My college life was usually spent doing two things. Okay, actually three things. One, studying (nearly unsuccessful) . Two, trying to get women to sleep with me (mostly unsuccessful). Three, playing Dungeons & Dragons. I owned a good dozen dice from a D3 to many assorted D20’s. Want to scare a fellow gamer? As DM, roll for damage and bring out 5 D20’s. Anyhow, around this time I also discovered D&D adventure books. I read primarily the works of R.A. Salvatore & Ed Greenwood (Drizzt & Elminster). So needles to say, I was a little intrigued when I saw a Dragonlance movie in my pile. The original book was published in 1984, a few years before I really got into D&D. But with dragons, elves & a mad mage; it was a surefire recipe for something wonderful.
Tanis (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum), a half-elf comes upon his old friend, a dwarf named Flint Fireforge. The two are also joined by a kinder named Tasslehoff Burrfoot. They decide to go to their local hometown tavern where they meet up with their other friends. First there is a knight named Sturm Brightblade. Beside him are two brothers, one a warrior named Caramon Majere. The other, a young mage named Raistlin Majere (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland). Off in the corner, an older mage named Fizban is telling tales of long ago (what he can remember anyways)about the gods of light and their ultra powerful healing magic that has since left this world.
All of the sudden, there is a commotion in the crowd. This is directed at a pair of folks known as the cleric Goldmoon (voiced by Lucy Lawless) & her companion Riverwind. It appears that she is holding a sacred staff that might contain the healing magics of long ago. The group of adventurers helps the two escape into the wilderness. From there, they take on all sorts of evil monsters including goblins, orcs and draconians. Where there are draconians, they are usually dragons. This all leads to an eventual confrontation with High Lord Verminaard and the forces of the great dragon queen of darkness, Takhisis. However, the fight is not an easy one and pushes many of the characters into searching for their own purpose and creating new ones.
As mentioned previously, I have read many D&D books (mostly Forgotten Realms), just not the Dragonlance series. However, I do know the characters quite well. Characters such as Tanis, the half-elf or Flint the dwarf are carried down through the ages and crop up easily when people speak about their favorites. But perhaps the most interesting is the young mage: Raistlin Majere. A young mage who has traveled far and wide for rare sources of arcane magic. The price appears to be high as Raistlin suffers from bad health and appears like he might be turning to the dark side.
The story is crafted well, but it has an impressive source to draw from. The original books from what I told were impressive and full of rich story telling. The book that this movie was based on was 400 pages long. They tried to condense it into a 90 minute movie. There are going to be some things that are rushed or not done in a convincing fashion. But to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the animated picture. The voice acting is fun and you can actually see the bonds being formed between the characters. There are many times you will say “That damn kinder” (Tasslehoff) who happened to end up with an item that one of the other characters supposedly dropped or your mouth gaps open as Raistlin unleashes an awesome bolt of energy towards his enemies. It all leads to a very strong ending with some resolution but also offering a direct line into an anticipated sequel.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The movie is hard to describe in the video department. It’s a bizarre mixture of 2d for the good guys and 3d for the majority of the evil creatures. It grows on you but really starts out as an eye sore. I really wish they would have stuck with the 2d older style more and just forget the computer generated graphics. I want to see a style reminiscent of the old dungeons and dragons cartoons; not some vague attempt to bring D&D into the 21st century.
The audio is slightly less unpuzzling. The Dolby Digital 5.1 (2.0 mix is also included) English track is decent with good uplifting fantasy music echoing through the speakers. Sometimes however, I found myself turning up the volume or finding it difficult to take in everything that was going on. The dialog was not as clear as I hoped but it was adequate enough to be enjoyed. Subtitles are also included for the English.
- Automatic Trailers: Iron Man(Could I be more pumped for this movie?) & Beowulf
- Original Test Animations 1:25: A very quick featurette showing line animations of the various characters in the film. Not much here to appreciate.
- Initial Character Design 2:40: A slightly better featurette that shows how the characters were originally conceived. Some very gorgeous art and rendering of our favorite characters. If they had only stuck to the 2d style entirely.
- Previews: Stardust, Transformers, & Casshern.
Perhaps my bias for all things D&D is showing through just a bit, but I very much enjoyed the first tale (of hopefully three) of Dragonlance. A lot of people will have issues with the 90 minute format. I recently watched Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix. I had read the book about a year ago and even though the film was 2 hours and 20 minutes long; I kept thinking about how certain scenes seemed so short as to what they did with them in the book. Great great movie but you can only do so much. One has to understand that the book medium is much much longer than the movie one. A poem can be made into a 2 hour film and still lack substance. But I think the folks here did a fine presentation of a fantastic series. The voice acting is superb and you can fell a harmony unfolding. The downfalls unfortunately include everything else. Average video and audio and a miserable excuse for an extras package round out the disc. I really liked the movie but hope that for future discs they pull out the stops in giving the fans like myself more material to dive into. Recommended for Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy fans alike.
- DvdVerdict.com – “Strayton’s script suffers from heavy upfront exposition, choppy dialogue, missing fan favorite characters and set pieces, and dilution of Hickman and Weiss’ detail.”
- DvdTown.com – “My opinion is that “DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight” would have best been served if it remained classically animated and left out the CGI artwork.”
- Chud.com – “I’d rather watch someone lance M. Emmet Walsh’s scrotum abscess than lance this dragon!”