DragonHeart (1996)
May 16, 2023 3:24 PM - Subscribe

The last dragon and a disillusioned dragonslaying Knight must cooperate to stop an evil King, who was given partial immortality.

Disillusioned knight Bowen (Dennis Quaid) befriends Draco (Sean Connery), the last of the dragons, and the two begin scamming village folk as Bowen repeatedly "kills" Draco for money. Bowen soon learns that Draco is the same dragon who once saved his former student, now King Einon (David Thewlis), from death by giving him a piece of his heart. Einon is now a merciless tyrant, and Bowen is compelled to stop him -- but the bond between king and dragon means if one dies, the other does as well.

Madeleine Williams: The dragon is a marvel to behold, but somehow veers just shy of integrating fully into the picture. Perhaps it is just a bit too fluid and expressive, but even so, it is enjoyable to watch anyway...too bad Dragonheart isn't. Dennis Quaid suffers from the same problem as Draco the dragon, he never synchs with the movie. His acting is on the wooden side, and he gets no help from the flimsy script. David Thewlis is suitably annoying as the evil king, but Julie Christie is wasted as the regretful queen mother. In other roles, Dina Meyer looks good but never quite acts as the revenge minded love interest, and Pete Postlethwaite humiliates himself to no good effect as the comic relief monk. The director, Rob Cohen, handles directing the scenes with the dragon to good effect, but his battle scenes can't compete with those in the recent Braveheart, or even First Knight. Also, the production seems to have invested all its effects money into Draco, at the expense of the other effects in the film. What's with those cheesy star effects anyway? Yet, in an era with spectacular special effects at every turn, the dragon can't quite lift Dragonheart.

Elspeth Haughton: Dragonheart needs help after the first five minutes of its plodding plot, doltish characters and awful monologues. Thankfully, help arrives from the talent behind the Jurassic Park movies; Industrial Light & Magic unveils Draco the fantastic live-animated dragon. See Draco fly! See Draco swim! See Draco fight! Hear Draco speak with the voice of Sean Connery! Draco even gets some of the better lines (of which there are few). Bowen: "You ate Sir Egglemore, hypocrite!" Draco: "I merely chewed in self-defence, but never swallowed."

Bowen, almost realizing his task as dragon exterminator, meets Draco who convinces him that he’ll be out of work if he slays the last dragon. Hence, the two mismatched characters team up to hustle their way to riches (although why a dragon needs money is unfathomable.) Enter a bumbling bard (Pete Postlethwaite) and a feisty peasant (Dina Meyer) and Dragonheart’s team becomes wholly unoriginal. (Although there is the rarity of no romantic involvement between the female and male leads.)

As a medieval adventure with good actors, mediocre characters, colourless lines and cliché motivations, Dragonheart’s not bad. Swashbuckling action and simple jokes make it a pleasant movie for kids. However, it really only makes the grade thanks to Draco.

Roger Ebert: The movie's climax, involving deep metaphysical details I will not reveal, is heavy in symbolism, cosmology and poetic justice. It is also as goofy as the rest of the film, but by then I had long since forgiven “Dragonheart” its excesses. A movie like this is some kind of a test for moviegoers. While no reasonable person over the age of 12 would presumably be able to take it seriously, it nevertheless has a lighthearted joy, a cheerfulness, an insouciance, that recalls the days when movies were content to be fun. Add that to the impressive technical achievement that went into creating the dragon, and you have something to acknowledge here. It isn't great cinema, but I'm glad I saw it.

posted by Carillon (6 comments total)
I loved this as a child! I was definitely the right age as Ebert mentions, I did take it seriously. Later I heard someone refer to this as the dragon version of White Men Can't Jump, which made me laugh, though it's more in the vein of Tuco and Blondie all told. I do really wish it held up though, on revisit I didn't love it, and had a harder time reconnecting even with my earlier love of the film. It's still fun, and I'm glad I watched it, but feels more of a miss these days.
posted by Carillon at 3:26 PM on May 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I liked this movie, in part because it was a significant jump in having a fully CGI character in a film, which happened well before the better known inaugural character, Jar-Jar Binks. Like the CGI creatures in Jumanji (similar time period) it does suffer from not quite meshing, as the review above notes (something Jar Jar did overcome). Besides that, as someone who was a fan of Sean Conner and Dennis Quaid, I loved it at the time. I had it on VHS, and I can't remember now if I followed up with a dvd copy or not.

It really was a film that didn't quite reach its full potential. There was something just missing to make it fully work, or perhaps it was the mashing together of the sadness of the reality, the end of the dragons, particularly in how Draco spoke of the last one before him, and his own ending days. That, in turn, balanced or not, against the more comedic sides and well, I didn't really enjoy the scenes with the evil king. Just meh.
posted by Atreides at 5:27 PM on May 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I saw this around the time it came out, and I was a late teen. I loved it, but it wasn't until much later that I started listening to the soundtrack. This track has been used in a few ad campaigns. It's so deliciously soaring and cheesy and magical. I still love it.
posted by gladly at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I rented this movie for a slumber party - probably my 12th birthday? - on the recommendation of our usually very helpful local video rental store guy. Literally ALL of us either lost interest or fell asleep before the end. I really remember nothing about it at all.
posted by potrzebie at 9:45 PM on May 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I remember this being one of the earlier movies to make me cry or be moved emotionally. I really felt that dragon bond.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

This was the first movie to make me cry in the theater as a kid. I will probably never rewatch it because I’m sure it’s not, uh, great, but it will always have a special place in my heart.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

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