SciFi Channel strikes again with another monster movie where CG runs amok and kills people, this time medieval people, and again their effort is less than stellar. At least it wasn’t painful. Parts of the film seem to be borrowed from many popular movies: the villain is Emperor Palpatine’s lame nephew, certain elements are directly culled from Lord of the Rings, and even parts reminding one of Braveheart are onscreen. The movie follows SciFi Channel’s Type A monster movie, where there is only one monster (or a small group) who is invincible.
The heroine is named Princess Amelia, which is also the name of the actress who played the princess in Dragon, another movie that Gryphon resembles. It’s low budget, has a single word title that is the monster, has a Princess Amelia (even if not by name), has a witch wife of the King who sees the future, and has bad CGI. It’s spooky how much Gryphon reminded me of Dragon. Princess Amelia actress Amber Benson played Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and as I have only seen one episode of that show I have no idea who she is. The hero is Prince Seth, played by Jonathan LaPaglia, from The District, another show I didn’t really watch (but I saw several episodes of it, I just don’t remember him, either.) Where is Coach? He should be playing one of the kings.
As a narrator (Princess Amelia) tells us, there is a curse on Kingdom of Vallon, brought on by fight of two royal brothers for king’s throne. A flashback duel between the brothers takes us through the opening credits. Lock slices Delphus across the stomach, and then just stabs him to death. He demands the people kneel before him, but by killing his brother he made an enemy of the Delphi supporters, and the two sides begin fighting, and the civil war rages to this day. Also, a CGI Gryphon soars around for a few seconds, because someone forgot to shake the mouse and keep the screen saver off. The narrator is too busy to pay attention to it. Just where the Kingdom of Vallon is located is a mystery for the ages. The main characters all look like some sort of English variety, but everyone else (including many of their parents) have accents. Probably because it was filmed in Romania.
King Phillip of Lockland is sitting in Castle Lockland, with Sorcerer Armand in the throne room. Princess Amelia rushes back, carrying the wounded body of her brother, the King’s son. She says he was brave, and that Gorwin is leading the retreat, as the Delphites are too strong. Gorwin is then shown leading the retreat to prove her right, and he bothers to talk to a blacksmith named Gerard about making more “dragon fire.” You might know it as gunpowder, because these medieval movies always add someone who knows gunpowder, so they can blow things up. Blowing up random stuff=more DVD sales. The son dies in the king’s arms, telling his father that he can end the war. The King instead tells Princess Amelia that his son said “Avenge me!” The Sorcerer Armand tells the king to let him resurrect the ancient symbol (pointing to a gryphon flag,) and Armand tells the king he needs his blood to activate it. However, Princess Amelia doesn’t trust him or the witches he associates with. It’s Wiccan discrimination! King is also reluctant, but the Sorcerer mentions all the men who will die as the war continues, and the King consents, drawing some of his blood into a chalice for the Sorcerer to use to resurrect the Gryphon. Also, the king’s blood will allow them to control the Gryphon. The chalice in this palace has a brew that is true, true king’s blood, that is!
On the battlefield outside the castle, Delphite Prince Seth the Seer has another vision, where he realizes something dangerous is coming. He doesn’t know what it is, and his aide David explains he’s gone to far with him men to back off now, the men will lose faith. Seth agrees, and they begin the attack of the Castle Lockland. Sorcerer Armand performs the ceremony with the two witch women before the gryphon statue, and he drinks the blood of the King. The Gryphon breaks out of the statue, and now we are in a Playstation game. He orders the Gryphon to wage war on their enemies, and the Gryphon flies off. The Delphites are besieging the castle and ramming the door, but soon the Gryphon flies over. He attacks the archers where Seth is, and Seth orders them to retreat, as they have never fought such a bad computer effect before. The Gryphon then heads to the group at the castle gate, lead by David. One of the men gets his head grabbed and ripped off by the Gryphon, the head is then dropped in front of the rest of the troops. The other group also retreats to the forest, and Seth has his archers fire at the Gryphon. When the Gryphon is hit with an arrow, Sorcerer Armand is also wounded. The Gryphon keeps attacking, grabbing men one by one. The Gryphon the lands and starts stamping on the ground, but the CG artists forgot to make the surrounding grass have any reaction. David and Seth go forward to fight the Gryphon, but it knocks down Seth and beaks David. Seth stabs the Gryphon in the heart, but it doesn’t die, it just flies off. The Gryphon’s CGI is so bad, there is no blood, and it looks like the sword just sinks into a cartoon. Sorcerer Armand gets wounded by the stab through the heart of the Gryphon as well, but the wounds then heal themselves. Armand’s women are sub-Playboy category in the acting department, as they react to Armand being wounded and healing.
