Amelia Jackson-Gray as Princess Alora Vanir
Eliza Swenson as Freja
Matthew Wolf as Sir Cador Bain
Jon-Paul Gates as Lord Artemir
Rachel Haines as Naga
Jessica Bork as Damara
Jeff Denton as Gareth Morholt
Jason DeParis as Sogomo
Directed by Leigh Scott
The Asylum is a movie production company that was known for low budget horror films, some of which were surprisingly good quality. All of that changed in the past two years or so, as Asylum slowly started producing “mockbusters”, which are movies that are amazingly similar to popular movies, even so far as having similar titles. Examples include Halloween Night, Da Vinci Treasure, When a Killer Calls, H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, and the immortal Snakes on a Train. They’ve struck again, and as the movie Eragon premiered at the box office, the DVD shelves of your local video store filled up with Dragon. Dragon seems like it would be a natural lock of just having Eragon‘s plot (which is just Star Wars, which is just Hidden Fortress, which is just 9000 other stories throughout history) but instead they mainly target Lord of the Rings for the beginning and end, and the middle reminds one of Dungeons & Dragons 2: Wrath of the Dragon God. Overall, the film not only misses its mark, but its mark doesn’t even seem to exist. Instead, we get fantasy name soup, dirty guys wandering around the forest, “Dark Elves”, and Playstation dragons.
To help slay Dragon, TarsTarkas.NET and FantasyFilmscapes.com are teaming up. It’s not an easy task, with many pitfalls, traps, and beasts of yore along the way. Okay, not really beasts so much as bad actors and shameful special effects. That’s something even a +2 Mace can’t help you with, even if you use it to smash the DVD into a million pieces, your brain is still traumatized and the repercussions will haunt you for the rest of your days. The introduction is co-written between Tars Tarkas and Iain Norman, and after that we’ll be alternating every 15 minutes, because too much exposure can cause headaches, vomiting, and even blindness. Once the darkness returns to take us, the reigns get passed on and a recovery period can begin. In the end, this Dragon will be dead, never to harm us villagers again. Join knights in armor Tars Tarkas and Iain Norman on our quest! Slay today.
Before we start the recap, we need to introduce the various characters.
Tars here kicking it off for the first 15. In a move totally not ripping off Lord of the Rings, the majestic mountains of wherever the heck this is get a series of flyover shots that will also pepper the rest of the film at random intervals. As for now, it is just the opening credits, and the score is heavy on the percussion. Because this is not Lord of the Rings, a female narrates the story of the War with the Dark Elves. See, these Dark Elves (Orcs) from the Forest of Sidhe (pronounced Sithe) declared war on mankind because the Dark Elves don’t have any souls. As graphics that look like a hacked version of Medieval 2: Total War rage on below during more sweeping overhead shots, the Narratrix explains that human kingdoms are becoming lost to darkness and the land of Tira Spleen (This is a guess from the dialogue) is doing a last mission of hope. Tira Spleen?? Forest of Sidhe??
Watch the amazing opening sequence filmed on location in Warcraft 2!
Princess Alora Vanir is running through the forest, in full ballroom dress and alone. She’s quickly captured by two Dark Elves (Orcs). Thanks to the credits, we know that these two might be named Slynn and Sulin, but who is which is not established. One of them has a nail through the side of his nose, and they both look like the offspring between Nosferatu and Smurfs. She demands to be their prisoner under the “Laws of War”, but the whole thing is interrupted as the Dark Elves (Orcs) look up at the forest top, say “Dragis” and run, as a dragon is attacking. The CGI dragon snaps up one of the Dark Elves (Orcs), and Princess Vanir stops running for her life to give a disgusted reaction shot. The Dragon then shoots lime green flames onto a tree and flies off. Lime green? This must be real Wasabi breath. I give them points for originality there. Dark Elf #2 (Orc #2) decides he’s just going to kill Princess Vanir, but she is saved by two mysterious guys in black cloaks who were just standing in the forest out in the open yet weren’t noticed by either the Dark Elf (Orc) or Princess Venir. She begs for mercy from these two new guys, but they bow before her, and reveal themselves as humans. Lord Artemir and his lieutenant Cador, to be more precise, from the King’s army. The Dark Elf (Orc) is still barely alive, so they offer Princess Venir the chance to kill it. She refuses, so they just do it themselves.
