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Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight (DVD)

Starring: The voices of Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Rosenbaum, Lucy Lawless and Michelle Trachtenberg.

Rated: 12.

Story: The evil dragon goddess is intent upon conquering the world of Krynn and a motley band of adventurers must hunt out the necessary magical gizmos required to defeat her.

It's like The Lord of the Rings with dwarves.

Er, no, hang on... It's like The Lord of the Rings with a mysterious old wizard who falls down a deep pit.


With a very short thief? Nope. A forest full of arrogant elves? That won't do either...

I know! Dragons! It's like The Lord of the Rings with dragons...

...and, er, the worst animation this side of 1990.

Comments: I have fond memories of reading the original Dragonlance trilogy as a teenager. They're a fantasy epic involving plenty of battles, numerous imaginative locations and a set up based on Dungeons & Dragons. Discovering they'd made an animated movie of the first book promised a nostalgic return to my youth without the effort of actually having to read hundreds of pages of text.

Sadly, things didn't quite turn out that way...

Dragons of Autumn Twilight simply doesn't work as a film. Cramming the whole book into 100 minutes leads to a frantic scramble from one battle to the next. Having about a dozen main characters doesn't help either. Most of them barely get a line or two per scene and seem defined by a brief checklist of idiosyncrasies picked up from a quick flick through the novels. Flint the dwarf: Allergic to horses and gets teased about being old. Check. Tasslehoff the diminutive thief: Short and steals things. Check. Raistlin the magic user: Suspicious, sickly (cough, cough!) and stained yellow. Check. Etc.

Sutherland and Trachtenberg do a great job with voice acting but this merely emphasises how little their characters get to say. Lawless is stuck with some ropey dialogue. Rosenbaum gets a bigger role than the others (Tanis) but is unconvincing.

All this might be forgivable, or at least tolerable, if the film was a visual spectacle. Unfortunately, on a technical level, Dragonlance is an abomination. The animation is jerky and there's a blurriness to the visuals that would have made me take out the tape and shake it if I'd been watching on VHS. Meanwhile, the points where computer-generated 3D monsters turn up and interact with the (very flat looking) 2D of the rest of the film are laughably awful. It all gives the impression it was made in 1989 and then underwent a shoddy conversion from the North American NTSC TV format to PAL. That it was released in 2008 is unbelievable.

Rather than scratch the nostalgia itch, the movie just made me want to read the books again. I'd have been better off skimming through the synopses on Wikipedia...

Conclusion: If you loved the books, you'll want to watch this to the end. You'll wish you hadn't bothered starting in the first place, though.

Explosions: Quite a few but you could have something more spectacular up on YouTube in half an hour with only the aid of three matches, a webcam and a potato.
Dragons: Loads. These look slightly better than the explosions. (You'd need an entire box of matches and two potatoes.)
Redeeming features: Er... After this, they're unlikely to inflict the sequels on us.

Rating: 2/5 if you enjoyed the books, else 1/5.

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