Saturday, March 22, 2008

Movie Review: DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

This isn't easy for me.

I don't discuss it much, but the first AD&D campaign I ever played in was Dragonlance. I was Calinar Shadowblade, an elven wizard. Why, exactly, a wizard's last name contained the word "blade" is a discussion for another time. Perhaps it is better left unanswered.

I would have been about twelve at the time. Maybe I was eleven, or perhaps thirteen: the records are unclear, but such details are trivial, anyway.

I was young. I was inexperienced, both in life and experience points. It was a time of discovery and adventure, of watching dice roll, and marking character sheets. It was wonderful.

It has been said here before, as it will be said again: the icosahedron turns both ways. For every nineteen, there must be a two; for every twenty, a one.

I've put this off for far too long. I tried to avoid this discussion. I thought that perhaps if I ignored the subject long enough, the film would fade away, like a summoned monster once the spell's duration has passed. But the dvd will not vanish, will not fade. It wears the image of my childhood game, like a mimic falsely passing as a treasure chest. But inside that case, dear reader, be forwarded: there is no treasure, only poison in the guise of a silver disk.

First a few words about Dragonlance. This is not fine literature, like Lord of the Rings, nor is it something fundamentally new or original. The books have no great meaning or purpose, but they represent something, nonetheless. They represent an era in fantasy. They represent a generation of geeks' childhoods.

And Dragonlance deserves better than the movie that was made.

This movie is not merely bad: it is abysmal. It is horrid beyond words, beyond description.

The animation defies reason. Do you remember the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 1980's? Well, this is far, far worse. That it not hyperbole: it is fact. The 2D animation looks as though it was thrown together in the 1970's, the 3D animation looks as though it was processed on an N64. There is no real effort made to blend these two styles. I am without sarcasm when I suggest that this movie was never even finished.

What remains of the story is so jumbled, so disjointed, that you will praise the animation for distracting you. If you have never read Dragonlance, the movie will seem incoherent. But then, if you haven't read Dragonlance, you will not know what you're missing. In this, I envy you.

The tragedy is this: the voice actors were well cast. Many of these actors are hard to get and no doubt were well compensated for their time. Perhaps the producers ran out of money before the picture needed to be drawn.

It says something when one of the authors who wrote the book this was based on, who is credited as a creative consultant, and has a personal and financial stake in the film's success, provides the movie with a mixed review. He tries to play up the positive, insinuating that it is in the fan's best interest to do the same. He gives it four stars, and, given his involvement, we cannot fault that.

Nor can we, in good conscience, be so generous. It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that this is a one star picture. "On what scale?" you ask, and rightly so, following my lengthy diatribe on the topic.

But in response I can only shake my head and let the full gravity of the situation settle in. It matters not what scale we consider: there exists in this universe no movie we can reasonably call a five star picture, such that we could compare it to Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight and give the latter more.

This is a true one star picture, a total waste of film and time.

Mishakal, damn them. The books deserved better. I deserved better. And, most importantly, Calinar Shadowblade deserved better.

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