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Friday, 29 April 2011

52 Dragon Movies Challenge – Fire and Ice Review

Onto the second movie in the challenge and for this I’ve found Fire and Ice. It’s a straight to DVD effort in the UK featuring the fantastic talents of Jon Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, Lord Of The Rings) and, that fella from The Mummy, Arnold Vosloo.

Fire and Ice or the more epic variation as it is sometimes known, Dragon Chronicles: Fire and Ice, tells the story of a mystical kingdom terrorised by the threat of a fire dragon. As expected for this kind of movie, it begins with some good old voiceover work, decent music and some great visuals of landscape shots.

Amy Acker, a TV regular seen often in Angel and the likes of CSI plays a decent princess who is plucky, modern and a strong female lead. The love interest is also (conveniently) the dragon slayer the kingdom so desperately needs, Tom Wilson (300, The Boat That Rocked) puts in a very bland, wooden performance in comparison with James Purefoy in our last dragon movie, George and the Dragon. In fact, apart from the initial 4minutes of characterisation and the eternally fun John Rhys-Davies, the entire movie is lacking in any decent character interaction and the fun, buoyant scenes and dialogue seen in George and the Dragon is largely missing in this movie.

Where it lacks in characters and decent dialogue, in makes up for in dragon action, which is the whole point of our challenge! The first 8 minutes of this movie alone show more dragon action than the entire 88 minutes of G&TD, starting with lots of fire and flaming stuntmen during the “first dragon attack in 20 years” on the kingdom. Exciting stuff!

The flame dragon descends on the kingdom

He’s getting closer, better run...

Too late. Flaming dragon, burning villages and people on fire, and this is all in the first 8 minutes!

With the village in a right old mess and the king not too happy about it, our feisty princess decides to take it on herself to look for the mighty dragon slayer, one who has reportedly killed an ice dragon in the past. Her first stop? Dagobah.

Ok, so she doesn’t go to Yoda’s hideout planet, but she ends up in a very misty forest place where she bumps into JRD in full on Gimli the dwarf mode. He’s an acting hero, but not particularly an action legend. A bunch of people ghillie suits rock up, seemingly intent on kicking our heroine into next Tuesday. (Apparently they’re tree people) John has it covered but needs a hand, cue straight to DVD dialogue...

“Do you have a weapon?” asks Jon very seriously.

“I have a dagger” responds the Princess with true sincerity.

“A dagger? It’s not a weapon, it’s cutlery!”

You tell her Jon.

So before you know it they’re rescued from their static fight scene by some awful CGI and the timely arrival of handsome dragon slayer. The only trouble is, this isn’t the mighty dragon slayer that took down the ice dragon, this is his son. Is he up to the job? Does he even want the job? Who knows?

The princess twists his arm, takes both the slayer and JRD back to the kingdom to speak to the king when this fella turns up again...

The slayer is forced into action with some tidy shooting of his crossbow and a welcomed action scene.

The king looks on as the dragon wreaks havoc and is understandably a little upset

With the slayer now the hero of the kingdom (for now) after defeating the fire dragon (for now) it’s time for some exposition in the form of dracones, castles, kingdom protection techniques and a truly strange scene with JRD using a projector (in a fantasy flick!?) to teach the others the history of the dracones. Turns out one kingdom is getting its ass kicked because it doesn’t have a dracone on top of its castle. Right.

The young slayer decides to nick this mystical dracone whilst he sends JRD off to wake another dragon. Good idea? Apparently no man can kill a fire dragon, but, an ice dragon might be able to kill a fire dragon. At this point there really are some impressive CGI landscapes and musical score scenes going on before it’s ruined with JRD waking our formidable ice dragon. Here he comes..

The Ice Dragon has woken, and the Fire Dragon hasn’t looked up... (Avatar anyone?)

After the Ice dragon is woken it’s time for the battle to commence. The brawl in the sky is initially quite exciting, and a valiant attempt for a straight to DVD movie.

Pretty much the entire battle between the dragons looks like this. Repeated.

Unfortunately, the battle soon becomes repetitive. It lasts for approximately 15 minutes of the film, intercut with terribly acted scenes from our main actors, the worst being the truly awful rival King from the other kingdom. Having only just seen G&TD the acting in this movie really does pale in comparison it has to be said, and unfortunately the repetitive mess in the skies isn’t something that keeps interest too much either.

Our heroes try not to get caught in the middle of the epic battle, but fail. Miserably.

The main characters are getting themselves into all sorts of trouble during this dragon battle, just so they can keep cutting back to it every now and again and splice it up with lethargic character scenes. Still, the above picture is a very nice composite shot for a TV movie.

Still fighting...

The above picture is a scene involving some really nice bullet time. I thought I’d use it as a sample picture to really highlight how unique the dragon designs are in this movie. They’re more like stingrays than they are your typical dragon. They way they look, the shape, and the way their flight is portrayed is all very underwater, stingray-ish. Different, but not necessarily good!

As the battle continues I found myself thinking back on the scenes I’d witnessed before. The slayer was pretty cool and straight from Assassins Creed or Prince of Persia, but there was some needless neck breaking going on considering that the rest of this movie could so easily be targeted at the under twelves.

I’m broken from my thoughts when the dragon fight is suddenly over in the blink of an eye! And I didn’t really catch what happened. After re-winding it twice I quickly surmise the worst. It’s badly edited and completely rushed. For a battle that’s been going on for twenty odd minutes why did they rush the grand finale? One second there are two dragons, then there’s one. It really is hard to tell exactly how there’s only one dragon left. Thank Mr. Editor and Mr. Visual effects for that.

Ice Dragon looking good!

Ok, Mr. Visual effects redeems himself with a cracking dragon CGI shot on the hour mark of the movie that seems to have 100% more clarity and definition than the rest of the CGI shots of this movie combined! (I guess this was used in the trailer or something)

Actually, a quick note on that. During this 52 dragon movies challenge, I’ve refrained from watching any trailers. How do you think I could put up sitting through 45minutes of tosh just to see a shot of a dragon that i’d already seen from the trailer? Not going to happen! I’m going into all these movies blind so that hopefully I won’t want to scratch my eyes out during the less interesting and lower budget films. *like this one – cough,cough*

So to the conclusion. Slayer versus dragon. Will he match up to his dad? Will he save the kingdom? Has his OUTRAGEOUS plan of waking a second dragon worked out? What do you think!? The climax battle of slayer versus dragon is really pretty poor. You can see what the director was going for but he really is let down by a lack of budget and technical expertise to pull it off. I’m guessing the concept of the final fight all looked very promising on a drawing board (pre-vis) but not on screen unfortunately.

At one point the Princess asks, “what’s happening?” and literally none of the characters answer her. The CGI really does make it difficult for anyone to have the faintest idea.

The battle ends and the movie is quickly wrapped up with a pretty tame ending. Before the credits roll we get the customary sunset, the smiles and some smarmy royalty moments before a strangely downbeat, yet lifeless toast to a character that no-one really cared about. Oh well, movie over and some serious dragon action done and dusted!

Final Score: 4/10.

Far less enjoyable than last week’s George and the Dragon due to clumsy acting and dialogue. Unfortunately the cheese factor and poor characters means the whole movie doesn’t maintain any kind of interest for the bits when I haven’t got dragons to look at!

If you live in the UK, you can purchase the DVD of Dragon Chronicles: Fire and Ice from our preferred DVD retailer, Play.com, at the link here

All Images in this blog are copyright of Medie Pro Pictures 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Alternatively, you can enter our raffle to win all 52 DVD's used in the making of this blog. All DVD's will be second hand (as i've watched them) and mostly region 2.

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