I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, I saw the cheesy Saturday morning cartoon only once or twice as a kid and I’ve never read “Dragonlance.” Needless to say, I’m not fully versed in this world of wizards and dragons, but I usually don’t mind a go with the genre. However the animated Dargonlance: Dragons of the Autumn Twilight is a boring and tedious journey into a nerd-dom that I knew existed but tried to give the benefit of the doubt. Dragonlance is a poorly animated tale that offers little new to the genre or the Dungeons and Dragons franchise in which it is based.
Based on a best-seller, Dragonlance spins a yarn where good and evil are fighting it out (surprise, surprise). A group of warriors look to save the world of Krynn from the dark goddess Takhisis and her minions with the help of a magic staff with amazing healing powers. Story wise, it would be an understatement to say Dragonlance is influenced by The Lord of the Rings. You’ve got your band of idealists of all shapes, sizes and amounts of facial hair. They’re united in a quest involving a fashion accessory and saving the world from hideous monsters.
Dragonlance‘s plot is bogged down by a glossed over history told in the form of voice-over narration and a couple of choice bits of action. It’s unfortunate that there is so much borrowed here because some of the core issues that differentiate Dragonlance from Tolkien are intriguing. But these issues are dealt with in a wholly predictable and static fashion. Although the voice cast includes several well-known names such as Kiefer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless and Michael Rosenbaum, they don’t add much to the excitement.
The animation blends the look of the hokey Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon from the 80s for the humans (and elves and the like) and cheap CG for the dragons. The result is an awkward blend where the sides might stand out but they look horrible in the process. The classical animation is often jerky and without a lot of detail. The 3D animation comes across as primitive when held next to many of its modern peers. Neither is great and one works against the other.
Maybe it’s because I never found myself sitting around a smoky card table in the basement eating pizza, playing as a wizard and a warrior until the sun started coming up, but a lot of the appeal of Dragonlance seems to have flown over me. It feels so much like it’s geared towards the stereotypical Dungeon-masters that it is much likely to appeal to nobody. This can’t get any clearer than in an introductory scene in which the voluptuous Tika (voiced by Michelle Trachtenberg) is shown serving beers to the typical ragtag lot that frequents the inn. The focus isn’t on her personality but rather her curves. Even then, these curves don’t help define her like they did the femme fatale of Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. The curves are Tika. There’s nothing else to her character. But let’s reflect here for the briefest of moments – she’s a cartoon character. Infusing fanboy lust into her is about as greasy as it gets.
It looks as though Dragonlance was aimed at a very small segment of the population. While I’m all for niche films, they should still be accessible to anyone willing to give it a fair shot. Dragonlance fails to do so, offering poor animated fantasy that I doubt will appeal to much anyone, including all would-be Dungeon-masters.
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight DVD Review
Like the film itself, the DVD for Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight takes a fairly easy road without offering much. The widescreen picture not only looks like an 80s cartoon but it plays like one to. There were a couple of instances where the colours blipped without reason, often resulting in a momentary loss of brightness. The 5.1 Surround audio track was solid enough but there wasn’t a lot of wow factor to be had. There’s also a 2.0 Surround track and English subtitles.
The only bonus features are a couple minutes worth of test animation and some initial character designs. There’s also trailers for Iron Man, Stardust, Transformers, Casshern and Beowolf.
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Gallery