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Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight (2008 PG-13)

January 11, 2008

It did make me want to reread the books.

CAST

I had low expectations for this movie adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time. It’s not that I didn’t think cinema could do the series justice. The LOTR series showed that fantasy books can finally be visualized more than adequately in cinematic form. Unfortunately, my hopes were further diminished when I discovered it would be animated, and plummeted when I saw some production stills before tanking soundly when I learned it was a direct to video release. There was one potential ace in the hole, however, and that was a surprisingly decent cast especially given the obviously limited budget.

Kiefer Sutherland and Lucy Lawless were definitely the biggest names, but were bolstered by somewhat lesser knowns in Michael Rosenbaum, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jason Marsden, and Phil LaMarr. The rest of the cast included some stalwarts of the video game and cartoon worlds. Granted, this cast ain’t likely to Shakespeare in the park, but I ain’t likely to see Shakespeare in the park either.

Sutherland had the unenviable task of voicing my favorite character of the books, Raistlin. He failed. Not miserably, but still failure as would almost anyone in all likelihood and probably explains why he wasn’t mentioned in the trailer. Marsden was worse with Tasslehoff though, which came as a bit of a surprise as I figured Tas would be one of the easier characters to handle. Lawless, LaMarr, and Trachtenberg did as well as could be expected with Goldmoon, Riverwind, and Tika respectively, and Rosenbaum actually did pretty well with Tanis. I hated Tanis less than usual after seeing the movie. Unfortunately, that pretty much sums up the positives of the films.

Cast = 11

Soundtrack/Score

Again, the budget had to be an extraordinarily limiting factor here. I couldn’t find the numbers, but it sure couldn’t have been much at all. As it stands, certain parts of the film were surprisingly decent, but given the film was animated, the score needed to be a bit stronger to help the story move along in the early going. It was too generic in those slower parts.

Soundtrack/Score = 10

Quote/Catch Phrase

There quite simply isn’t one. This is where Tasslehoff should have been a strong player, but he merely ended up being really annoying and looked suspiciously like a transvestite. Fizban had some cliched lines about faith in oneself, but cliches can only get you so far.

Quote/Catch Phrase = 4

STORY

The story is the obvious strong point, as the books were quite good. However, the first book is by far the weakest of the trilogy. That should still have been more than enough to make a good film, but that darned budget can only be stretched so far.

The removal of some rather fun parts of Xak Tsaroth were more than a tad disappointing. Bupu was barely an afterthought, the rest of the gully dwarves were completely removed. This was some of the funnier stuff in the books, and could have benefited the film greatly. Riverwind missed out on his acid bath, which I rather enjoyed in the book (Die, Riverwind, die!), and further meandering in Pax Tharkas was also cut out. I guess Tanis didn’t need that magical sword of dragon slaying after all. Who would in a world where dragons are tearing everyone a new butt crack?

Story = 14

Rewatchability

Virtually nil. All right, I am being extremely harsh. At least the film serves as an indicator of the proper pronunciation of names and places, and considering what they had to work with, they put out a decent product if you can snag it in the bargain bin. The animation from the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was vastly superior. Let me repeat, “VASTLY SUPERIOR.” At least they stayed in one medium. Inexplicably, this movie tried to make the dragons and draconians in CG. The result was a double whammy of utter crap. The CG didn’t look that good in the first place, and it made everything look worse when thrown together with the rest of the normal animation. It was like watching the BBC version of The Chronicles of Narnia except we were mercifully spared the horror of seeing and hearing Lucy.

Oddly, the tone of the film itself is also chaotic. They seem to have wanted to market it to kids, but have no problem shaking cleavage every which way. Marketing it towards little children doesn’t make any sense anyway as they were doomed to a PG-13 rating simply because the main character is the bastard offspring of a rape victim. Good luck floating that by in a PG or G film. Had they marketed it towards teenagers and young adults, you know, the age group that reads the book movie is based on, the film would have worked much better.

