Directed by Will Meugniot
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 90 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 English
Release Date: January 15, 2008
Review Date: January 10, 2008
I have very little personal knowledge or experience with Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve never participated in the role-playing games. I’ve never read any of the hundreds of volumes that have been published, several of which have been best sellers. So I came to Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight as a complete newbie. What I learned in my first experience with this fantasy world is that there are a lot of characters, and almost all of them are sporting very unusual names. (Keeping them clear in my head was made easier by the constant repetition of their names throughout the movie.) Each has his role to fill, and the roles seem very well defined. For game playing, that’s undoubtedly wise, but for a feature film, it’s pretty restrictive. Though the main character does undergo some slight changes in personality, for the most part, the characters are as-is and pretty intractable. I can’t say my reaction to the film was revelatory, but it was a moderately pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
A band of freedom fighters in the kingdom of Krynn find that they must defend their country from the all-powerful goddess Takhisis (Nika Futterman), her warrior Verminaard (David Sobolov), and a fleet of dragons. Leading the ragtag band is hesitant half-elf hero Tanis (Michael Rosenbaum), and among his brethren are the wizard Raistlin (Kiefer Sutherland), knight Sturm (Marc Worden), wise sage Flint (Fred Tatasciore), and the juvenile and headstrong Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Jason Marsden). The group also adds two other fighters-for-right: Goldmoon (Lucy Lawless) with her blue crystal staff which can heal and her mistrustful protector-companion Riverwind (Phil LaMarr). The group goes through a series of adventures testing their loyalty, courage, and trust before facing their sworn enemies in a final confrontation.
All of the adventures the heroes face involve tests of courage obviously but more importantly tests of faith, faith in their abilities and faith in their beliefs, obviously the theme of these quests. Though the plot meanders so that the various members of the tribe can go through combat and test their mettle, it’s certainly easy enough to follow despite the backstory lore that I was completely ignorant of and the thicket of unusual names which pepper the landscape.
The animation is a curious mixture of traditional 2-D line animation and 3-D CGI, represented by the dragons. The human character animation is deeply saturated with bold colors and fairly intricate designs, but the animation itself is stiff and closer to the choppy TV animation style of low budget productions. The dragons are more impressive certainly, but they mix uneasily with their 2-D opponents in the combat segments. In a perfect world, these imaginative characters and their magical adventures deserve something more elaborate and awe-inspiring. The PG-13 rating seems a bit harsh. Yes, there are deaths and some animated blood, but it’s not by any means the gore fest it could have been given the number of deaths that occur during the film.
The film’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented here in an anamorphically enhanced transfer. Colors are strong and the line drawings are bold and solid. I noticed no banding or other artifacts sometimes associated with animation on DVD. However, focus seems hit and miss throughout the movie with the image sometimes seeming oddly misaligned. The film has been divided into 13 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack uses the front soundstage to very good effect with music and a variety of sounds very clearly separated across the front speakers. The rears are much less imaginatively used, often only getting leakage from the front channels and containing far fewer ambient sounds than an adventure of this type could have had. The LFE channel also gets slight use, though it’s effective when it is used.
There are 1½ minutes of test animation of various scenes in the movie in black and white animated line drawings of the scenes, sometimes with notes superimposed on the drawings explaining that 3-D dragon overlays will be applied. These are in nonanamorphic widescreen.
A series of initial character designs in full color are arranged in a 2½ minute montage which are also in nonanamorphic widescreen but with accompanying music.
Previews in nonanamorphic widescreen of upcoming Paramount releases include Ironman and Beowulf.
It’s not great animation, and I think you really have to be a fan of the book series to get the most out of Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight. At any rate, the price seems right for this DVD animated feature.