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Festivale Summer 1996
Dragonheart Movie Review; Dec., 1996)
Each generation rewrites history.

And each generation remakes the legends in its own image and to its own end.
Dragonheart is a myth of the late twentieth century, set in the tenth century.

Movie Poster, Dragonheart; Festivale film reviews; dragonheart.jpg - 17013 Bytes Do you remember dragons? And great and noble knights? And tremendous tales of mighty kings with tragic flaws, with whose fate their kingdoms were inevitably entwined? When the king was good, the times were good, and when he was evil, the people and the land suffered.

Myths and legends are a deep and important part of our psyche. We need them. They help us to learn, to teach, and to pass on information. Freudians study them, literature students search for them, and they are reflected in subsequent religious tales. So making movies to tell the old tales and extol the old virtues isn't just inevitable - it's imperative.

Bowen (Quaid) is a knight of the old code. He teaches the king-to-be how to fight and how to mouth the old sayings. But he fails to teach the son of a bloodthirsty tyrant how to be a good man.

When the peasants revolt, Prince Einon and Bowen race to battlefield, Einon to fight, Bowen to hold him back. Einon races into the fray and finds his dying father. The two spend a touching last moment together as Einon tries to wrest the crown from his father's dying, but emphatically clasping fingers.

Movie still, Denis Quaid and The Dragon (voiced by Sean Connery, Festivale film review
Einon's triumph is marred by a young red-haired woman who fatally wounds him. Bowen bears the dying would-be king to his mother, who leads them to the dragon's lair. Her people had been friends to the dragons and she begs the dragon's intercession. Despite the petulance of the dying youth, and despite the fact that he was spending his last lifeblood gripping the crown to his wounded chest, the dragon gives up part of his own heart in return for an oath that the new king would rule wisely and compassionately.

"No-one is above the Code, especially the king" (Bowen)

Well of course he doesn't. We've known Einon about ten minutes and we know he's a self-centred ego maniac, but Bowen blames the dragon when Einon rules with a bloody ruthless fist.

And so Bowen's quest begins - to kill all the dragons.

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Dragonheart reunites Raphaella De Laurentiis (producer) and Rob Cohen (director), whose last dragon tale was about Bruce Lee. Ms De Laurentiis says of Dragonheart, "Sometimes you hear a story and you can't get it off your mind… I optioned it myself and waited until the time was right. When Jurassic Park came out, I knew the technology was there. I knew we could bring Draco (the Dragon) to life in a believable way."

Indeed, Draco is a computer generated character who flies, dies, and emotes thanks to a marriage of technical wizardry and the acting of Sean Connery. Quaid, Connery and Cohen prerecorded the script with Quaid and Connery delivering their own lines and Cohen playing all the other parts. Cameras trained on Connery in full face and profile recorded the actors facial movements and expressions and these were later used to animate the dragon. In addition, the 96 animators and technical directors used an enormous library of Connery's life work to refer to when creating the dragon.

Playing to a co-star who will be added in post production is a difficult task. The flying dragon's point of view was created using Vista Vision cameras mounted onto a microlight aeroplane purchased for the production. This aircraft also served as a 'stand in' for the dragon, providing the case with an eyeline.

Quaid played against the dragon by imagining a dragon inside himself. "We all have one, in one form or another." he says, "To me, this dragon is both the wild nature of ourselves and our conscience in his embodiment of the Old Code - ethical behavior and morality. At the same time, he's our unconscious, the place from which our dreams arise. I just spoke my lines to the dragon within me."

The magic and wizardry behind Draco gives the film a sense of reality that previous special effects lacked. With this film we are entering a new era in film-making. Live-action films with computer-generated assistance are now limited only by the film-makers imaginations and budget.

We now have the technology for making films of Anne McCaffrey's dragon series.

The big question is what we do about content. All the technology in the world will not make up for a poor story or bad acting. The important lesson we learn, as film-makers, from Dragonheart is the value of marrying the craft of the actor with the craft of the animator. The truth has many layers, and we need the skills of many people to tell it.

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see also Richard's review

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