Thursday, 9 June 2011

52 Dragon Movie Challenge – Age Of The Dragons Review

After last week’s impressive straight to DVD movie that was surprisingly ram packed full of dragon action, we’ve got probably the newest dragon movie available at the moment. This movie opened for 3 weeks in March on the cinema in the UK before being released on DVD in the final week of March. Technically this means that it isn’t straight to DVD, but of course, we all know it really is!

I first revealed this movie’s existence on my website Dragon Zoo (http://www.dragon-zoo.com/dragonzoo_news_new_dragon_movie_age_of_the_dragons.html) when I was very excited about the prospect of dragons at the cinema - in a live action film - for the first time in years! It didn’t quite turn out like that as I never had chance to see it at the cinema, so now it’s today that I get to see if this movie lives up to the early promise and the fun concept.

I’ll start by covering the debatably cool concept; the story is based on Moby Dick and the hunt for a giant white dragon. The character names are the same, the story is very similar, all they’ve done is taken a proven classic and exchange a giant whale with a giant dragon. Does this make a classic dragon movie? Only time (91 minutes) will tell... The cast is pretty decent, they’ve got Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon series, Predator 2, 2012) and Vinnie Jones ,(Swordfish, Gone in 60 seconds, X-Men: The Last Stand) neither of which have set Hollywood alight with their acting talents, but at least they’re familiar faces. They’re joined by the obligatory fan boy eye candy in the form of newcomer Sofia Pernas.

Glover stars as the notorious Captain Ahab, scarred for life from a savage attack from the white dragon and out to seek vengeance for his deceased family. He’s joined by his faithful crew, Jones plays Stubb and Pernas plays Rachel. With the background info out of the way I think I’ll press play. Here goes...

After one minute of nice score and introduction I thought for once I wasn’t going to watch a dragon movie with a voiceover...but then...

“I’d heard of him of course, as all hunters have, it was in the time when men still feared dragons...”

Ahab misses the early warning. That shadow is no cloud.




Only three minutes into the film and we get our first look at the dragon, in daylight, and he looks pretty big and pretty mean. Young Ahab looks set to have a very good reason to seek revenge...




This dragon looks pretty mean. Big White scales and wings, sharp rows of teeth, and those bright red albino eyes...

Where other men or women would have probably legged it, Ahab shows that he was pretty fearless even when he was young. Even if he only has a pocket knife and he’s swinging it around with his eyes closed!



It looks like I’m picking out some pretty cool dragon movies! I’ve only watched 4 and a half minutes and I’m seeing a dragon in broad daylight breathing fire and looking pretty darn scary!



The voiceover concludes following this pretty cool early dragon attack,

“some say Ahab lost his mind...and his soul that day...”

By this intro alone it looks like I might have another great dragon movie on my hands! The special effects look great, I know that the story is great, I just hope that they can live up to the potential for the rest of the movie.

After this initial dragon attack I get the feeling there’s going to be a lot of exposition before our next dragon scene. But hopefully it can improve upon the practically absent dragon of DragonHunter! We’re introduced to Ishmael (Corey Sevier, TV actor in the likes of Smallville and CSI:Miami) he turns out to be the voiceover guy and we learn he wants to be a member of Ahab’s team to hunt the dragon.

“We’ve heard that this is the place to sign on and hunt dragons” he says over a frothy looking beer. Vinnie Jones smokes a pipe and looks on. (At least they’re not wasting time assembling the cast)

After a fun game of darts using harpoons, Ishmael manages to prove himself by sticking a harpoon right between a dragon’s eyes. Vinnie Jones is beaten but thankfully impressed. Unfortunately the target is only a painting but the contest was fun. Ahab’s daughter, Rachel (Pernas) not only looks the part, we also learn she’s pretty nifty at kicking some ass. She has a fist fight outside of the tavern with a bunch of drunkards that she makes short work of before getting Ishmael to sign the book and become an official member of Ahab’s latest dragon hunting crew.

Another wise old man shows up with a warning, “Only one man will live to tell Ahab’s tale, one...man...only...” spooky stuff, and something to keep us guessing if the old man turns out to be correct. (They usually are).

The tricky thing this film has is justifying and converting the ship, the Pequod, into a rolling steel tank on wheels. It’s a valiant effort, but on first sighting the vessel seems nothing more than a caravan. However, it does have a one heck of a crossbow with rope made out of dragon entrails!? (Apparently it’s much stronger than rope and doesn’t rot)

The dragon hunt begins and the voiceover gives us a nice little intro to each character, but nothing we haven’t really learnt already. The cook, the captain’s daughter, the harpooners and the mysterious Captain Ahab. Ahab, still suffering from his burns, can’t leave the vessel in daylight. So we learn that he keeps himself to himself, poring over his dragon notes and his maps, issuing instructions on where his daughter should take the vessel.

