Dragonheart

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bowen (Dennis Quaid) mentors Saxon prince Einon (Lee Oakes) in the ideals of chivalry in the hope that he will become a better king than his tyrannical father. When the king is killed while suppressing a peasant rebellion, Einon rushes to claim his crown and is accidentally mortally wounded by the peasant girl Kara (Sandra Kovacicova). Einon’s mother, Queen Aislinn (Julie Christie), has him taken before a dragon whom she implores to save his life. The dragon replaces Einon’s damaged heart with a piece of its own on the promise that Einon will rule with justice and virtue. However, Einon soon becomes more tyrannical than his father, enslaving the former rebels and forcing them to rebuild a Roman castle. Bowen believes that the dragon’s heart has twisted Einon, and swears vengeance on all dragons.

Twelve years later, Einon, now an adult (David Thewlis) has had his castle rebuilt, and Bowen has become a dragon-slayer. Brother Gilbert (Pete Postlethwaite), a monk and aspiring poet, observes Bowen slaying a dragon and follows him to record his exploits. Bowen stalks another dragon to its cave, but the confrontation ends in a stalemate. The dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) states that it is the last of its kind, and thus if Bowen kills it, he will be out of a job. The two form a partnership to defraud local villagers with staged dragon-slayings. Bowen calls the dragon Draco, after the constellation of stars. Unbeknownst to Bowen, Draco is the dragon who shared his heart with Einon, and through this connection, any pain inflicted upon one is also felt by the other.

Meanwhile, Kara, also now an adult, (Dina Meyer) seeks revenge on Einon for murdering her father and is imprisoned. Einon recognizes her as the one responsible for his near-death and attempts to seduce her. Aislinn, disgusted by what her son has become, helps her to escape. Kara tries to rally the villagers against Einon, but they instead offer her as a sacrifice to Draco, who takes her to his lair. Einon arrives to recapture her and fights Bowen, declaring that he never believed in the knight’s code of honor. Draco intervenes and Einon flees. Kara asks Bowen to help overthrow Einon, but the disillusioned knight refuses.

Bowen and Draco’s next staged dragon-slaying goes poorly and their con is exposed. Draco takes Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert to Avalon, where they take shelter among the tombs of the Knights of the Round Table. Draco reveals the connection between himself and Einon, stating that he hoped giving the prince a piece of his heart would change Einon’s nature and reunite the races of Man and Dragon. Through this action Draco hoped to earn a place in his namesake constellation, which is a heaven for dragons who prove their worth. He fears that his failure will cost him his soul, and agrees to help Kara and Gilbert against Einon. After experiencing a vision of King Arthur (voiced by John Gielgud) that reminds him of his knightly code, Bowen agrees to help as well.

With Bowen and Draco on their side, the villagers are organized into a formidable fighting force. Aislinn presents Einon with a group of dragon-slayers, secretly knowing that killing Draco will cause Einon to die as well. The villagers are on the verge of victory against Einon’s cavalry when Gilbert strikes Einon in the heart with an arrow (He states “Thou… shalt… not… kill!”, quoting from Exodus 20:13). Draco feels the pain also, falls from the sky, and is captured. Einon realizes that he is effectively immortal as long as Draco remains alive, and determines to keep the dragon imprisoned. Aislinn attempts to kill Draco during the night, but Einon stops her, then he kills her.

The rebels invade Einon’s castle, and Draco begs Bowen to kill him as it is the only way to end Einon’s reign. Einon charges at Bowen with a dagger, but Bowen reluctantly throws an axe into Draco’s exposed heart. Draco and Einon both die, and Draco’s body dissipates as his soul becomes a new star in the constellation. Bowen and Kara go on to lead the kingdom into an era of justice and brotherhood.

REVIEW:

Anyone remember dragons? It wasn’t that long ago that they were on their way to being a big deal, but two less than stellar films curbed that push real quickly. Going back to the mid-90s, though, we get Dragonheart, a film that can appeal to the younger and older viewers, without alienating either by skewing more towards one or the other.

What is this about?

In an ancient time when majestic fire-breathers soared through the skies, a knight named Bowen (Dennis Quaid) comes face to face and heart to heart with the last dragon on Earth, Draco (voiced by Sean Connery). Taking up arms to suppress a tyrant king, Bowen soon realizes his task will be harder than he’d imagined: If he kills the king, Draco will die as well.

What did I like?

Hero. Every story like this has to have a believable hero, preferably one that will make women swoon. For some reason, girls go crazy for Dennis Quaid, so I guess that part is taken care of. As far as being a believable hero, well, given the development they give is character in the first few minutes, I would say that he does come off as a believable hero and the voice of king Arthur talking to him at Avalon was a nice touch that just added to the mystique.

Merida? When Dina Meyer was in the dungeon, she was wearing a green dress which, coupled with her curly red hair, made me think of Merida from Brave. I half expected her to start talking with a Scottish accent from that point forward. I would say that she should have been more of the damsel in distress, but considering that she is responsible for nearly killing the future king when they were young, it makes sense that she grows into a more independent woman.

Dragon. So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know m thoughts on the CG vs stop-motion debate. Draco the dragon was made using early CG. By today’s standards he looks tame, but go back to 1996 and he looks pretty damn awesome! Sure, I would have liked for him to have been stop-motion, but that’s a personal preference. Now, if you’re going to have a dragon of importance, then it only makes sense he gets a powerful voice like Sean Connery, who is perfect for this role. Then again, I was reading that it was written with him in mind.

What didn’t I like?

Buddy comedy. When we first meet Sean Connery’s dragon, he seems like a creature of immense power and wisdom. The next time we see him, he shows off his fighting skills against Quaid’s Bowen. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, they seem to become more of a buddy cop film. I’m not against the dynamic between the two or the comedy, I just felt they could have done something else with their relationship.

Lupin. David Thewlis plays the young king Einon. As an evil tyrant king he actually does come off as a decent villain. However, there is just something about him that wasn’t sitting right with me. Perhaps it was the messed up teeth, the cheesy haircut, or the fact tat I’m more used to seeing him as Prof. Lupin in the Harry Potter films, I just couldn’t buy him as some kind of ultimate evil in the world.

Dust to dust. As it were, because of the heart transplant the occurs between Draco and Einon, they are connected and feel each other’s pain. Strangely enough, though, we don’t get much of this. It seems as if they would have taken every chance to utilize this plot device. Instead, we get a couple of scenes, and then the final death scenes where one of them turns to dust, I won’t spoil who. For me, it would have worked better if that would have done more with the bond between the two, or the good/bad side of the heart.

I felt the desire to watch a fantasy film this evening, so I took a chance on Dragonheart. I can’t say that I was disappointed with the results. While not the best film of this genre, it is was at least entertaining, which is more than I can say about some of its contemporaries. I know there are some out there that prefer darker, more serious fantasy films, but those of us with an open mind can enjoy tis film for what it is. Check it out some time!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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