Dragonquest – better than Eragon at a fraction of the cost
Critique: Despite enjoying most of the Asylum range of films (to some degree or another), it is important to note that I do not enjoy their “bash one out every second” approach. I do however enjoy how some filmmakers can overcome such restraints (financial or time based) and produce something that is ultimately entertaining. Being entertained is the key. You can forgive a certain cheesy value to some (or most) of their films. You can forgive acting that simply is going to win awards. As long as the film you watch is entertaining, you can forgive mostly anything. The fact is, Dragonquest is a pleasant surprise when you apply these criteria. The film begins with some good scenic shots and you are overwhelmed with how normal the sound is (believe me, this is 400 times better than Allan Quatermain). You even sit there impressed by the dragon. Sadly though, for a film named “Dragonquest” you’d think more of the mythical creature would feature but again, you forgive it due to the financial restraints. That is not to say that Dragonquest is ultimately silly. Wonder Woman (or thereabouts) looks as polished as any Hollywood starlet whilst brandishing sticks to ward off any bad guys. The only black men in the film are thugs (or thieves). Marc Singer is incapable of reading a line with any degree of conviction. Jason Connery could be better used and finally, Russell Reynolds plays a chap who resembles a Vulcan! So can a silly film be an enjoyable one? Oh yes. Look at the Fast & Furious or Crank franchise or even Death Race. Silly movies can be just as enjoyable. For most people, they will watch this film on cable television or be tempted by the trailer which they inadvertently caught on youtube. For both of these groups (who are used to much more embarrassing affairs) Dragonquest will be a good watch. For me, I enjoyed Dragonquest. It had flaws (like anything else). It had a laughable death speech and some obvious “cut and paste” visual effects of a battle scene, but ultimately it was a lot of fun. As for Mark Atkins, it seems that he is getting into the swing of his work. For the first 15 minutes of this film I was writing nothing but good things about it. It really was impressive. Naturally, this had to lull at some point when lengthy dialogue got in the way, but this film truly shows an upward progression on past projects. If anyone deserves a decent budget for a film, then this man does. (I am starting to sound like his agent). Seriously! If he can accomplish Dragonquest on this kind of budget, then imagine what he can do with something more extravagant. Naturally in every bad story there is a main villain and on this occasion Brian Thompson plays him. In truth I have never noticed Thompson in films past, but was glad to see that he fit the role well. It is perhaps fitting that Connery never took the role as the bad guy as I could not expect him to do better. Speaking of Connery, in the scene/s which he appeared he was entertaining and suitably amusing (albeit unintentionally). Strangely, despite featuring his name above the title he appeared very briefly and you feel that The Asylum is pulling a "Marlon Brando is in Superman" on us! The film begins abruptly and uncomfortably with no narration. This is a great shame. As I watched it for the second time, it felt unnatural to not have the crazy old man (played by Marc Singer) giving us some much needed exposition. In fact better than that: why not have Thompson (or Connery) do it? Both the male and female leads of the movie were adequate however I still feel that Daniel Bonjour (playing Arkadi) is a little too moisturised for a farm boy and however crazy Jennifer Dorogi looks in her “wonder-woman-wearing black” outfit, she does manage to give a convincing kick (or seven) on screen. The one character that still baffles me is that of "Grandfather". Does he not have a name? Is he "grandfather" to everyone? Perhaps he was quite promiscuous in past life. Whatever the reason, it seems silly to name a character nothing more than his title! Conclusion Of the Mark Atkins movies I have experienced (of which I’ll admit there are only a few), this is by far his best. Watching it is much like watching a “normal budget” film. The Asylum group seem to be getting pickier when choosing scripts and film crews which will only benefit them in the long run. It is clear that in this film, more attention was made to small details which can ultimately make (or break) it. The Asylum filmmakers are going over and above what is expected from them. Sadly, as they start to get more professional, fewer concessions will be made from viewers who appreciate the cheesy-feel of their movies to date. I for one though, am excited of what is to come from them. Watch Dragonquest and as long as you’re not expecting Shakespeare (or even Lord of the Rings) you’ll enjoy it. Despite Eragon (being one of its influences) having a better story I would still rather there be a sequel (or prequel) to Dragonquest. Rating: 3.5 out of 5 UPDATE: One thing that really does bother me though, is the lack of director’s commentary. A director openly speaking of his work is often very revealing and Dragonquest could have benefited from it.