DRAGONHEART is a live action sword-and-sorcery fable set in "AD
984." It features a large and fascinating dragon that is apparently
created with animatronics. The technical aspects of the show are the
best part. Watching the fluid movements of the dragon is amazing.
Notice especially how realistic his teeth are. Sad to say, that there
is not much else worthwhile in the picture. Don't get me wrong. This
is not a bad film; it is just a disappointing one. My son, on the
other hand, loved it.
The dragon's name is Draco and his voice is by Sean Connery.
Although I am a fan of Connery's, I thought his voice added little.
Dennis Quaid plays Bowen, who prides himself as being a "knight of old
code." He tries to teach the young King Einon (David Thewlis from
BLACK BEAUTY) to follow the code, but the king rebels and becomes a
Most of the show consists of Bowen first trying to kill all of the
dragons, and then getting in a league with Draco to scam the local
villagers. Many people are killed in the show. This varies from
realistic stabbings to a few very bloody scenes. Most of the blood is
at the beginning. I thought Jeffrey (age 7) was going to force us to
leave. He was so upset he could not look at the screen. He whispered
to me, "why do they have all of this blood?" Why indeed? This is a
kids' show and the realistic blood with the gaping wound had no place
in it. Other than to scare the wits out of its intended audience,
there is no reason for it. Yes, the film is rated PG-13 so we were
fully warned, but still it is not necessary and adds nothing to the
I must admit that not being a sword-and-sorcery fan, I had trouble
believing that a knight equipped only with a sword could kill dragons
that are two stories tall, that can fly, that have a tail that can
crush buildings in a single blow, that can shoot fire for hundreds of
yards and that have a jaw big enough to eat a man in a single bite.
Check your brain at the door.
Julie Christie, who was so wonderful as Lara in Doctor Zhivago and
unmemorable in everything since, is again wasted as the king's mother
Aislinn. Pete Postlethwaite gives a fun minor performance as the monk
Gilbert. Gilbert is always composing verse on the fly, and his dialog
is quite funny.
Actually my favorite line in the script by Charles Edward Pogue is
one of Draco's. When Bowen wants him to eat the beautiful maiden Kara
(Dina Meyer), he refuses. Bowen insists that Draco has done it before,
but in a take off on our president's "I didn't inhale" line, Draco
says, "I mainly chewed in self-defense. I didn't swallow." Draco is
also a philosopher. He tells Bowen, "when you squeeze the nobility,
you hurt the peasants."
The script and the direction (Rob Cohen) drags a lot. It gets way
too wordy at times. The majestic and sweeping music (Randy Edelman)
helps keep the show from hopeless bogging down. The cinematography
(David Eggby) is lush and the sets (Benjamin Fernandez) are visually
interesting. The costumes (Anna Shepherd), especially those of the
female dragon slayer, reminded me of caricatures of bad Wagnerian opera
costumes from the turn of the century. I half expected someone to
start singing The Ride of Valkyries.
The ending is well done. Notice the pupils in Bowen's eyes at the
end. They capture the magic of the show quite well.
DRAGONHEART runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for way too realistic
violence. There is no sex, nudity, or bad language. My son Jeffrey
says he loved the show, but that kids should be at least 6 to see it.
He liked it so much, he wants to see it again with some of his friends.
Once was once too many for me. I give it a mild thumbs down and
generously award it **.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes