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Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Starring Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Dina Meyer,
Pete Postlethwaite and Sean Connery's voice
Directed by Rob Cohen
Cranky settled into his theater seat for Dragonheart, the second special effects laden extravaganza of the summer season. The buzz I had heard before the preview had not been good, but the buzz was off the mark. Dragonheart was fun.
Before the calendar year went into triple digits (ie. before the year 1000), the Land was still full of Dragons. Ancient creatures that were old when Man was young, who had watched over the rise of Man, these Dragons lived by a Code of Honor that they taught to the warrior knights:
A knight is sworn to valour.
As set up in the prolog, it is a time when Knights and Kings have forgotten, or turned their backs on, the Old Code. So, when there is only one Dragon left, it is in his best interest to make a deal with the best of the Dragon-slaying knights. Nowadays we call it blackmail -- the knight protects towns from the Dragon, in exchange for a bag of gold. The Dragon pretends to be killed by the knight and the merry pair tromp off to the next vulnerable town. It's a good con, and it's only part of the story of Dragonheart. The rest of the story includes an evil King kept alive by a piece of a Dragon's heart, a beautiful redhead in the style of Xena: Warrior Princes, and a trip to King Arthur's Avalon.
Dennis Quaid plays Bowen, the good knight, rock solid straight. David Thewlis, as evil King Einon, delivers the same kind of intense performance that he did in Naked. It's the kind of over the top work that makes you wonder if his tongue is not planted firmly in cheek. Pete Postlethwaite also goes over the top as Brother Gilbert, a monk whose sole purpose is to serve as comic relief. Bits and pieces will remind you of other movies set in the Dark Ages that you may have seen in the past year. Braveheart is liberally stolen from. Rob Roy had some influence. Something approximating the voice of Alec Guiness (a la Obi-Wan Kenobi) shows up as the ghost of King Arthur.
Kara, played by the more than lovely Dina Meyer, goes from swinging hatchets to slinging full size battle axes, without the musculature to lift the suckers. It's the kind of thing that, in fantasy, doesn't matter.
It all pales besides the warm and funny performance by Sean Connery as the voice of Draco the Dragon, and the spectacular effects by Industrial Light and Magic.
We have progressed so far in special effects technology that the Dragon is all over this thing. In the dark. In broad daylight. Flying, walking, swooping, drooling -- that isn't a pretty sight, but it fits the story perfectly. Draco/Connery steals the show in Dragonheart, with effects that made me utter "cool" out loud. A delightful script allows him seemingly off the cuff comments that made the audience laugh. It is a bravura vocal performance.
Like ILM's earlier special effects work this year on Twister, the work is perfect. The Dragon effects and animation look real; it interacts with real scenery and actors and is entirely believable. The scenery and cinematography is gorgeous, and though the movie tends to lean a bit towards the gross and violent -- the aforementioned dragon spittle and battle scenes -- it is not too much. Just the kind of thing I would have adored at age 15.
In summary: The effects are perfect and Sean Connery's performance fits them to a tee. It is worth the ticket price just for his performance.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Dragonheart, he would have paid . . .
I enjoyed it.
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