Dragonheart (1996)

Dragonheart_ver1The 1990’s must have been a terrible time for fantasy films, or at least for fantasy films that weren’t action-oriented. Now that I think about it, this must been a bad time for films in general, seeing as how a lot of 90’s films seem quite dumb. This film, which wouldn’t have made a bad fantasy novel, was written as light-hearted fantasy film, perhaps in an attempt by the producers to maximize its appeal. However, it’s not exactly difficult to tell that the producers didn’t try very hard.

The story concerns a dragon who willingly lent his heart to a dying prince Einon, under the promise that he will rule with mercy. The prince later becomes a horrible tyrant who manages to make his father look benevolent, prompting the knight who taught him to vow vengeance on all dragons, until he comes upon the last dragon. After realizing the dragon’s death will leave him out of a job, he makes a partnership with him to scam local villagers. Joined by a hammy monk and an uninteresting peasant rebel, the knight and the dragon eventually go on a journey to defeat the tyrannical king Einon, who possesses a piece of the dragon’s heart.

I’ll give the producers some credit for trying, but what ultimately hampers the film is its horribly hackneyed script, and also the fact that the acting is more wooden than an old television set. Aside from Sean Connery, who’s voice gives the dragon a unique sense of character, the casting is a poor crop of hammy actors who’d fare no better in a children’s TV show. The accents are atrociously faked, but I guess the personalities are too. Let’s face it, the cast consists of little more than stock characters with cliché medievalesque names. As the story itself, it feels like they were trying to write a medieval fantasy film in the same fashion as a comedic Western film, but while this could have been quite ambitious, I can’t help but feel that there’s something disconcerting about the gratuitous Dennis Quaid slapstick. It just doesn’t seem right.

The film doesn’t look bad, but it looks like the kind of film that’s overly stuffed with CGI, and a lot of the special effects, for want of a better word, can be described as really naff. Even the dragon doesn’t look as convincing as it should. It looks like they were trying to animate it the same way they animated the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but it didn’t work out as well. It’s not always bad, but a lot of the effects are hit or miss, as is the rest of this film. Looking back on it, I’m quite surprised how poorly made this was. The producers tried for a light-hearted Western-style Medieval fantasy approach, but they ended up with a hokey B-movie with bad costumes and only a glimmer of potential. At best, it’s okay, and it might be alright for children, but in my eyes, that’s about it.

  • Score: 59%
  • Grade: D

2 thoughts on “Dragonheart (1996)

  1. I have seen this film. It seems to be a fantasy film aimed at kids. Much of the humour seems to be quite innocent, with some humour seeming very childish. I believe there is also an attempted rape scene, so I am not sure if the whole film was intended for children. Weirdly, the story uses the familiar idea of a knight finding his confidence to stand up to evil, except the knight is an older man previously known to be a fierce warrior, rather than a young, untrained character. I actually liked the design for the dragon, finding it was able to be terrifying at first, but friendly later.


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