Armand sends the Gryphon to attack Lockland troops, as he wants to take over the kingdom like we all knew he would. Everyone knows that weird priests are evil in medieval movies (and even regular movies.) Examples: Profion from Dungeons & Dragons, Priest in Dragnet, Cardinal in Three Musketeers, the evil priest in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. All evil. Amelia sends troops to capture the Sorcerer as her men are being slaughtered. The Sorcerer sends his two witch wenches to the Castle Vallon, they teleport away (and reveal their elements of magic power: Blonde-wind, Brunette-fire.) The Gryphon lands, and now it is Amelia vs. Gryphon time. There is an animation of the Gryphon pulling out an arrow and breaking it, showing that the movie isn’t cutting too many corners in reusing animations. The Princess is about to bite it, when the Sorcerer calls the Gryphon to him, as the soldiers have broken into his room and are trying to arrest him. He jumps off the balcony and lands on the back of the Gryphon, flying away cackling like a madman. Yes, they just took a large chunk from the Lord of the Rings page, and added some Skeletor-style mad cackling for a bonus.
Seth is the son of the King and Queen of Delphus, and he reports back to his parents about the Gryphon. Queen Cassandra is Sarah Douglas, Ursa from Superman 2! I guess she escaped the giant flying mirror again and is now marrying royalty in ancient Earth. She also has the gift of sight. No, she’s not the one-eyed person in the land of the blind, she just has psychic powers. The Queen tells him the Gryphon must be killed before the next eclipse, or else the Sorcerer Armand and the Gryphon both will become immortal. The only weapon that can kill the Gryphon is the Draconian Pike, the blade of which is made from a unicorn. It was split in half as the kingdom was divided, because these things are always found in scattered pieces instead of whole. Just look at the Tri-Force in Legend of Zelda. Because we don’t have time to find nine pieces, we only have two to look for. Lock took his half (the shaft of the pike) to a temple on the far side of the Valley of the Dead, while Delphus’s sons took his piece (the blade) to the labyrinth beneath Castle Vallon. Also, the Queen tells us the Gryphon Master must also be seeking the pike, because if he has it, no one else can. Seth and his men prepare for the quest, Seth’s mom giving him what looks like a fancy perfume bottle, telling him it’s Azereth Tears, which “will show you the light in the darkness.” Is this just line for line LOTR now? So the former Kryptonian Supervillainess is now an Elf, and Seth is Frodo? If a giant spider shows up, I’m leaving. Aide David is also going on the quest, despite Seth’s insistence that he nurse his injuries.
King Phillip tells his daughter Amelia to kill Sorcerer Armond instead of going to finish off the Delphi, she starts to realize he believes the curse, which she should already believe as she has already been attacked by a giant freaking Gryphon, but whatever. Seth and his group reach the Valley of the Dead (not to be confused with Death Valley) where horses fear to tread (so they have to lead them by foot.) Also, there are growling CGI human skulls in random trees, and none of them seem to think it’s frightening enough to make any sort of deal about. A growling skull in the middle of a tree is far scarier than a CGI Gryphon or anthropomorphic apple trees that threaten to pick your apples. But then I have an intense hatred for Arbor Day. Seth and David bicker a bit about whether to stop for a rest, until a ghost on a ghost horse rides by (floats by??) and grabs one of the men. The thing with this movie, is when the random guys die, more often than not one of the main characters will mention their name. It happens often enough you feel cheated when they don’t mention an extra’s name right after he’s killed by a monster. Not that you know anything about anyone who is not a main character, so you don’t even get attached. Another ghost rider (or maybe the same on, all ghosts look alike to me because I’m racist. Ghost racist) grabs a second guy, and Seth needs light. A torch is lit, and they go ghostbusting. They only find an old pit trap left over from the Great War, with the first dead extra at the bottom. So they decide to make camp. What??? A ghost just killed two of your men, so you’re going to take a nap right next to where it happened? This makes less sense to me than fried broccoli. Someone call Bill Murray, or the High School Ghost Hustlers!