Cador tries some small talk with the Princess, but is chastised by Lord Artemir. The Princess steps in to save Cador, saying “These are desperate times and dire circumstances.” She then explains she’s traveling to Bagna-brim to beg Lord Blackthorn to aid in the war. Lord Artemir scoffs at that, saying Blackthorn won’t help, as feels that the war with the Dalkovar is their own. Dalkovar?? Bagna-brim?? I guess they take the tradition of grabbing lots of random names for things from LOTR as well. Dalkovar (another guess on spelling) is just another name for the Dark Elves (Orcs), and they have another name that is introduced later. The reason this worked in Lord of the Rings is it helped create a real world and everything was explained clearly, here it is just a jumbled mess of confuse-o-words that are thrown around at random and never explained. Lord Artemir and the Princess argue over whether Lord Blackthorn is a coward or just ignorant of the danger of the Dark Elves (Orcs). Not that it matters to us, as we never meet Lord Blackthorn this entire movie, so this argument about his motives is just useless filler. Artemir lets the Princess know that her ballroom gown and lack of guards or escorts is basically the dumbest way to go through the forest, but lucky for her he happens to have traveling clothes for women in her size along with him, so she can change into them (Cador takes the opportunity to try to sneak a peak.) Now, just why is Lord Artemir going to war (he and Cador were separated from their division that was wiped out) with women’s clothing? You can’t argue it’s just men’s clothes, with the low cut blouse and shapely pants. Also, the Princess gets a blade from Cador after she explains she was schooled in warfare by her father the king. Except he didn’t bother to tell her not to go on dangerous missions through Dark Elf (Orc) territory in a dress alone. As shown later, that’s also the level of her sword fighting ability. They head to the Forest Sidhe, as you must past through to get to the Kingdom of Bagna-brim, which the voiceover said in the beginning of the film was where the Dark Elves (Orcs) were from, so her plan was just to wander alone through the heart of Dark Elf (Orc) Land alone? Humanity is doomed. She’s only alive because she was saved by two officers so stupid they couldn’t find the gigantic army they were part of.
The three step into the forest and the camera becomes tinted blue (to reflect the sadness of the audience for realizing they got had when they rented this) and as we just hit the 15 minute mark, my esteemed colleague Iain Norman will be taking over for the next chapter.
Thanks Tars, as previously noted the screen has now turned blue – a color that reflects my mood 15 minutes into this dreck, a mood that will not abate anytime soon… With the immortal words, "Well, no time to footle.", our little band of adventurers sets out into the deadly forest of Sidhe. Apparently the Dalkovar were once good chaps but this forest drove them to evil, ooh, scary. We make a stop in a clearing to listen to the sounds of crackly branches. Our party is being… followed! With brilliant tactical planning Lord Artemir has them all take cover behind a tree. Unfortunately those doing the following have half a brain and sneak up behind them. A small fight ensues which reveals two important things… Lord Artemir is wearing a pair of wellies (rubber boots) with nice chunky soles and, as one of the attackers takes the princess captive, he gives up a nice view of his very bent sword. Normally having the hilt out of line with the blade is not a desired property in swords. In this case it reveals the fact that not only are these swords the very cheapest stainless steel decorative swords money could buy, but also that the director and production designer have no clue about swords or safety. As the behind-the-scenes featurette reveals they had swords breaking during production (as well as some nasty cuts) – not surprising given that these blades are designed for hanging on your wall and nothing else (certainly not being slammed together). As a sword enthusiast I couldn’t believe my eyes as these fan-boys endangered the health and safety of their actors through sheer stupidity. Apparently the director and production designer are amateur fight choreographers – amateur is the key word here, professionals understand that safety comes first and appropriate props are a must.