By learning about journey and the crew through Ishmael’s eyes and voiceover, we get a pretty engrossing story. Danny Glover’s first full appearing makes him look like a Star Wars character of sorts again, but not a deliberate reference (for a change). He makes quite an impression with some effective looking makeup and wispy, damaged voice. He gives the crew some extra incentive in the form of triple profits for the first member to spot the white dragon.

The locations are pretty spectacular, from barren landscapes to snowy tundra. Probably to save on budget, this movie has few sets. But being a road trip on the Pequod rolling tank, there’s not much need I guess. We’re 30 minutes in and our crew find their first dragon!



The dragon gets harpooned




and then gets angry




Ishmael’s hesitancy costs a surprise life to be lost but the dragon is defeated in a great action scene. Any action in a movie that’s heavy on dragon and harpoons has to be good!



As I’m watching the movie I realise that I recognise one of the crew, the man that’s unfortunately called Starbuck is from our other dragon movie, DragonHunter. Luckily he seems to be on better form in this movie than he did playing the phoney old wizard in DragonHunter.

After Ishmael reflects on his indecisiveness, Captain Ahab points to more of his maps. He knows that they must head for the mountains where the great white dragon will be nesting. Judging from the quality of the effects and the dragon action so far, this could have a nice finale up its sleeve. The building and inevitable relationship between Ishmael and Rachel causes some tension between the crew. It’s always nice to have more than just the threat of dragons to consider. The crew member Flask seemingly wants to cut Ishmael when he’s not looking, just what he wants when he’s sharing a fortified caravan with the man!

There’s more relationship building as Rachel and Ishmael break away from the Pequod to hunt for glacial dragon tracks in the woods. Whilst I’m hoping for dragon action, the character Ishmael looks like he’s hoping for Rachel action. Turns out that he’s got a way with the words and he starts sprouting some poetry which is nice. But not as nice as a glacial dragon attack would be!

After finding evidence of the white dragon in the form of a claw in the defeated dragons remains, Ahab gets the Pequod under way again on its journey towards the mountains.



The film picks up the pace again with a great suspenseful, tension filled scene. Our three harpooners go into the dragon’s lair, filled with the snores and shifting shapes of countless dragons. Their instructions from Ahab...to kill them all.

Is that dragon sleeping?




The white dragon gets out of there by moonlight. Good job I’m not wearing 3D glasses!




The dragon vitriol is what these hunters are supposed to extract from dragons once they’ve killed them. It is this vitriol which the hunters seek to make money. After hitting the dragon nest the tensions run high as hunters want to collect the vitriol from their massive kill on the lair. But Ahab, after spotting the white dragon, only has one thing in mind...

The film then takes us through a series of well choreographed fight scenes. Thieves attacking the vessel for the vitriol, and a member of the crew trying to rape Rachel. All of these fights are interesting enough but are soon over and just seem a little bit like filler before the final battle. Ishmael saves Rachel and banishes the dirtbag crew member from the vessel. Hopefully we can move on to some more dragon scenes!

Thankfully we get a well deserved dragon related death for the would be rapist and Ishmael promising some exciting scenes with his voiceover:

“And so we followed Ahab, on towards the white dragon’s lair, on towards caves of death”

Ishmael and Rachel enter the dragon’s lair




There’s a really good story in this film and I won’t spoil it in this review of mine. But the good news is, it involves more dragon action!






Danny Glover as Captain Ahab in the dragon’s lair




Enter the dragon




I like how lean and mean the dragon looks, the special effects are great too.




The final fight scene is unfortunately a little anti-climactic following the great initial dragon battle on the Pequod. The effects are great throughout, the dragons look immense, but as the film draws to a close it does feel like a missed opportunity, like it simply should have been better.

Our good looking heroes look on, but does the mighty dragon survive or not?




Final Score: 6/10.

The story was interesting and the characters were good. Glover was a little over the top as Ahab but for such a big name character he had to make him memorable. The dragon scenes are why I’m watching these movies and fortunately, they’re worth the cost of the DVD and worth investing 90 minutes of your time for. When the dragons are on screen they look great. Well worth checking out, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to its potential for me.

Next week it's Dungeons & Dragons!

If you live in the UK, you can purchase the DVD of Age Of The Dragons from our preferred DVD retailer, Play.com, at the link here

All Images featured in this blog post are Copyright of Dragon Quest Productions LLC. 2011. All Rights Reserved.