We cut back to Castle Vallon, where Armand says he’ll send the Gryphon to kill the group as they survived the first trap in the Valley of the Dead. Also, he’s probably going to have a three-way with his two witch ladies. That’s a disturbing image, I tell you what. Princess Amelia and her men are following the Gryphon, and will soon cross paths with Prince Seth and his men. Will they fall in love like they always do in these stories, after first hating each other? Duh with a capital DUH. But first they must bicker, and to do that first they must meet, so Seth’s party has to be attacked. Gryphon flybys cause campfires to extinguish, so Seth once again says he needs light. At this point I thought it would be a running gag where the Prince asks for light every few minutes until the magic Azereth Tears make him glow in the dark or something like he’s a Glo Worm toy, but no. Most of the men are now dead, so David and Seth are alone. Seth has a plan, he ties a rope to an arrow, while David ties the other end to a tree. Seth fires, but then gets his back clawed up, and David managed to tie himself on the inside of the loop around the tree (buh?) and thus looks like he’ll be crushed by the rope. And now a word from our sponsor….
The suspense after that commercial break is easily diffused as Princess Amelia and her men charge in, cut the rope and start to fight the Gryphon. The Gryphon then reuses the arrow-pulling animation, therefore making my previous comments completely wrong. Screw you, movie! The Gryphon is then frightened off because that Lockland Blacksmith from the beginning is chucking explosives at it. David then says the Locklanders will never take him alive, and tries to fight them. Both are captured. We cut back to Castle Vallon the next morning, where the Gryphon is sitting, and the two witch women try to pet it, but it gets freaked. It’s like that similar scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with Buckbeak. Sorcerer Armand calms it, and gets to touch it himself. He then does one of those evil villain smug speeches, where he repeats the plot again for anyone who tuned in late. That ends with him cackling again, it sounds like he got into Skeletor’s “special” brownies. As long as Orko doesn’t show up, we’re safe.
The Princess is now fixing Seth’s wounds, in a tent, alone, and he’s bent-over shirtless and she’s virtually on top of him. It looks far dirtier than it is, and they still try to ramp up the feeling of sexual tension, while the Princess says she’ll give him no mercy when it’s time for him to pay for her brother’s death. Until then, she’ll tend to his shirtless body all day long, and all night long. Cue the ’70’s porn music. She also asks what he’s doing there, and he figures out the Locklanders have no control over the Gryphon, and that it’s Armand. He tells her he knows where the Draconian Pike is, but she doesn’t believe him. Lockland knight Gorwin interrupts them, and disapproves of Seth’s very existence. The group prepares to leave camp, with Princess Amelia giving orders that they are teaming up to find the Draconian Pike. Blacksmith Gerard is revealed to be the guy who makes the black powder, called Dragon’s Breath. He refuses to let Prince Seth know how it works. Princess Amelia’s messenger back home is interrupted by Sorcerer Armand, who uses his Emperor Palpatine Force powers to force choke the messenger, then Vulcan Mindmelds with him to find out that the group seeks the Draconian Pike. Then Armand uses the Force again, to rip open the shirt of the messenger, kill him, and write on his chest. He writes like 8 characters in some crazy moon language, but I can’t decipher what it says. It is the ancient language of Madeupese.