Sorry about the safety rant, ahem, back to the film. So the princess is being held at the point of a sword but the rogue threatening her is forced to drop his sword by Artemir and Cador. The fight scenes are passably well filmed I’ll give it that much and I’ll grudgingly admit that some of the choreography is decent. The three rogues are apparently Picts (this is a guess as to the name). They have bad hair and big swords. The leader is Gareth Morholt, with Sogomo as sidekick #1 (he also fills the Keanu-Reeves-look-alike quota) , and Naga as the token female of the group. Apparently they attacked because, well, you know, you can never be too careful. They are also after the dragon, having apparently had some experience with dragon slaying before, proclaiming themselves as the killers of the infamous basilisk of Kensington. Throughout this scene (and the rest of the movie) you have to suffer through one of the worst accents ever put to screen, to wit, Jeff Denton’s (Gareth) attempt at a Scottish something or other. At first I thought he’d recently undergone surgery on his vocal cords but later I realized it was actually intentional and don’t even get me started on the dialogue! The three misplaced Scots want to join the party, a joining Artemir is loath to have. But the Scots are extremely eager to help, in return of course for a bit of land and a title or two. So the princess agrees above the protests of her two soldiers. A close-up of Gareth also reveals that duct tape is the only thing keeping the wrapping on the hilt of his sword… I’m getting seriously tired of bad, beat up, props… Oh well, at least they are semi-realistic and not the stuff you see at your local mall with a couple of dragons embossed on the blade and enough spikes coming off the thing to easily kill you before you even spot an Orc. I should be thankful for small mercies I guess.
But I digress… On with the plot (or lack thereof). Still jawing away Gareth makes a somewhat rude suggest to the princess about other forms of compensation and Cador takes offense. Not surprising given that with a few significant glances we are led to believe that not only is he a devoted lackey he is also a star struck lover of royalty. Cador is quickly pinned by Gareth as the former draws his sword. This little episode is designed I guess to build tension between the two groups – all it really accomplishes is to prolong your agony. Oh, and the screenwriters are positively in love with the word ‘footle’. I have now been subjected to it three times in the last 6 minutes. After some thought I think I can safely say it is a word that ranks right up there with ‘blaggard’ (also well featured in this flick) as the best way to get unintentional laughs out of your script. With Artemir’s sword to his throat Gareth decides to stop the footle (sorry, couldn’t resist) and lets Cador go. Artemir also clarifies the deal in case you’ve been stricken with deafness for the last few minutes. The Scottish trio will accompany the princess and her two escorts to Lord Blackhorn and then will get their land and title. So with that settled the dragon decides to make an appearance. The party hides behind a log and watches it pass while Gareth remarks to Sogomo that this one looks to be a bit bigger than their previous kill. But it can wait as the Scots have a new mission of protecting the princess rather than hunting down the beast. Down the forest path we go where Gareth and Artemir start to rub each other the wrong way. While they argue the rest of the party starts dropping where they stand. Literally, they just fall over. Only the princess remains conscious for the appearance of our token sorceress. Freja. But wait a sec, it was the princess who collapsed and everything was a dream! She wakes up with Artemir shaking her.
After some more random arial shots we get introduced to our token Elf warrioress. Apparently she’s the last of the good Elves (her kind is supposed to be extinct). So in true Scottish style our party performs the sneak and ambush routine. But once they have the Elf at sword point (after a short struggle) the sorceress shows up again. She beats up Cador and Naga with some magic (it looks like a lens flare gone wrong). The sorceress informs them that they are trespassing in her forest. Gareth doth protest so she throws him backwards with a lens flare. Artemir then recognizes her as the necromancer Freja (way to go bud! You can spot magic!) and says she’s the master of the dragon. Freja however states that the dragon, "usurps her power", and that "it’s evil knows no bounds". So, despite the fact that it’s evil and can’t be controlled Freja stays in the forest because the fate of the dragon is intertwined with her own. Why? Because she brought it to life. So, after calling Gareth a brute and saying she will discuss stuff with Artemir because he is honorable (ooh, more inner-party leadership tension…. so exciting, in fact, more fun than the last Democratic, or Liberal for any Canadian readers, Party Leadership Convention). Princess Alora now introduces herself and the clock hits 30 minutes. My sojourn into hell is over! Well at least for the time being. Back to you Tars.
