Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

[Screenshot]Man, it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to really tear into something. And I get to be extra-vitreolic in this case, because Dragonlance was one of the things I was insanely into as a kid, and, even though it was surely not as good as nostalgia makes it seems, I know it was better than this mess.

Technical aspects first. There’s a blend of computer graphics and cel animation in this film. I personally dislike that, and have generally panned it whenever I see it (in particular, I disliked it in GiTS 2: Innocence, was annoyed by it in Metropolis, and gave it a marginal pass in Appleseed). However, personal preference aside, one thing stands: Dragonlance has bad cel animation, bad CG, and bad integration of the two. The CG’s on a par with last-generation console system graphics, only with less random motion (there’s one scene with the draconian army, standing on a perfect rectangular grid, beating their shields in perfect unison; I don’t expect The Two Towers, but, y’know, they could try). The cel stuff gives me odd Rankin-Bass flashbacks, and not in a good way. And integration of the two, ticklish at the best of times, is far from seamless here.

So, on to the characters, plot, and voice acting. On plot elements, one might want to be charitable, because I’d forgotten how much stuff happens in Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and it turns out to encompass a hell of a lot of story. The cuts were made in dubious places, though: basically, the frame for a situation would be knocked down, and the situation left on its own wiuldn’t make a lot of sense. For instance, the whole aid-from-the-gully-dwarves plot was knocked down to the point that there’s a single inexplicably stupid character offering the party aid. At that point it raises more qurestions than it answers, so it’s best to just cut that totally. It’s like that with everything: they knock out just enough of every particular plot element (Tas’s light-fingered proclivities, human-elf tensions, Tanis’s conflicts) to not make it make a hell of a lot of sense. So every single thing is in there, but not with enough context to make sense.

To complete a trifecta of failure, the voice actors are phoning it in. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly they’re doing wrong, but mostly it’s that they’re not doing anything in particular right. Deliveries are flat: admittedly, one can understand the actress playing Goldmoon getting bored at the 25th exhortation to Tanis to have faith (she isn’t nearly as tedious in the book, although most of her dialogue in the book was transferred to the equally moralistic “true love waits” discourse directed at Tika), but Kiefer Sutherland had a great chance to make Raistlin simultaneously sinister and pitiable, and, needless-to-say, doesn’t.

Random other gripes: we get a lot of unnecessary fanservice in the first 15 minutes, and scene framing frequently seems syndication-oriented. Y’know how in a lot of television you watch on DVD you can tell by the way scenes end where the original commercial breaks are? This has that in spades. So I guess they’re hoping for syndication. And also, based on the colon-enabled title and twist/character introduction at the end, they intend a sequel (which, seriously, would be problematic to run along the lines of the original books, since they made some fairly profound plot divergences here).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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