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Thursday, 9 June 2011

52 Dragon Movie Challenge – Age Of The Dragons Review

After last week’s impressive straight to DVD movie that was surprisingly ram packed full of dragon action, we’ve got probably the newest dragon movie available at the moment. This movie opened for 3 weeks in March on the cinema in the UK before being released on DVD in the final week of March. Technically this means that it isn’t straight to DVD, but of course, we all know it really is!

I first revealed this movie’s existence on my website Dragon Zoo (http://www.dragon-zoo.com/dragonzoo_news_new_dragon_movie_age_of_the_dragons.html) when I was very excited about the prospect of dragons at the cinema - in a live action film - for the first time in years! It didn’t quite turn out like that as I never had chance to see it at the cinema, so now it’s today that I get to see if this movie lives up to the early promise and the fun concept.

I’ll start by covering the debatably cool concept; the story is based on Moby Dick and the hunt for a giant white dragon. The character names are the same, the story is very similar, all they’ve done is taken a proven classic and exchange a giant whale with a giant dragon. Does this make a classic dragon movie? Only time (91 minutes) will tell... The cast is pretty decent, they’ve got Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon series, Predator 2, 2012) and Vinnie Jones ,(Swordfish, Gone in 60 seconds, X-Men: The Last Stand) neither of which have set Hollywood alight with their acting talents, but at least they’re familiar faces. They’re joined by the obligatory fan boy eye candy in the form of newcomer Sofia Pernas.

Glover stars as the notorious Captain Ahab, scarred for life from a savage attack from the white dragon and out to seek vengeance for his deceased family. He’s joined by his faithful crew, Jones plays Stubb and Pernas plays Rachel. With the background info out of the way I think I’ll press play. Here goes...

After one minute of nice score and introduction I thought for once I wasn’t going to watch a dragon movie with a voiceover...but then...

“I’d heard of him of course, as all hunters have, it was in the time when men still feared dragons...”

Ahab misses the early warning. That shadow is no cloud.

Only three minutes into the film and we get our first look at the dragon, in daylight, and he looks pretty big and pretty mean. Young Ahab looks set to have a very good reason to seek revenge...

This dragon looks pretty mean. Big White scales and wings, sharp rows of teeth, and those bright red albino eyes...

Where other men or women would have probably legged it, Ahab shows that he was pretty fearless even when he was young. Even if he only has a pocket knife and he’s swinging it around with his eyes closed!

It looks like I’m picking out some pretty cool dragon movies! I’ve only watched 4 and a half minutes and I’m seeing a dragon in broad daylight breathing fire and looking pretty darn scary!

The voiceover concludes following this pretty cool early dragon attack,

“some say Ahab lost his mind...and his soul that day...”

By this intro alone it looks like I might have another great dragon movie on my hands! The special effects look great, I know that the story is great, I just hope that they can live up to the potential for the rest of the movie.

After this initial dragon attack I get the feeling there’s going to be a lot of exposition before our next dragon scene. But hopefully it can improve upon the practically absent dragon of DragonHunter! We’re introduced to Ishmael (Corey Sevier, TV actor in the likes of Smallville and CSI:Miami) he turns out to be the voiceover guy and we learn he wants to be a member of Ahab’s team to hunt the dragon.

“We’ve heard that this is the place to sign on and hunt dragons” he says over a frothy looking beer. Vinnie Jones smokes a pipe and looks on. (At least they’re not wasting time assembling the cast)

After a fun game of darts using harpoons, Ishmael manages to prove himself by sticking a harpoon right between a dragon’s eyes. Vinnie Jones is beaten but thankfully impressed. Unfortunately the target is only a painting but the contest was fun. Ahab’s daughter, Rachel (Pernas) not only looks the part, we also learn she’s pretty nifty at kicking some ass. She has a fist fight outside of the tavern with a bunch of drunkards that she makes short work of before getting Ishmael to sign the book and become an official member of Ahab’s latest dragon hunting crew.

Another wise old man shows up with a warning, “Only one man will live to tell Ahab’s tale, one...man...only...” spooky stuff, and something to keep us guessing if the old man turns out to be correct. (They usually are).

The tricky thing this film has is justifying and converting the ship, the Pequod, into a rolling steel tank on wheels. It’s a valiant effort, but on first sighting the vessel seems nothing more than a caravan. However, it does have a one heck of a crossbow with rope made out of dragon entrails!? (Apparently it’s much stronger than rope and doesn’t rot)

The dragon hunt begins and the voiceover gives us a nice little intro to each character, but nothing we haven’t really learnt already. The cook, the captain’s daughter, the harpooners and the mysterious Captain Ahab. Ahab, still suffering from his burns, can’t leave the vessel in daylight. So we learn that he keeps himself to himself, poring over his dragon notes and his maps, issuing instructions on where his daughter should take the vessel.