Witness the power of the magic lens flare!
Thanks, Iain. As we left off, the party had just met Freja the Necromancer, who must have Necromanced Seven of Nine to be her acting coach or something. Freja can also see the future, or possible futures, and knows that some of the party will die, thanks to the dragon, and it must be defeated in order for them to escape. This also allows the plot to stay within the woods at the local park without having to manufacture sets of Bagna-brim or Piggly-wiggly or where ever else they’d go. Freja will guide the group, who is already being guided by the last three members of the group. There are now more guides than non-guides, and you know the old saying about too many cooks. The last of the Fey Elves Tamara speaks in Fey Elvish to Freja because the elves spoke in Elvish in Lord of the Rings, not that this film is borrowing anything from those fine films. Naga mentions that she has never been too fond of necromancers, and Garreth says he hasn’t, either. I guess they run into necromancers all the time, they are probably like the transient hobos of the ancient world, always yelling at no one and demanding change. As a storm is coming, the decide to wait a while instead of moving in the forest, as getting wet while standing still is preferable to while walking. Plus Jerry the camera guy forgot the camera dollies! Jerry, you card!
This break gives us some more boring crap about visions and the party not trusting each other. Freja sees Cador getting killed in her vision, while Garreth mentions to Artemir that the necromancer is holding back information. Artemir is the one who confirms that necromancers can see possible futures, making them about as accurate as my psychic friend. Freja uses her necromancer magic to visit the Princess despite also being squatting down meditating. Then Necromancer Freja finally gives us some useful back story, saying that the Princess’s father pleaded with Freja to make the dragon as an ultimate weapon to stop the elves, but the dragon can’t be controlled. So it’s daddy’s fault that a big dragon roams a forest. Their girl talk is interrupted when Cador goes to put his smooth moves on the Princess once more. The Princess confesses she’s worried she’ll become a ruthless and remorseless queen, and he comforts her, but also lets slip that he is a commoner. Also, Cador likes someone (the Princess) but doesn’t say who (the Princess) despite specifically bringing her up in front of the Princess (the girl he likes.)
DALKOVAR ATTACK!!! Yes, Dark Elves attack the group from the cover of the trees, but our heroes can’t see a thing because of the leaves. Freja uses her necromancing powers to cast a spell so all the group can have some sort of night vision. Able to see their foe, the team runs out and engages in battle. An epic struggle that appears to have been choreographed by me and my junior high school friends ensues. The Princess still can’t hold a sword worth a darn, and would soon be chopped to bits if she wasn’t rescued by the rest of the team. Several of the Dark Elves seem to be wearing 1980′s sleeveless leather jackets, while others are decked out with a cape. Soon, they are all dead, and with a random majestic aerial mountain shot (odd, since they are in the forest!) it hits the 45 minute mark and I turn the reigns back to Iain…
Well Tars I think I’m going to have grip those reigns pretty tightly as the cinematic ride only gets bumpier. Out of the high peaks we dissolve into our director’s favorite location – his local park. Our party walks in solemn single file behind Freja. Gareth mutters to Artemir about the fact that the path Freja takes them on is certainly not the most direct route. Freja, being a necromancer and all, overhears him and asks if he’s challenging her authority. He replies in the affirmative with regards to authority, honesty, and judgement and pops the question we’ve all wanted to know – where are we going? Freja responds that the dragon must be slain, so that’s the destination at hand. Gareth asks why they have to kill the fire-drake, since the object is supposedly getting the princess to where ever the heck she’s supposed to go (presumably another wood-lot) and why this particular band of travelers have to be the ones to do the dragon slaying. Freja informs them that one of them is the key to the dragon’s destruction, which is, according to eyeball addled witch, is the key to the safety of the kingdom (unfortunately that wouldn’t do the princess much good if she got fried would it now?). Gareth continues to ask the obvious, which one of them is going to be so crucial? In a wonderful display of movie logic Freja explains that she can’t tell them which one will be indispensable to the dragon confrontation because… "To reveal the details of the future to those not ready to accept it, will only lead to disaster!". Is it just me or did the scriptwriter take Stupid Philosophical Cliques 101?