Seth and David talk about the Princess while walking with the group, David has figured out that Seth is smitten with her. David is familiar with this genre enough to know that the love story will happen, and he lives hundreds of years before movies. Back in Lockland, the body of the messenger is found and brought before King Phillip. He reads the message carved in the chest; it says “Two kingdoms will again be as one under my rule. Your daughter is also lost. Surrender to me or be destroyed.” That’s a lot of words for 8 characters. I think he’s making it all up again. The King is all upset his legacy is lost, and wants his armor ready so he can kill the Delphites. So now King Phillip is like a much less intense Denethor II from LOTR, in case you were wondering what plot element they were borrowing for this scene. The party reaches a temple in a village, but they are greeted by a local holy man who tells them to leave while it is still light, as there is a curse on the town. It seems the Gryphon attacked them last night, off-screen. Seth tells them they are on a quest to find the pike, and the priest says that it is in a chamber of the temple, but in the past 300 years, no one who has entered that chamber has left it alive. Amelia snags the Priest as a reluctant guide. Sorcerer Armand orders the Gryphon to attack the group, and bring the spear’s shaft to him. John Shaft. Damn right!
The group enters the chamber, where the shaft is held by a statue of a the father of the two warring prince brothers from the prologue. Seth asks “Can I have my sword back now?” to which Amelia curtly replies “No!”
Well, I liked it! Humph!
Outside, the Gryphon attacks the rest of the men. Inside, it seems too easy, but Gorwin decides to just grab the shaft of the pike out of the statue’s hands, not noticing that the statue isn’t made of stone, but is some guy in grey makeup. I think he’ll probably come to life and start sword fighting them. Hey, the eyes of the statue just opened, I must be right! Outside, Gerard the blacksmith is preparing his black powder, and dumping a bunch of it on the ground. Inside, the statue finally comes alive, and they have a big swordfight against a stone enemy. We’re still jumping back and forth between the statue guy and the Gryphon, who is being arrowed, and when the Gryphon lands right on top of the dragon fire, they set it off, causing a big fire and for the Gryphon and Sorcerer Armand to both get burned. Both Gerard and David run inside the temple, and bar the door (leaving many men still outside for a ticked off Gryphon to eat.) Seth comes up with a plan to let the Gryphon inside, then blow up the building on top of the statue and the monster. The only problem is everyone who is a main character is now inside the temple as well, so they first have to escape. The group jumps outside, but the Gryphon notices them leaving, and also goes out, standing next to the buggy that is full of dragon fire explosives. The buggy is ignited, and explodes in a large fireball that drives off the Gryphon, despite the CG artists not making it wounded or singed. We get a contrived shot of the two main characters running in slow motion as a vehicle explodes behind them. The explosion also didn’t do anything to stop the statue, as he was still inside, but he’s not seen again.
Later, Princess Amelia is completely against the idea of stopping to make camp, even when told everyone is tired and the horses will collapse and die. Finally, she relents, and they send messengers to both kingdoms to bring their armies to the Castle Vallon to help defeat the Sorcerer. Back at the Sorcerer, he decides to send his pair of witch women to use their womanly wiles to snag the shaft of the pike from the party. That sounds so dirty, and part of it is. Of course, they pick the nerdy blacksmith Gerard to call out, as he wakes up hearing them giggling, and calling him to come see them. The two girls are bathing each other, despite the fact they are fully clothed. PG rated seduction at its finest! Back at camp, the Princess calls Seth into her tent to demand some answers from him, and you can tell from their hostile attitudes they’ll be rolling in the hay in a few seconds. Yep, soon enough, the pair are “reuniting the kingdom” while he uses his own shaft. The next morning, the first line Amelia says is “Now will you show me how to use the pike?” Didn’t he just do that??? Damn, Seth, she just totally dissed your technique! David walks in on the, saying the horses are missing, as is the blacksmith. The two then realize that the pike shaft, which was in the tent with them, is also missing. So Gerard wandered into the tent that contained both members of royalty undetected in the night. I know they lost some men in the attack, but someone had to be guarding!