By learning about journey and the crew through Ishmael’s eyes and voiceover, we get a pretty engrossing story. Danny Glover’s first full appearing makes him look like a Star Wars character of sorts again, but not a deliberate reference (for a change). He makes quite an impression with some effective looking makeup and wispy, damaged voice. He gives the crew some extra incentive in the form of triple profits for the first member to spot the white dragon.

The locations are pretty spectacular, from barren landscapes to snowy tundra. Probably to save on budget, this movie has few sets. But being a road trip on the Pequod rolling tank, there’s not much need I guess. We’re 30 minutes in and our crew find their first dragon!

The dragon gets harpooned

and then gets angry

Ishmael’s hesitancy costs a surprise life to be lost but the dragon is defeated in a great action scene. Any action in a movie that’s heavy on dragon and harpoons has to be good!

As I’m watching the movie I realise that I recognise one of the crew, the man that’s unfortunately called Starbuck is from our other dragon movie, DragonHunter. Luckily he seems to be on better form in this movie than he did playing the phoney old wizard in DragonHunter.

After Ishmael reflects on his indecisiveness, Captain Ahab points to more of his maps. He knows that they must head for the mountains where the great white dragon will be nesting. Judging from the quality of the effects and the dragon action so far, this could have a nice finale up its sleeve. The building and inevitable relationship between Ishmael and Rachel causes some tension between the crew. It’s always nice to have more than just the threat of dragons to consider. The crew member Flask seemingly wants to cut Ishmael when he’s not looking, just what he wants when he’s sharing a fortified caravan with the man!

There’s more relationship building as Rachel and Ishmael break away from the Pequod to hunt for glacial dragon tracks in the woods. Whilst I’m hoping for dragon action, the character Ishmael looks like he’s hoping for Rachel action. Turns out that he’s got a way with the words and he starts sprouting some poetry which is nice. But not as nice as a glacial dragon attack would be!

After finding evidence of the white dragon in the form of a claw in the defeated dragons remains, Ahab gets the Pequod under way again on its journey towards the mountains.

The film picks up the pace again with a great suspenseful, tension filled scene. Our three harpooners go into the dragon’s lair, filled with the snores and shifting shapes of countless dragons. Their instructions from Ahab...to kill them all.

Is that dragon sleeping?

The white dragon gets out of there by moonlight. Good job I’m not wearing 3D glasses!

The dragon vitriol is what these hunters are supposed to extract from dragons once they’ve killed them. It is this vitriol which the hunters seek to make money. After hitting the dragon nest the tensions run high as hunters want to collect the vitriol from their massive kill on the lair. But Ahab, after spotting the white dragon, only has one thing in mind...

The film then takes us through a series of well choreographed fight scenes. Thieves attacking the vessel for the vitriol, and a member of the crew trying to rape Rachel. All of these fights are interesting enough but are soon over and just seem a little bit like filler before the final battle. Ishmael saves Rachel and banishes the dirtbag crew member from the vessel. Hopefully we can move on to some more dragon scenes!

Thankfully we get a well deserved dragon related death for the would be rapist and Ishmael promising some exciting scenes with his voiceover:

“And so we followed Ahab, on towards the white dragon’s lair, on towards caves of death”

Ishmael and Rachel enter the dragon’s lair

There’s a really good story in this film and I won’t spoil it in this review of mine. But the good news is, it involves more dragon action!

Danny Glover as Captain Ahab in the dragon’s lair

Enter the dragon

I like how lean and mean the dragon looks, the special effects are great too.

The final fight scene is unfortunately a little anti-climactic following the great initial dragon battle on the Pequod. The effects are great throughout, the dragons look immense, but as the film draws to a close it does feel like a missed opportunity, like it simply should have been better.

Our good looking heroes look on, but does the mighty dragon survive or not?

Final Score: 6/10.

The story was interesting and the characters were good. Glover was a little over the top as Ahab but for such a big name character he had to make him memorable. The dragon scenes are why I’m watching these movies and fortunately, they’re worth the cost of the DVD and worth investing 90 minutes of your time for. When the dragons are on screen they look great. Well worth checking out, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to its potential for me.

Next week it's Dungeons & Dragons!

If you live in the UK, you can purchase the DVD of Age Of The Dragons from our preferred DVD retailer, Play.com, at the link here

All Images featured in this blog post are Copyright of Dragon Quest Productions LLC. 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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