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Saturday, 23 April 2011

52 Dragon Movies Challenge - George and the Dragon Review

George and the Dragon marks the start of something big, the start of a challenge that I will embark on over the next 365 days. At times I’ll laugh, at times I’ll cry. It’ll be a dramatic adventure the likes of which haven’t been seen for centuries...OK maybe not. But this is my challenge, I will watch and review a dragon movie every week for the next 52 weeks and post up my feedback on my official Dragon Zoo blog! So let’s get started...

One of the biggest challenges isn’t watching 52 dragon movies, it’s finding them! So far I’ve managed to find and buy about 23 and so I need to keep my eyes open for more. To start with I’m going to watch the movies that centralise completely on dragons, but in order to reach a grand total of 52 movies I’m going to have to start to look for movies that just feature awesome dragon scenes such as Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

So, sit down, relax, and enjoy my reviews and thoughts on each and every dragon movie I can find. I’ll be writing these reviews as I watch each movie, so they’ll read like a mix between a review and a DVD commentary track. So, where better to start on our dragon challenge than a movie based on one of the most famous tales of all time? “George and the Dragon” and on St. Georges Day to boot!

The movie starts with a classic fairy tale story book opening and voice over, detailing how George has just finished fighting in the Crusades and is looking to return to England to find some land and basically just chill out. The main cast list is really quite impressive featuring a selection of one time Hollywood A-listers, Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing, Ghost), Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Daredevil), Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, The Prestige) and er...James Purefoy. (best known for Resident Evil, A Knights Tale)

The narration instantly had me thinking that this movie was going to be a full on serious affair, much like the style of Lord Of The Rings, but I was quick to learn that it was actually quite light-hearted, the initial scenes proving to be an odd mix of humour and drama.

Luckily, after some un-necessary 12th century skateboarding sequence, you soon get your first full on sight of the dragon:

The movie soon settles into its stride and the playful tone is firmly established with a slapstick-esque fight sequence, the likes of which feature frequently throughout the movie.

First up is a “I didn’t see that coming” moment featuring an un-credited Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Batman Forever) having a sword fight against Michael Clarke Duncan. Why wasn’t this sequence in the trailers and why wasn’t Val Kilmer credited? It made for a great surprise but this is usually the kind of film that needs all the box office it can get. Adding Kilmer’s name to the credits surely would have helped, anyhoo, the plot carries on and we soon learn a few pivotal things.

George doesn’t believe in dragons (he soon will) and Perabo’s princess is kidnapped. The late Patrick Swayze plays a great sleazeball prince on the hunt for the princess, whilst MCD and George are friends and MCD can kick some ass with a sword.

So with MCD and Kilmer busy having a fun blind folded sword fight it is up to Swayze to try and find Perabo’s captured princess. In the meantime George is learning that dragons might actually exist and is given a horn made from a real dragon’s claw. Great stuff. Apparently this claw can be heard by any living dragon when blown, but we’re guessing it’s just by those within the vicinity.

George goes for a pint and meets the BBC wildlife presenter Bill Oddie!? Who advises George of the captured princess, but of course, George just wants his land and isn’t interested. (He soon will be)

After meeting up with Swayze’s prince they soon have a word with the King who twists George’s arm and gets him to join up with the hunt for the princess. But where can she be?

The dragon makes another brief appearance, keeping an eye on Perabo’s captured princess.

It must be said that the fight scenes, set design and costume design in this film are pretty good. After another well choreographed fight scene, riddled with tongue-in-cheek dialogue, “Axe and you shall receive” shouts Purefoy, tossing Swayze an axe, it is soon established that it isn’t just the dragon and the princess that they need to worry about. A bunch of mercenaries lead by the bucket headed black knight from Monty Python (at least it looks like him) are also after the princess too, and they’re willing to put on some great looking sword fights and horseback riding to get her!

George continues the hunt for the princess, on his way to discovering her in a cave he has his very own Jurassic Park moment with a large piece of poo. Is it dragon poo? (yes.) But George still isn’t sure...after smelling his fingers he does know however that it is at least 10 days old , maybe even two weeks! Crikey!

After washing his hands George soon finds out that the captured princess isn’t actually captured at all, she’s guarding a dragon egg, maybe the last ever dragon egg.

So far, so not true to the classic tale of George and the Dragon. But, well, who cares? It’s actually a nice twist. So the princess is good looking and feisty and the chemistry between Perabo and Purefoy is actually quite nice.

George comes out with another zinger, “It’s a big problem, It’s a small dragon!”

Up to this point, George was wearing something akin to Robin Hood’s tunic. Fortunately though this gets ruined (in another bit of fun with a dragon egg) and a Nun with a classic red cross motif hooks him up so he at least looks like George should look like. It’s a start.

The film is really quite entertaining and has some nice twists and turns to keep you interested over the course of the 88 minute running time. Swayze puts in a great performance as the jealous prince and competition for the princess’s affections. MCD does a cracking Darth Vader impression (black helmet included) and the story of George and the Dragon is completely turned on its head whilst still maintaining the legend of ‘George the Dragon Slayer’ that any true dragon fan should at least be vaguely aware of.

Kissing opportunity very much ruined...

Considering the budget was mostly spent on assembling the cast, it is no great surprise to find that there was little left in the pot to produce some decent special effects for the few scenes that actually feature dragons. Surprisingly though, this doesn’t seem to affect the overall quality of the film. Despite the fact that it was released a good 8 years after the pioneering dragon CGI in DragonHeart, this 2004 movie of George and the Dragon can’t compete on a technical basis.

The design of the dragon is nice, but the action scenes actually involving dragons are very slim on the ground. For dragon fans this movie is definitely worth a watch, but it will be the sword fights, character driven performances and twisty turny plot that will interest you more than the dragon action.

Rare on screen dragon time!

Final Score: Overall I’ll rate this dragon movie as 6/10.

It's cheesy fun, with a good twist on the classic tale of George and the Dragon. The acting is good, and watchable and the cast assembled are great. The film, however, loses points as it is lacking on dragon action. And that's what we're after! So, considering we're not rating these movies as we would a normal movie, it has to lose points for the minimal dragon screen time.

Next week, I'll be watching Dragon Chronicles: Fire & Ice

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

All Images in this blog are copyright of the Carousel Film Company S.A., Ravenhouse Entertainment LTD. and Centurion Entertainment. 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.

If you want a chance to grab ALL 52 Dragon Movie DVDs that I've used in completing this challenge you can!

All donations to Dragon Zoo through PayPal will get automatically added to our raffle!

At the end of the year we'll pick out one email address that has donated to Dragon Zoo on PayPal and the winner gets all 52 Dragon Movies!! How cool is that?

Every donation equal to £1 (UK) or $1.50 (US) gets an entry into our raffle. All donations need to be approved by a paying adult!

All donations will be used to build a better website for Dragon Zoo and to contribute to future offers and dragon challenges!

(The winner of the raffle will be notified via email at the end of the dragon challenge, all DVDs will be sent via recorded delivery)

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