The two witches give the shaft to the Sorcerer, as the heroes’ group searches for the blacksmith. First, they find a poison arrow trap, which almost killed the Princess. They find the blacksmith impaled on a tree, but Seth was hit by a poisoned arrow, and passes out. He has a vision of death, and his mom helps him, thus he awakens. Seth then goes all pessimistic, having doubts. This odd character development is short-lived, as Princess Amelia gives him her dead brother’s sword. Back at bad guy land, the three are trying to use witchcraft to get a vision of where the pike blade is located, but Queen Cassandra blocks him from seeing with her own magic. Instead, he says he’ll use Seth to get the blade for him, and then kill him.
Gorwin gets sick of Seth dipping his shaft in royal ink, and challenges him to a duel. Seth doesn’t want to fight him, but Gorwin insists, until the Princess gets ticked at them for treating her like meat, and threatens to kill whichever one of them swings first. So they put down arms, and even shake hands while making up. That’s a tad over the top. So now Gorwin isn’t a jerk good guy, but he’ll still probably die.
The Gryphon flies around as the group arrives at the labyrinth, and manages to kill the last extra of the group as they run toward the entrance and safety. D’oh! Inside the labyrinth is a maze of tunnels (that’s sort of what a labyrinth is!) and Gorwin starts complaining that a royal guard like him has to crawl through a tunnel like a rat. See, he’s going to die. The team splits up, with Seth and David going after the blade, while the Princess and Gorwin go after the Sorcerer to get the shaft. Plus, then she can get in danger and Seth can rescue her, but that’s pretty cliché and would never happen!
Outside the castle, the two kingdoms’ armies are meeting, and the kings ride out to talk. The King of Lockland is still mad and wants revenge, but Queen Cassandra uses her witch magic to give him a vision, letting him know that his daughter is still alive. So the two kings team up and shake hands, as both their armies cheer. I guess centuries of hatred go away when a huge bird-lion is on the loose. It’s like when Generals Grant and Lee teamed up to fight that giant sphinx in 1864, uniting America once more. Sorcerer Armand orders his women to protect the castle and to let Seth find him, as then he can watch Armand ascend to immortality. Seth is still in the labyrinth, where a random spike trap appears when the wall is touched. It does nothing and he and David continue. For some reason, Seth’s eyes are all glowy, but upon second watching I figured out he used those Tears of Azereth that his mom gave him, too bad the movie didn’t bother to explain that, why do I have to do extra homework to figure this stuff out? Up top, Gorwin and Princess Amelia find the shaft just lying on a table, and they go forward to grab it, but Armand appears. He blasts them both with his Force powers, and then blasts Gorwin a second time when he won’t stay down. The Princess just trades insults, and Armand sends the Gryphon to attack the armies outside. Just what the armies were doing isn’t really explained, I guess they were just milling about, as they had plenty of time to storm the castle. We get some POV shots of the Gryphon swooping down as the army guys flee and fly around.
Down in the labyrinth, Seth and David find the blade, just sitting on a table in a room, but as they go forward to get it, a force field appears in the door. Actually, it’s just a wall of fire, but Seth quickly realizes it isn’t real, and walks right through it. Then he claims the blade, and they can go. That was the whole trap? An optical illusion? Where’s the second statue guy? Or even the first statue guy? He must have been sick that day, allergic reaction to grey makeup.
Back outside, the archers are rallying to attack the Gryphon, firing arrows, while Queen Cassandra tells her husband she has to go to the castle. He’s reluctant, but lets her go, as it’s her destiny. Seth and David exit the labyrinth just as the two witch women are outside, ready to kill them. The Brunette has a fire bow, and the Blonde can shoot tornadoes from her hand. We’re just missing a water witch and an earth witch to complete the set. But the Queen appears behind her son, and deflects the magic and starts firing back. She’ll hold them while he and David get inside. Sorcerer Armand tells Princess Amelia he’ll stop the Gryphon attack if she marries him. He says they’ll rule forever, but “Well, I will rule forever, you’ll just get old and die.” She says no. The two witches start firing rapidly, as the Queen is force fielded and deflects their fire back to them, but soon all three of them explode in a flash of blue energy and light. I guess they never figured out to use Kryptonite to stop her. The King knows his wife is now dead. He and the other king both say “Charge!” and everyone rushes toward the castle.