Gareth continues to challenge the dragon slaying position of Freja and states that the best plan is to ditch the witch and her schemes and make for the edge of the forest. But Alora and Artemir trust Freja and want to know how Gareth would plan on tackling a dragon, relying of course on his vast experience, which to this point seems to consist of one basilisk. Gareth reveals that you have to immobilize it, making the wings and tail inoperable so it can’t fly away. This is a friggin bright lad eh! The scriptwriter further loses me with Freja’s response. I can’t quite decide if he actually wanted to give her a grammatically incorrect line or he just spent English classes asleep at his desk. Either way it’s hard not to crack up when you hear, "Tell me, is that how you slayed the other creature?". Gareth replies in the affirmative and imparts that fire breathing dragons have to summon the fire from their bellies so when you see them, I assume having dragon hiccups (Gareth is less than precise about the particulars of the warning signs), it’s time to take cover. He also has the brilliant information that it is best to attack dragons when they are asleep in their lairs. Which oddly enough is where Freja is taking them. Artemir is all revved up, no doubt with hunting songs about to burst from his lips and takes off down the path. Cador stays to jaw with Gareth about ideals and duty and other good cliques. The upshot is that Gareth reveals himself as an anarchist and talks on and on and on about how Cador is a bit of a sap, he finishes up with a jibe about the "sweet nectar" of the princess and how Cador would like a taste and out come the swords. Artemir reappears to tell Gareth that he pledged to follow him and that he’d better hop to it. But Gareth sticks to the fact that he signed up to help the princess. Freja now shoves in her oar and yaks about the destiny of Gareth and how he won’t be the one to kill the dragon. When will this freaking scene be over? Have mercy please! Gareth now says the smartest thing in the whole film, he can’t in good conscience go dragon hunting with a princess he’s supposed to protect, especially since he wouldn’t be able to claim payment for the job from a dead princess. So Gareth heads back down the path on his own after getting an earful about honor while Sogomo and Naga stay behind. Sweet mother of celluloid this bloody scene is over!
More random arial shots, more walking-through-the-woods sequences and our party stops with the sunlight dancing across their features. Then an crewman went an held a board in front of them and it suddenly and dramatically got – dark, while ethereal female vocals imply mystery! Wow, great SFX guys… This wonderful and meaningful piece of filmic trickery is somewhat mitigated by the intercut wide shots that clearly show the sun still merrily throwing it’s rays all over them. Freja does her bug eyed thing and imparts the crucial info that the dragon, "is not in it’s lair…". Artemir modestly states that he never thought he’d be the one to have to kill a dragon, but Freja seems mildly skeptical about his talents in this direction. Cue the sequence the dream sequences of Cador’s death and some more Elvish mumbo jumbo from The Last of the Fey Elves and Freja. While they jaw about revealing the future and visions Cador and Artemir get Sogomo and Naga to admit that they and Gareth never actually killed a dragon, but rather found one dead and paraded the head around for the local villagers. In short they are frauds. But they get full points for getting the word ‘tome’ (where they apparently read up on dragon slaying in this text dating from the "time of the druids") into the dialogue. I think I have a stitch from trying to suppress laughter. Next The Last of the Fey Elves and Freja rejoin the princess who asks what was seen in the vision. Freja will tell her nothing but that Cador had better be careful. Through the woods, a trampin’ do we go…
Suddenly, dragon attack! Freja says some funky words at it and promptly collapses. Perhaps she thought it wanted to exchange views on Elvish grammar. Either way the rest of the party draw swords and run behind some bushes. Artemir gives a shout and everyone but the princess jumps out and waves their swords at the air… And at this crucial moment, at the crux of this spectacular scene of people poking the ether without even a smidgeon of dragon in the frame, I must hand over control of this runaway train back to Tars. Why the heck do I end up with the endless yet crucial dialogue scenes and you get the action mate? It’s a cruel, cruel world. On the other hand if I really wanted to fight a dragon this pixelated I’d pull out at a mid 90s RPG for PC. I’ll leave it to Tars to verbalize just how atrocious this thing looks.