Having said all of that, I’m really not opposed to watching it again if for no other reason than to laugh at the ginormous Kender and Elves, the dragons in human form that still have wings, and to see the previews of the famously grey-haired Kitiaria. Whoops. I guess that budget got to them again, and they ran out of black ink for her hair.

Ideally, this should have been a limited run series on the Cartoon Network with all of the books in the trilogy represented and with better animation and more traditional voice actors if necessary. Somehow, I think even Uwe Boll would have done a better job with this. At least then they might have scored a budget.

Rewatchability = 8

Total Score = 47

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Webby permalink
    January 11, 2008 1:36 pm

    Oh, that makes me sad. I haven’t watched the video yet but from your description I may not want to do so.

  2. January 11, 2008 5:19 pm

    So…..why are all the bad guys CG? That looked dumb, from the trailer. I thought that trailers were supposed to make a movie look good.

    I do like the Dragonlance books. I thought they were awesome. I only read them once, though. Brent was afraid that I’d bend the bindings if I read it again. So, they’re safe (and unread) on his shelf. Well, techinally, in storage. But they belong on his shelf. So is this movie on the web yet?

  3. January 11, 2008 6:53 pm

    Well, I don’t think the movie is technically released until the 16th or so, but there are some versions of it online. I don’t think there are any streaming versions of it.

    As low as I rated it, I still think it’s worth a watch for fans of the books. If for no other reason than to realize again how good the books are, hehe.

  4. Kryten permalink
    January 12, 2008 6:54 am

    wow…uh….wow. the animation itself was kinda substandard. i think not the drawings themselves so much as the way everything moved was really bad. the one clip of raistlin talking sounded ok. the bad guys…wow dragonheart 2 had better cg. thats sad. why would you ever…EVER release that pile of steamy dog turd?

  5. January 12, 2008 7:29 am

    That’s a good question. As a I said, it does give you the chance to hear the names pronounced properly and by the end I was so used to see poop that I could barely smell it anymore.

    Yeah, the movements and the editing are rather choppy throughout. It’s a rather sad state of affairs. I feel sorry for Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis who finally got to see their books made into movies, and then were handed this cheap knockoff.

    I still think the best course they could have gone since they obviously couldn’t secure a sufficient budget, would to have been on the Cartoon Network ala Clone Wars. Then they could have concentrated more on production, and just used standard voice actors for cartoons. They also wouldn’t have to be as pissy with the storyline, because they could devote 8 half-hour episodes to book 1, and still end up with way more time for the story; even with commercials.

  6. January 12, 2008 7:33 am

    Oh yeah, Bethany, I have some .pdf ebook versions of the books if you’re interested. The first two are definitely quite readable, but the third has some formatting issues that makes it slightly more tedious, i.e., no lines separating paragraphs.

    You could slap them on your laptop, zoom in, and read away. Some people don’t like reading books like that, but I’ve read several that way. Not was easy as a standard book, but definitely doable.

  7. January 12, 2008 6:46 pm

    What a shame. The best…well, almost… fantasy books, ever, and they end up like this. I like the Cartoon Network idea. Why don[t you, Dale, Adrienne, and Josh get on doing these for Cartoon Network. Certainly couldn’t be any worse than what’s already been done. I’m sure theres some super expert professor at SIUE that could do it so much better. Oh, wait, they wouldn’t do that, because it isn’t ‘real art’.

  8. January 12, 2008 10:18 pm

    Yeah, I personally like the Weis/Hickman books more than any other fantasy authors I’ve read. There may be authors more sound technically, but ultimately that doesn’t mean as much.

    Which brings me to the next point, (which I think both you and Joshua have hit on) the poor drawing isn’t really the issue. Look at those old LOTR cartoons. Most people would consider that animation style weak. Or look at the Clone War cartoons. I personally think that style looks like crap. However, in both cases, the animation itself remains smooth. Like Joshua said, that isn’t the case with this poop.

    Those two projects also had good pacing, excellent music, and overall strong production. That also can’t be said of this. It’s a shame.

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  1. Wheel of Time set for the big-screen? « Lister’s Lame Letters

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