Inside, the Sorcerer Armand has the Princess hostage, threatening to kill her unless he gets the blade of the pike. Seth actually does something original, and DOESN’T put down his weapon, so Armand just throws the Princess aside and the two have their battle. Kudos to this movie for breaking the mold on the hostage situation, 99.9% of movies just have the hero put down his gun, the villain tries to kill him, and then somehow the hero gets his gun back and shoots the villain. This movie just skips all that nonsense and has the hero and villain fight. The Sorcerer Armand, however, is a Dark Jedi, so he uses his Force powers to toss Seth around, and then Force chokes him. Armand grabs the blade, and then reattaches it to the shaft of the pike, as a magic digital effect causes them to be merged. Armand will stab Seth in the heart, but Princess Amelia stops him when she says she’ll marry him if he stops.
It is never explained why he wants to marry her, but the likeliest explanation is that marrying someone royal will give your rule a more authentic flavor. Either that, or he goes for chicks that look like they got off drugs a few weeks ago and haven’t seen the sun. Armand is happy, but then he detects that she’s pregnant! Seth has some powerful swimmers! He rants about her being defiled by Seth, and Gorwin uses this time leap up from being not quite dead yet to grab Armand, and Princess Amelia takes the Draconus Pike. Armand kills Gorwin (for good this time) and force chokes the Princess. Seth uses this to grab the pike, and Armand then Force blasts him. The Queen then speaks via the power of the Force, giving him strength and letting him be able to resist Armand’s magic. It’s minutes away from the eclipse time, and now Seth is zapped by sky energy or something, I guess the Good Force, and Armand calls the Gryphon over to help him kill Seth. Seth then charges, and stabs the Gryphon in the chest with the pike. Sorcerer Armand falls to the ground, dying, and the Gryphon flies up into the air, with Seth still holding onto the pike that’s buried in its heart. He falls off, then the Gryphon turns to stone in mid-air, falling down and smashing into many pieces (the crashing happens off camera, as that would take an entirely new CG rendering.) The Sorcerer’s body then turns to blood. Seth and Amelia raise the pike, and the armies cheer. Narrator Amelia tells us that the Curse of Delphus has lifted, and the Kingdom is united and the prophecy fulfilled.
This film was predictable in every sense of the word. Nothing that came out of here was surprising. You knew who was going to live, and who would die, seconds after their characters were introduced. The love story was more expected than libertarians complaining about taxes, and there was no suspense at all. The Gryphon was some very bad CGI, some of the worst in recent memory. As an aside, the film did use the Gryphon extensively, and it looks like they only were budgeted for a certain amount, and thus decided to make the Gryphon look consistent throughout the film, instead of making some shots decent and some shots horrific. Or, they already had a model lying around, and spend $30 to throw a Gryphon skin they got of the internet on top of it. That may be why some of the Gryphon swooping scenes make him look like a bald eagle, the same animations used on The Colbert Report. Still, the film wasn’t horrendous. It was mildly entertaining, in a throw away sort of way. I wouldn’t be disappointed to have rented this, but I wouldn’t be recommending it, either. They obviously tried in a few aspects, the dialogue is punched up at times to sound more fantasy-ish than some of these films, and the map scene transitions were neat, but overall it just didn’t come together into anything spectacular. Like Caved In – Prehistoric Terror, it is another example of disposable cinema. You watch for two hours, get mildly entertained, and then forget the movie forever. Now, this is still better than some of the horrific examples of SciFi Channel films that don’t entertain, but I crave more. We deserve more as an audience than just mediocrity. When mediocrity is the best you can hope for, something is wrong. Until SciFi starts holding films more accountable, they will continue to be the bane of the movie watcher, and their constant stream of entertainment will provide TarsTarkas.NET with much fodder for years to come.
Rated 5/10 (Escape, Moon Language, Falls like a stone, “I Make the Dragon Fire!”, Symbol of Protection)
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