Thank you, Iain, now where were we…DRAGON ATTACK!!! CGI Dragon! CGI is probably an overstatement, more like 0.037C. Playstation 1 era graphics Dragon. Forget Playstation 1, this is Atari 2600. I know, I grew up on that system. A puppet on a stick would be more realistic, and would allow the actors to actually interact with something in the same frame. This is our title character. He can’t be less of a personality. Luckily, if you miss one of his few on-camera shots, they repeat them (sometimes at reverse angle!) which can’t possibly be a money-saving device. Now, Asylum films crammed dragons into the movie King of the Lost World (and adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World that inexplicably has a giant gorilla on the DVD cover) because the CG artists already had a model of it lying around. I haven’t seen that film, but that was a few years ago, and you’d think that things could have improved a bit. A quick internet search looking for pictures showed that at least that film has some nudity, but there were no close-up shots. Now we know why.
So Dragon‘s Dragon sucks. Artemir and Cador run distraction while Naga and Sigomo attack. Naga and Sigomo are knocked aside by the dragon in a few seconds, and Sigomo has a log fall on him. He’s trapped, and Naga fails to free him, thus Sigomo becomes Dragon Din-Din. Naga is horrified, her normally intense facial expressions exploding in the tensest face ever put to film. If anyone was truly feeling the emotions her character was portraying at that second their face would rip itself apart. Freja blast the dragon with magic, and Artemir gets off his pompous butt and manages to nick the dragon’s tail, and the menacing dragon that terrifies the forest flees. Freja explains they must keep going after the dragon while it is weak from her magic blast and Freja herself is rendered weak, because they are connected and all that.
So they must now chase after the dragon, and Artemir tells Cador not to go, as someone must tell the king if they all die. Though if they all die, the kingdom will get overrun by dark elves and the king’s head will probably be on a pike, so he won’t be caring that his daughter ran off to die in the forest. Cador refuses to stay behind, saying his destiny is leading him there. That’s exciting and all, but the real excitement is when Freja gives the Princess a stick. Wooooo! Okay, it’s a magic stick, but the movie tries to trick us into not knowing that it’s a magic stick, due to our volume of knowledge that necromancers often give passing princesses sticks to ward off bats. So we got a magic stick. Also, as an aside, Freja mentions she’s the Princess’s mom, and that the Princess has magic dragon powers, and both Freja and the King will die when the dragon dies. Wait, WHAT??? This is way out of left field. Now the Princess must essentially kill her father and newfound mother. As a quick aside, I wondered that if Freja and the King both were killed, would the Dragon just die”? Because that would be a heck of a lot easier. Or maybe we could kill Gareth. Not for any reason other than to kill him.
In an abortive attempt to give the Dragon a personality, Freja also mentions that the Dragon knows that the Princess has the magic dragon powers or whatever. A competent film would have the dragon acting all wary and not killing the Princess, but picking off underlings as she cowered in fear or something in the earlier attack. But why do that when you can instead just narrate that the Dragon is smart, and rely on the audience’s boredom to cause them to not remember the lack of any personality. Plus, the audience will forget the dragon looks sub par to a smudge on the TV screen. Anyway, before the party goes dragon hunting again, Artemir makes the Princess knight Cador so he will at least die a noble person. Thus Sir Cador Bane, defender of the realm, is born.
It’s Dragon Fighting Time (Part 2)!!! Let’s pad the film with encircling the dragon, and then we can finally unleash the fury upon the computer generated target. DARK ELF ATTACK!!! Ha-ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming, the Dark Elves randomly run up and attack as we’re getting all ready to kill a dragon, and Naga gets herself arrowed a bunch of times. The Princess’s magic stick turns into a spear, but a Dark Elf (Orc) attacks the now armed Princess. The Princess is still a terrible fighter, and Sir Cador Bane has to save her royal behind again. Tamara kills like 6 or so dark elves (orcs) in the middle of the action. Finally, all of the action is over, and we can get back to the Dragon, who wasn’t disturbed at all by the major battle taking place all around him.
