Here’s another one from my childhood (and i’m sure may others as well) that i recently revisited, let’s see if it holds up.
A washed up knight of the old code teams up with a dragon to fight an evil king, and despite it taking place in the dark ages explosions still ensue.
Back in the good old days of ’96 it was still very much a novelty to see a fully CGI animated creature engage (convincingly mind you) with real life people. While i won’t say that Draco holds up to the test of time, he isn’t a total abomination to look at (unlike Drake in the sequel). Honestly (and the over all visual and production design of the movie helps tremendously) he looks just as convincing and/or more so then the CGI ILM would be using years later in Attack of the Clones.
I find that there’s a number of reasons for this; firstly Draco is very expressive. All the emotions he conveys were hand animated (as motion capture didn’t exist back then), and the animators penchant and dedication to detail at ILM went to great use in this regard. Draco’s general movements also have the right sense of weight as well, he flies and swims and walks in a believable way that an animal of his size would. Lastly Sean Connery’s enthusiasm for the role shows through in the voice work he provides and it goes a long way to keeping the character believable.
While overall the story of Dragonheart is nothing particularly special, i do say that the scenes between Bowen and Draco are uniformly decent. As they have enough character scenes with one another to convincingly develop a bond between the two, which allows the ending to not feel cheap.
Oh alright i’ll back that statement up. Quaid is by no means horrible, (keep in mind i’m comparing him to the likes of Madonna, Schwarzenegger, and Steven Segal so the bar is set pretty low) however to be generous i would say he’s uneven. When he’s playing his character as a washed up loser he’s pretty convincing, anything else however has him get into trouble. As some scenes have him look like he genuinely forgot his lines, and another where he reaffirms his knightly vows comes off as very anticlimactic because his performance is so unnuanced.
Quiad also makes me appreciate Toshiro Mifune’s talents with a sword more (or any time when good blade work is on display). Again, he isn’t horrible but he’s just seems like he’s afraid to be waving around a large piece of steel in some of his fights.
The characters are all pretty stock (burnt out knight, warrior woman, evil king, etc etc), with the only ones having any personality being Draco and Einon. That being said Einon is your basic mustache twisting villain with very little depth, and if it weren’t for David Thewlis giving the role his best shot he would easily be quite forgettable.
Looking at the production design it is clear that most of the money went into animating Draco (and it was a good decision), and the rest of the movie suffers for it. Sets and costumes lack character, and many of the out door scenes look like they were shot in your run of the mill city and national parks.
Lastly it might be easy to think of this as a kids movie, seeing as you reading this (if your nearing your 30’s like me) probably watched it as a kid. But the amount of violence makes that assumption ostensible, it’s not a gore fest by any stretch of the imagination but some people meet their ends in brutal ways and the sound design emphasises every crunch and impact that the visuals lack.
Dragonheart is certainly no masterpiece, and i will admit that it isn’t as good as i remember it being as a kid. However it was and remains an innocuous enough movie to still be a pleasant diversion from time to time. If you can look past its dated special effects, and uneven acting you might find a decent way to pass 80 or so minutes of your life.
OUT OF FIVE