Friday, March 27, 2009

Concept: Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

So not too long ago I finally sat down and watched the direct-to-DVD Dragonlance movie that has so many fans bleating and bleeding not that long ago. It really sucked.

Dragonlance is the greatest paradox of the early TSR novels, because it satisfied many definitions of kitsch while also exhibiting the traits of a complex and nuanced artistic work. It was essentially a high fantasy recasting of the fall of the Roman Empire and rise of medieval Europe transported to a high fantasy setting. When a meteor strikes a sinful city, the result is an ocean the color of blood. This is set on a tiny continent sitting squarely in the southern hemisphere and the planet is orbited by three moons which endow magical powers. The gods are represented by constellations that disappear when the gods take on material form. In these aspects and more, Dragonlance established a more off-kilter allegory and theological inquiry than its genre or audience typically demands. It has always been both more compelling than other TSR lines, and more problematic.

These issues would have made a film version challenging with any amount of money. The project could've utilized its modest budget much better in a series of short cartoons (a la Nickelodeon's old Mysterious Cities of Gold perhaps?) or even as an HBO-style series. It could have paid for this perhaps by replacing the talented knowns with talented unknowns.

Even considering this, though, the film was bad. It attempted to combine Hanna Barbara-style animation with really really crappy CGI for the dragons and the draconians a la Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. The first forty-five minutes deployed the first hundred pages of the book at a well-edited clip, only to dissolve into incoherence right when things should have been getting good. I was able to occasionally lose myself (early on) in the craft of the writing, and in Kiefer Sutherland's admittedly spot-on Raistlin Majere. But there should've have been more drinking on my part. The movie was that bad. Too many compromises were made in all the wrong places.

I realize this critique is disordered. It is not nearly as disordered, however, as the film was.

It was bad.

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