Films about fantasy have always caught my eye. Even though most end up bordering on the top realm of pure stupidity, a majority of them succeed in what they intend to succeed in, that being pure entertainment. Fantasy films typically please audiences simply because they bring the audience into a world they know they’ll never travel to. Dragons, in particular, have always interested me possibly because they’re majestic creatures that seem so complex. I suppose that’s what makes Dragonheart as entertaining as it…is.
In May of 1996, Dragonheart was released into theaters. The funny thing was that I had not heard much about it until I saw a TV spot. At first I was amazed at the great special effects, especially when they announced “Sean Connery as Draco”. Instantly I was sold. I remember being somewhat disappointed after my first viewing as I guess I expected too much, as teasers are designed to do. This latest high-definition viewing further improved my opinion of the movie, now knowing well what to expect.
Bowen (Dennis Quaid) is a dragon-slayer, well the last of the dragon-slayers. Obviously struggling what to do with his life as dragons have become pretty much extinct, Bowen soon finds himself in front of the last dragon named Draco (Sean Connery). Realizing if he kills Draco, Bowen develops a type of relationship with Draco as the two start discussing random topics including a few funny sequences mentioned below. The two decide to perform ritual acts across the countryside until the two put their wits together to fight King Einon, whose tyrannical rule over his people has lead to numerous reports of suffering.
As I mentioned above, this high-definiton viewing really improved my overall opinion of the film. I further enjoyed the discussions between the knight Bowen and the dragon Draco. “Sink, sink! I can’t, it doesn’t get any deeper!” And the entire scene when Bowen is in the dragon’s mouth is both menacing and hilarious at the same time. Something I noticed more this viewing is how the dragon is not only great in the special effects department, but representative of Sean Connery’s facial mannerisms, such as in the sheep scene or his many other amusing expressions. A class act performance both in voice and in the animators’ talents.
The best idea for a film like Dragonheart is to go into the film only knowing that Sean Connery voices Draco. If you go in not knowing much, you probably won’t come out initially disappointed as I first was. If you do come out disappointed, give this one another spin, as the film definitely grows on you simply because of how charming Connery is here.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Dragonheart marks another of Universal catalog titles that receives a solid upgrade onto HD.
Color usage was effective to the point where the strong blues and solid blacks helped bring the picture to a new level. Grain is present but it never distracts from what is occurring on screen. Detail is impressive, particularly the CGI Draco. Take a look at the sequence where Draco first immerges from his cave and pause the film. We can easily make out the fine details on his snout and face. I didn’t really expect much from this transfer considering the film is 11 years old, but I came away quite surprised.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, Dragonheart sounded great on SD and Laserdisc. For this HD upgrade, Universal has given the audio quite the upgrade.
Similar to the video presentation, the audio is near-perfect. Arriving with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Audio Track, Dragonheart is a true pleasure to hear, Draco’s roars are as mighty and powerful as always. The soundtrack is quite excellent, with the triumphant World of the Heart being the main theme and undoubtedly recognizable due to it being featured prominently in the 69th Academy Awards during the Best Picture Winner recap. Dialogue was always intelligible even during scenes of high drama. The music overall is fairly un-obtrusive, so the potential for problems was always unlikely.
- The Making of Dragonheart: In this making of, we get some information of the casting of the film, in particular the decision to get Sean Connery to play Draco. We also get a look into the sets and a look into the whole production of the film.
- Feature Commentary with Director Rob Cohen: Director Rob Cohen sits down and talks here mentioning why he decided to make this film and what it was like working with Sean Connery. While Cohen does have a pleasant sounding voice (I enjoyed his commentary on xXx), this one fell a little flat at times as Cohen seemingly didn’t have much to say.
- Trailers and Outtakes: Here we get the film Theatrical Trailer and a few very funny outtakes.
While the overall supplemental package is a bit weak considering the approval of the film, Dragonheart is still a fine presentation on HD DVD. Arriving with nearly five-star video and exceptionally great audio, fans will appreciate this release simply because they’ll have the film they love in their library. Recommended for a purchase for fans and a very, very strong rental (read MUST rental) for those on the fence.
Special Features List
- The Making of Dragonheart
- Feature Commentary with Director Rob Cohen
- Trailers and Outtakes