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DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Score: 50%
Rating: PG-13
Publisher: Paramount
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 90 Mins.
Genre: Animated/Fantasy/Adventure
Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1
           Surroudn/English 2.0 Surround

Subtitles: English


  • Widescreen Format

Oh, gee. I really wanted this to be better than it was. The story isn't bad; this stands to reason, though, as the story is pretty much taken directly from the DragonLance novels. The movie seems to make good use of familiar D&D game mechanics, as I recognized several spells, classes and races from my experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, both from pencil and paper versions of the game and video games, as well. I had heard of the DragonLance campaign setting before, but was not really familiar with it. DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight does a good job of bringing the audience up to speed, however, with a short explanation of what a DragonLance is, where it comes from and why they're needed. This quick background is presented nicely, and is woven into the telling of the story.

DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight tells of a land whose people have forsaken the old ways of religion and magic, and consequently, the gods have forsaken them. An evil god reawakens who aims to take over the land and it is up to a band of adventurers to save the day.

DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight features some very recognizable voices: Kiefer Sutherland voices Raistlin Majere, Lucy Lawless voices Goldmoon, Michael Rosenbaum voices Tanthalas 'Tanis' Half-Elven and Michelle Trachtenberg voices Tika. Neil Ross voices Fizban The Fabulous, a quirky character whose part in the story is much larger than is originally portrayed. If you're not familiar with Neil Ross, you should check out his page on IMDB; he's got a list of voice credits that just keeps going on and on.

The area where DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight simply fell short was in implementation. The look of the visuals is very much reminiscent of cartoons from the early 1980s, with fairly simplistic, cel-shaded characters and settings. For the most part. Then, some of the enemies, most notably the Draconians, are rendered 3D models that appear to be sort of "stuck into" the existing animation. Special effects are also in 3D, using pretty decent looking effect, usually, but in at least one part, a flame effect looked pixelated, evidently having been zoomed in, rather than using a larger fire animation. I think I could have been much happier with Dragons of Autumn Twilight had it been completely 2D or 3D, rather than some strange hybrid of the two. The special effects, themselves, are somewhat cool in some parts, and just fake looking in others. In one scene, the party is in an area that is supposed to be really cold. The particle effect of steamy breath when the characters breathe looked pretty cool in this scene, making it seem more realistic. To contrast, there is a scene where we pan across a town that has been razed to the ground and bodies and rubble (2D) are engulfed in flames (3D). This effect comes off as ridiculously fake, I think primarily due to the fact that the arm that is sticking up in the foreground is consumed by flame, but, otherwise, looks fine; I would expect the arm to have at least some burn marks on it. One might think that this was done this way to reduce the amount of gore depicted in the film, and they may be right, but the depiction of violence varied greatly in this movie. In some early scenes, there is no blood when you would expect to see blood, but in later fight scenes, there is blood, leaving me scratching my head as to the seemingly random decision as to when to depict blood and when not to. Much like the strange mixing of 2D and 3D graphics, this strange handling of depicting violence makes it seem like there were either multiple art directors (who took shifts) or none at all.

While I had several gripes about the quality of this movie, the two people, whom I watched Dragons of Autumn Twilight with, were severely less impressed with it than I was. One of them kept falling asleep during the movie and then, later stopped the film and rewound it a bit to show a fairly sad flub in the film, where a character's weapon cut through him as he drew it. Mind you, this person is someone I've recently begun playing D&D with, so we had reason to be interested in the movie. It seems that computer assisted method of 2D hand animation that was used managed to combine the lower consistency and detail of hand animated films with the clipping errors that can be experienced with 3D animation. It also seems that the quality control process was lacking. If someone actually saw this frame of animation and decided it looked fine, shame on them. I really think that someone could go through with a little bit of Photoshop skills and some time on their hands and they could greatly improve the production after the final production. If I dropped all of the frames from this DVD onto a computer and cleaned each one up and applied a cel-shading filter to the CG elements, I think the movie would be much more palatable. This is something that should have been done before it was pressed and sold, however.

I really wish that DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight had been easier to watch. As it is, I can't recommend it very highly to anyone. Quite frankly, I can't really determine what the target audience is supposed to be. On one hand, the low amount of detail and the visual errors might be overlooked by younger viewers, but the rating is PG-13, which is attributed to "Fantasy Action Violence." In addition, there are some risque moments, when the focus is on 2D animated breasts. They're kind of hard to miss, when they're the center of the camera, filling the screen and they're the only thing moving on screen. So, this is not really a movie for younger children and everyone else is likely to have major issues with the visual presentation. I would look forward to further movies in a DragonLance series that continued the story, but the visuals need to be greatly improved.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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