WIN THE BIGGEST COLLECTION OF DRAGON DVD MOVIES ON THE PLANET! THAT'S ALL 52 DRAGON MOVIE DVD's USED IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG! Here's how... All DVD's will be second hand (as i've watched them) and mostly region 2.

All £1 donations to Dragon Zoo through PayPal will get automatically added to our raffle!

At the end of the year we'll pick out one email address that has donated to Dragon Zoo on PayPal and the winner gets all 52 Dragon Movies!! How cool is that?









Every donation equal to £1 (UK) or $1.50 (US) gets an entry into our raffle. All donations need to be approved by a paying adult!
All donations will be used to build a better website for Dragon Zoo and to contribute to future offers and dragon challenges!

(The winner of the raffle will be notified via email at the end of the dragon challenge, all DVDs will be sent via recorded delivery)

ENTER NOW TO WIN THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF DRAGON MOVIE DVDs ON THE ENTIRE PLANET!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

52 Dragon Movie Challenge – Merlin And The War Of The Dragon Empire Review

Another week, another Dragon Movie! This was in week number 6 and I’ve selected “A Mark Atkins Film” to watch. This is the guy that brought us DragonQuest so I hope that it’s an improvement on that movie. The one good thing is, the guy knows how to put dragons on film, so hopefully if this movie can improve on the awful hammy acting and forced storyline of his last feature we should be in luck. Here goes...

Well the film doesn’t mess about! No titles, no voiceover (yet) just straight in, a guy on horseback and a Dragon!



This must be making amends for last week’s practically 90 minute wait for a full on dragon scene. The special effects look good, the dragon looks nice, and the guy on the horse looks in trouble. Great start to a Dragon Movie!

After the initial eye opener of the dragon attack we then get the obligatory voice over, this time done over a story book. The voiceover tells us it’s “Britain, 420AD...” and “The dark ages of Britain have begun...” Very quickly we get our second dragon movie tick box checked, a shot of a castle! Inside the castle, a young “demon child” is being born, which results in a bit of a bicker between two wizards, they quickly resolve their conflict with a spot of Star Wars-esque lightning magic. It transpires that the “demon child” is actually Merlin, and we’re soon skipping forward in time.

20 years later, Merlin is training to be a magician and a powerful wizard, but is curious as to who is true father is. His foster father (the magician lecturer) has a powerful spell book. Merlin uses this to try and see who his true father is. With the use of some powerful music and decent special effects we soon learn that Merlin’s father could be some powerful, dark, dragon related demon.

Thankfully, it’s become pretty clear already that the acting this movie is a little better than Atkins’ last effort. The trouble is, a quick look on imdb shows that this director is just pumping out lame movies that are knockoffs of real Hollywood counterparts! (Battle of Los Angeles, Journey to the centre of the earth, Allan Quatermain and the temple of skulls, War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, 2012 Doomsday, AVH: Alien vs Hunter) the list goes on, and each of these I wouldn’t watch in a million years. Luckily, this movie, despite being based on Merlin, isn’t a cheap replication of a pre-existing Hollywood film and so far seems as original as it can be.

Back to the story and Merlin – still recovering from that frightful vision of his demon father – gets a bit of a kiss to help wake him up from what I’m guessing might be his love interest. The Mage, Merlin’s foster father, is played by Jurgen Prochnow in a cast of otherwise unknowns. Admittedly, you might not recognise this guy’s name either, but his stand out movies include The Da Vinci Code, Air Force One and Das Boot. Whilst Merlin is getting some care and attention, his other companion and fellow orphan has gone AWOL, and suddenly found himself what looks like a dragon egg. This can’t be good news.

Another dragon scene shows an attack on a bunch of people in a field, I’m guessing there from a village somewhere but the movie doesn’t really explain this! Really I’m not too bothered about explanations and story right now, especially following the last films dragon shortcomings. Instead I’ve seen some pretty cool effects and the longest, uninterrupted shot with a dragon in it for a straight to DVD movie, over 25seconds of cool dragon screen time!

Merlin’s rival orphan wizard lines up his shot...




Wizards 1 – 0 Dragons. He made that look easy, just one arrow!




The story is at least pretty interesting so far, Merlin’s rival is pretty mean and he possesses some dark secrets and tricks with dragons, LOTS of dragons!

Check out all these bad boys!




This movie has a lot of potential right now. I’m really enjoying it for the sheer amount of cool dragons! They look awesome, and their designs are really interesting and unique!




