson looked grimy and unkempt, while co-star Jonathan LaPaglia seemed neater, even though both had been out in the forest for a while. Since the director was trying to cook up at least a little sexual chemistry anyway, having Seth guide Amelia toward a clean spring to wash up first couldn't have hurt.
Benson's tough act makes her sound like she's simply miserable rather than determined. LaPaglia seems bored and wooden when he's reciting trite dialogue, but has fun with some heavy-handed light moments as he falls for Amelia -- beneath her notice; he might have fared better with some sharper dialogue. Larry Drake as Armond gave the best performance; he doesn't really sound medieval, but he is convincing as a menacing heavy. Drake gets a slightly interesting situation to play with here: every time the gryphon is injured, Armond's the one who bleeds or feels pain. Adrian Pintea as the king blinded by vengeance got a good scene in, but, like LaPaglia, could have used more to work with.
Shadowy fight scenes that are hard to read and the repetitive special effect of an odd sort of blur every time magic is used didn't work, but the film mostly looked okay, if not exceptional. The sound came through well.
I'm puzzled as to why Sony would rush this movie out so that it would hit the market just after Eragon, a much better movie about a fantasy kingdom and a mythical creature. You'd think they'd have wanted to give anyone who'd seen it on TV more time to forget this one anyway; it's not likely that everyone who saw it will want to rush out and buy it for their collection. Mostly it's just a standard-issue low-budget quickie that overlooked the few opportunities that fresh Romanian scenery and three decent leads might have afforded it.
Guilty of mediocrity. If you really want to catch this one, you might as well wait until it turns up on Sci-Fi again.
Review content copyright © 2007 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13