The dragon fight is about as boring as flea hunting, until Sir Cador Bane, defender of the realm, gets knocked aside. Thus, things are slightly different than Freja foresaw. Artemir tells the Princess “Now!” and the Princess just sits there while Artemir gets flamed. I’m not sure what the plan was here, but Operation Barbeque Artemir was a rousing success, as we no longer have to listen to the faux British snob accent. Sir Cador Bane finally gets back up, but the Dragon is about to eat him when Garath returns (as we all knew he would) just in time to fire an arrow and distract. Both of them run, and the Princess finally gets off her royal duff and charges. She stabs the Dragon and runs from the collapsing pile of CGI pixels falling upon her, and my 15 minutes on the hot seat is done, and I turn it over Iain to bring us home and finish the movie.
“The beast is dead, our fearless heroes managed to slay a budget CGI monster, can you feel the love? But don’t get up quite yet, those pesky Dalkovar are back again complete with pointy ears. Cador moans about having come so far only to face this… But wait! Alora lifts her magic cardboard spear into the air and all the Or. I mean Dark Elves kneel before her. We then cut to wideshot while little jerky figures kneel in a transparently fake background. The favorite lens-flare effect bellows over the screen. Time for the tender moments. Cador and Alora lock lips while Gareth comforts a dying Naga. Freja is also dead and we get a little funeral scene for her (also in the woods), but we have color back! The screen is no longer blue! If a few dead necromancers is what it takes to get rid of blue filters I’m all for annual sacrifices. A voice over delivers the usual guff about heros and happy endings but leaves plenty of room for a sequel with hints of a new evil rising… As far as I’m concerned our heros don’t really deserve a break, just don’t bother to film the next chapter, I’m content to simply know they probably all died.”
“In some ways I feel for the monstrous task placed before these filmmakers. Create an epic fantasy with a low budget and very little time to shoot. There’s no feeling of hundreds of hours of loving craftsmanship poured into the production like you find in other indie fantasy efforts where everyone is a volunteer. Dragon is a purely commercial effort and the rush job in almost all departments shows. The result is an undeniably bad piece of film. It fails in all aspects from the plot to the effects to the locations to the acting. It doesn’t come close to feeling like a poor man’s Lord of the Rings, it’s far beyond that and well below a Corman effort or any of the 80s Italian Sword&Sorcery flicks. In short it stinks to high heaven. Sadly, as is often the case, you can sense a smidgeon of potential hidden under all the rot.
The script was obviously written with a larger budget in mind. But I’m afraid you can’t convince me that a princess will be sent on a secret mission through a dark forest in formal evening wear. All it would have taken in the opening scene with Cador and Artemir would have been a little piece of dialogue about how her carriage was attacked and her guards killed, cue a flashback of a decent sized pile of scrap wood on fire while a few of your Dark Elves dance around waving blades. Easy, cheap and it removes on the biggest plot holes in the whole film. But apparently even a line of dialogue alone was beyond the director’s ken. So I unfortunately have to categorically state that Leigh Scott should look into finding a friend who can write and understands narrative structure.
Effects… and we’ll include CGI and physical in that as well as props and wardrobe. The good first… I thought for the budget they made a pretty good effort on the wardrobe and props, cheap swords used improperly aside, the designs chosen had an organic feel to them and escape the cheese of many fantasy projects. The one exception was the outfit that the princess changes into, extremely modern and totally out of place in the context of the picture. But overall a fine showing showing taste and restraint with very little money to spend. Besides some obvious wirework nothing really rankled in the physical SFX department. All the fight choreography came off pretty poorly but that was more a fault of choosing the most awful angles to film the action from rather than the fight routines themselves. Now we reach the bad, the awful, the unforgivable CGI. This is where the money went and this is where the tragedy occurs. No part of the dragon sequences work. They are all transparent and so purely executed that it’s embarrassing for the effects company. No wonder they don’t mention this film on their website.