Oh no! It looks like Merlin has been earmarked as a danger – being the son of a demon and all that – so, the King has been advised that he needs to kill him. A death warrant, lots of cool magic and dragons. The movie is building up nicely after 30 minutes.

There’s a nice bit of horseback sword fighting before a very cool dragon attack on Merlin and his posse. It has to be said that for the amount of CGI that’s in this straight to DVD movie, it really is holding up very well. The dragon scenes have been pretty excellent so far. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet as I’m watching is the scenery. It’s incredible! I’ve since learnt that this movie was shot entirely on location in Wales in the UK, over a period of just two weeks. So far, I’d have to say, what an achievement. I just hope the rest of the movie lives up to the promise of the first 40 minutes.

Running is a good idea




Yet more dragons join the attack!




Merlin performs his first bit of anti-Dragon magic




With all these dragons around, Merlin’s foster father sets him a task. To fetch Excalibur. Before his task can begin however, we get yet another cool shot of some dragons flying over the Welsh landscape. I feel spoilt considering the low expectations I had before watching this movie!



Merlin arrives at the lake for the classic lady in the lake scene; I cannot wait until we see Merlin and his sword Excalibur trying to defeat all of these dragons that are flying about. I just hope that any climactic battle will live up to all of the dragon scenes that have been in the film so far.

We soon learn that Excalibur can only be used by the just and the true. Let’s hope when the time comes Merlin will be up to the job. What this movie is doing is a surprisingly good job of keeping me entertained and drawing me into the story. Whereas DragonQuest was a bit ridiculous, Merlin is definitely a far superior movie, and a good story.

The rival orphan is really kicking into another gear now with his very effective scheme of controlling all of the dragons in Wales. The dragon scenes keep coming thick and fast and before long there’s a big battle in the Welsh valleys. The action is really well done, nice music and great sword and axe fighting. But before long this is what I really liked...

“Send in the dragons!”




Seriously how epic does this look? Straight to DVD, filmed in two weeks, and you get a bunch of dragons about to attack a thousand strong battle. Result!




Merlin’s magic comes in very useful when he discovers a spell to turn his accomplices into dragons to even the odds! This makes for one hell of a lot of dragons flying over some spectacular scenery, all executed with great CGI for a straight to DVD movie. This has been such a fun, dragon heavy movie! You cannot fault the scale and the ambition and the execution of this movie in the slightest!




Incredibly, this is another Dragon Movie, and it features another Star Wars reference! Did I miss the fact that there were dragons in Star Wars or something? “Join me” says our evil orphan wizard whilst shooting electric from his fingertips, “and we can rule Britain!” (I know it’s not quite the galaxy, but it’s a start!) “Never” croaks Merlin. Gripping stuff. Thanks George Lucas.

Shocking.




There’s a good final twist to the battle and a good revelation too. I won’t spoil it here as for once the plot isn’t as join the dots as these straight to DVD movies usually are! Needless to say, Merlin has a bit of fun with Excalibur, and the end is very exciting and well acted.

Final Score: This movie well and truly deserves 8/10. (Bearing in mind we’re rating them as dragon movies and not, in comparison say, to The Godfather)

Despite its budget limitations, is ram packed with ambition, and well executed dragon action. Forget those films with just one dragon, this film has scenes of dragon action throughout, good CGI, and most importantly, loads of cool dragons!

Next week it's Age Of The Dragons!

If you live in the UK, you can purchase the DVD of Merlin and the War of the Dragon Empire from our preferred DVD retailer, Play.com, at the link here

All Images featured in this blog post are Copyright of Shooting Star Pictures and Asylum. 2008. All Rights Reserved.

WIN THE BIGGEST COLLECTION OF DRAGON DVD MOVIES ON THE PLANET! THAT'S ALL 52 DRAGON MOVIE DVD's USED IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG! Here's how... All DVD's will be second hand (as i've watched them) and mostly region 2.

All £1 donations to Dragon Zoo through PayPal will get automatically added to our raffle!

At the end of the year we'll pick out one email address that has donated to Dragon Zoo on PayPal and the winner gets all 52 Dragon Movies!! How cool is that?









Every donation equal to £1 (UK) or $1.50 (US) gets an entry into our raffle. All donations need to be approved by a paying adult!
All donations will be used to build a better website for Dragon Zoo and to contribute to future offers and dragon challenges!

(The winner of the raffle will be notified via email at the end of the dragon challenge, all DVDs will be sent via recorded delivery)

ENTER NOW TO WIN THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF DRAGON MOVIE DVDs ON THE ENTIRE PLANET!