Universal // 1996 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 19th, 2007
You will believe. Or nap. One of the two.
The forgettable Dennis Quaid dragon fantasy is hatched once more where it is set free to take off in the wide-open skies of the magical world of Hi-Def Land.
As one of the Knights of the Old Code, Bowen (Quaid, The Rookie) is sworn to protect the innocent and uphold the honor of those that came before him. Basically, he's a relic with a sword and an uneven accent and he's tasked with imparting his ethics to Prince Einon (David Thewlis, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) the uppity heir to the throne of his jackass father.
One day, during a pleasant round of peasant-smiting, the king is killed and Einon, swift to recover the crown, gets himself mortally wounded. Desperate to save the new king, Bowen brings him to a mysterious cave where a majestic creature awaits in the shadows and, ah forget it, it's a big-ass dragon made of computer graphics that sounds a lot like Sean Connery.
As formulaic and uninspired as adventure movies get, Dragonheart missed the opportunity to resuscitate the long-suffering fantasy genre in Hollywood back in 1996. It would take Orlando Bloom firing arrows at kids in goblin makeup years later to cleanse the fantasy palate and make dragons and swords and magic a bankable commodity again.
I had never seen Dragonheart prior to popping the disc into my HD-A2 and was hoping for, at the very least, a semi-entertaining adventure yarn featuring perhaps a handful of interesting action scenes. Long story short: immediately after the credits rolled on this derivative, forgettable wannabe epic, I immediately threw in Willow for some righteous swashbuckling and dragon slaying.
This thing is just so derivative that you'll easily be able to map out the plotline from within ten minutes of the runtime. All the characters occupy the stereotypes you expect them to and the milked-dry plotline of "peasants-revolting-against-the-despot" unfolds precisely as the playbook dictates. From the disillusioned hero to the spicy red-head female lead (Dina Meyer stumbling through her lines in a bad hair-do) to the uppity group of peasants that manage to transform from uneducated farmers into lethal scythe-wielding killers within a day and a half, there's little here you haven't seen and laughed at in other, better movies. The big gimmick, of course, is the inclusion of "Draco" (voiced by Connery) one of the first CGI-realized characterizations in film. Unfortunately, Optimus Prime he ain't, and while the visual effects surely looked spunky 10 years ago, it's hard to get worked up for ILM's creation now.
Aside from the film's contrivances and corniness, it's also boring, which is the worst criticism to lob its way. There's just one big action scene and that happens at the end when the serf rabble rebel and the action is so stilted and poorly choreographed you and the little ones will certainly have nodded off long before Draco spits his first fireball, which, I might add, is regrettably rare. Come on, let's at least see some bodacious fire-breathing action if nothing else! Gah!
As lame as this movie is, the high-def video does deserve special notice as well it should, since the extras are recycled from the DVD collector's edition. VC-1 encoded and outputting at 1080p, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks slick. Details jump out, color levels are rich and the wide establishing shots that director Rob Cohen uses liberally are crisp and beautiful. The downside of the new-found clarity kicks in when Draco hits the screen: his proto-CGI rendering shows its age. Some scenes hold up under scrutiny, but for expanded close-ups the luster of the visual effects suffers. In the other areas of the disc, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is active (and is particularly cool in a sequence where Draco flies 360 degrees around the camera) and the extras, while rehashed, are decent: commentary by Cohen, an interesting making-of documentary and two deleted scenes that aren't that interesting.
Props to David Thewlis, who crafted one of the all-time biggest prick villains ever seen in cinema.
The only fantasy about this film is the one where you think you'll have a fun time watching it. A half-baked piece of sword-swinging, fire-breathing claptrap, made tolerable by a sharp HD video treatment.
Guilty a flambé.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* Making-of Featurette
* Deleted Scenes