Locations… If you hadn’t noticed yet from our discussion of the film there is not a single, count them, not one, interior set. Every bit of this film takes place in the same woods. The random arial shots were no doubt imagined by the director to create a sense of epic journey. In fact they smell of yet more money wasted. Now, I think it’s possible to make a decent little film shot all outdoors. But it’s essential to find some interesting locations, varied locations, cinematic locations. If I’m not mistaken this film features precisely one wide shot of the actors NOT in the woods. Just one (I’m not counting the travesty of a matte painting). I don’t usually think of myself as an unfair film reviewer, I try to consider all the constraints placed on low budget productions, but I cannot forgive a director who thinks I will seriously be entertained by a film that not only takes place in one wood-lot, but also insists on shooting the actors walking towards the camera, single file, from the same angle, over and over and over again. It’s beyond boring. It would be a waste of good film stock except that they shot digital. So call it a waste of good pixels instead. The wood-lot I could forgive if they had a budget of $100 and had to take the bus, the lack of creative camera work is beyond me, although overall the cinematographer overall seemed one of the more skilled folks in this crew.
I guess I’d better talk a bit about the cast. At best judging acting will be very much a individual exercise and opinions will of course vary, but to my eyes and ears very little of the performances on display worked. The only exception is Matthew Wolf as Cador. He looked right in the setting, said his canned lines with conviction and set the right tone for his character. I wish him the best in his career, he was the only bright spot in this blue filtered mess. As for the rest of the players, I’d rather not go there… Touching briefly on the score, bombastic sums it up.
So could this mess be fixed? For a start dump the CGI, take the money and shoot in more varied locals. Turn it into a chase film with the Dark Elves as the enemy. Make reaching Lord Blackthorn the only hope of survival, throw in the necromancer as an added danger, build a freakin’ hut so we can at least get under a roof for five seconds and try to find some local ruins you can shoot in to add color. Have the group meet some odd characters along the way. Utilize your local SCA group, ask for volunteers who have costumes. But that would assume of course that the production company had any desire to turn out a decent motion picture. Somehow I wouldn’t want to give The Asylum that much benefit of the doubt, production companies that care usually hire directors with vision and don’t bank on a shit computer graphic to sell the film. This is independent filmmaking at it’s worst, when creativity should be at the forefront we get a half-baked piece of CGI and a wood-lot. Find a copy of Westender instead and watch a group of true genre fans using sweat and hard work to create a film that at least has an interior set, a plot and nice cinematography.
Yet for all it’s faults Dragon almost is enjoyable in spots, both for the cheese and the sheer stupidity of it, and I find it hard to beat down a bunch of young filmmakers trying to do one of the toughest genres in cinema. They managed to evoke a nice atmosphere at times and you could see where they wanted to go, but every time I thought I could get absorbed into this world something cropped up to pull me right out again. I can tolerate bad CG, bad acting, costumes, props, and locations, if there’s a story to tell. But ultimately this film had no story, nothing to impart to me and no reason I’d ever watch it again. So, for the health of all, I proscribe letting this turkey sink into the grave and here’s to hoping that more inspired companies fund fantasy in the future. A meager 1.5 stars out of 5.”
Closing on this side, I’ll start out with the obvious. The Asylum is a once decent horror DTV company that has jumped on the mockbuster bandwagon, making photocopies of mainstream films to pick up fans at Blockbuster whose IQ is lower than their shoesize. The particular photocopy machine that produced this dreck was obviously low on toner, and someone filled it up the rest of the way with their own urine. Sure, like all things, there are a few bright spots. The music is actually pretty decent. The plot is better written than some Sailor Moon fanfiction I read once. The movie gave me the urge to go outside, giving my skin valuable Vitamin D. Those three points aside, nothing further postive can really be said about the film. I’m sure there are people who like this film. Well, they can eat it. Even serial killer Ted Bundy had his groupies, while we are the wardens who flips the switch on the electric chair of justice. Dragon, you have just been found guilty. And look, it’s almost midnight. I hope you enjoy this steak dinner…
Rated 2/10 (Green Fire, Nail Nose)
Thus ends the first collaboration between TarsTarkas.NET and FantasyFilmscapes.com. But it won’t be the last, there are a few more surprises up our sleeves, you’ll just have to wait and see. Until that date, head over and check out Iain’s version, as well as the rest of his neat site.