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RUNNING TIME: 90 Minutes
• Character Designs
It’s The Sword and the Sorcerer at a healthy 8 frames per second.
Michael Rosenbaum, Kiefer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless, Michelle Trachtenberg
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Set in the D&D Dragonlance universe, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight is an animated retelling of the bestselling Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman novel. Dragonlance tells the story of Tanis, a rugged, half-elven ranger, who embarks on a quest to protect a magical staff and return faith and order to a dark and dangerous campaign setting. Along the way, he’ll join forces with a stout, bearded dwarf and a lithe, bow-slinging thief, as well as a mysterious wizard who shops at the same hat store as Gandalf. Parenthetically, the wizard’s name is “Fizban”, and when he performs magic, he hilariously bellows out the name of the spell he wants to cast, like this:
Tanis and his Fellowship of the Staff™ face off against a horde of goblins, dragons, and gargoyles, as well as a very buff antagonist who wears a veil for some reason. Kiefer Sutherland receives a paycheck.
I’m doing the screencaps a little differently this time around. I’m juxtaposing a screencap from Dragonlance with a screencap from another film. Let’s see if you can spot the differences!
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To say that the Dungeons and Dragons property hasn’t had much success in the cinematic realm is an understatement. When the best adaptation of your property includes a member of the Wayans family, it’s probably best to give up on movies and focus on something more productive.
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight doesn’t do anything to buck this trend. It’s a poorly animated, poorly voiced, poorly written, dreadfully plagiaristic cartoon that shouldn’t have been made. It’s a shame, since there are plenty of interesting stories to be told, even out of the Dragonlance setting.
What’s immediately striking about Dragonlance is its shoddy animation. It’s a mix of traditional 2D animation and CGI, which, in theory, sounds intriguing. However, the 2D animation looks worse than almost any I’ve ever seen (and that’s including Heavy Metal 2000), and the 3D animation… well, the 3D animation is a catastrophe.
An illustrative exercise: Go into your parents’ attic and find your old Apple IIe. Bring it down. Is the “Oregon Trail” floppy disk still in the drive? Oregon Trail is irrelevant to this exercise, but you can certainly play it later. What about Carmen Sandiego? Ok, we’re getting a little sidetracked now. Enough nonsense. To illustrate my point about Dragonlance, I’ll need you to try and install the modern PC game Oblivion on your Apple IIe. This will require you to somehow copy Oblivion‘s files onto hundreds of floppy disks. I’ll let you work out the details of this.
Are you finished?
Run the game.
Oblivion on your Apple IIe probably looks better than Dragonlance‘s CGI. It chugs at something like ten frames per second, and looks worse than even early ’90’s proto-CGI. It hurts to watch, and I’m shocked that anyone from Paramount decided to let such a half-baked product out the door.
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Dragonlance also contains a surprising amount of violence, which would be fine, except for the fact that the characters, writing, and overall tone of the cartoon feel like something meant for small children. There’s nothing especially redeeming or useful about the gore (which accounts for the PG-13 rating, and isn’t worth checking out even for curiosity’s sake), but it would have made more sense for Dragonlance‘s creative team to either go full-hog and make this a hard-R Heavy Metal-style cartoon, or to neuter it completely and market it to children. As it stands, it’s in a strange limbo zone, as I can’t see either adults or kids being interested in this film.
The voice acting is sub-par Saturday morning stuff. Kiefer Sutherland has a supporting role as a shady wizard character, and while it’s nice to hear his gruff voice, it’s definitely not his best work. Lucy Lawless plays the lead love interest. I dare you to care about this.
Perhaps worst of all, as evidenced by my screencap pairings (of which I could have created many more), Dragonlance borrows liberally from The Lord of the Rings films. It’s depressing to see Peter Jackson’s iconic imagery being digested and regurgitated by talentless animators. Note that I’m not faulting Dragonlance for including Orcs, dragons, and elves, as Dungeons and Dragons owes its very existence to the works of Tolkien; I’m faulting Dragonlance for literally copying images from Jackson’s film.
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Usually, I can find a single redeeming quality in even the most worthless media, but there isn’t a single character, scene, or even an interesting looking monster in Dragonlance that makes it worth watching. Avoid this at all costs.
My pull quote for Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight?
I’d rather watch someone lance M. Emmet Walsh’s scrotum abscess than lance this dragon! -Trevor La Pay, CHUD DVD Review
There are a handful of trailers, including the great first trailer for Iron Man. “I AM IRON MAN!”, indeed. It’s a bit obvious, guys, but I’m still feeling it. I’m giving Dragonlance a full point for this, as it’s the disc’s only redeeming moment.
The video transfer is decent, but it only serves to highlight how awful the animation looks. The audio is an unimpressive Dolby 2/0.
The box art matches the rest of the product pretty well, as it looks like a middle school art project.
1.0 out of 10