Dragon Hunters. I can't say that I watches this series a lot when I was younger, but it certainly was a big part of my childhood at least. I always loved the characters, setting and just alltogether atmosphere of this show. Shame they didn't broadcast it more often.
When I heard that there was going to be a movie based on some of my childhood icons, I was stoked. But... my parents didn't like the whole concept of the movie or even the series to begin with, so I didn't get to see it in cinema, nor did they allow me to buy the DVD. Years later I forgot about the franchise, but now that I have Netflix, and the movie suddenly popped up, I became curious once more.
So I sat down, gathered my M&M's and soda and... here we go...
Gwisdo and Lian Chu (forgive me if I spell these names wrong) live in a mystical land full of dangerous creatures known as Dragons. Gwisdo is the brains of the group, while the muscled Lian Chu does the fighting. They aren't very successfull, though, and often simply dismissed as goofs, but when they meet a little girl named Zoe whose rich uncle is willing to pay them any price to get rid of an enormous dragon, the two plus their pet dragon Hector set off on a journey to the End of the World, where they will find this ferocious beast.
Zoe, bored out of her mind, however, manages to sneak after them, and they are eventually forced to take her with them on their journey. Will they all make it out alive and slay the monstrous beast? Our main "heroes", Gwisdo and Lian Chu.
Let's start judging this movie by what I really enjoyed about the series- the characters.
In the series, the characters weren't THE most developed cast, but they had the basic characteristics down, and more distinguishing traits as characters in other series I watched at the time. That was why they stuck out to me so much. How does this go in the movie?
They are... okay. Like... one-dimentional okay. True, the characters didn't go through the biggest develoments in the series either, but they had some form of depth. Here? They just seem to have stuck to the principals.
Gwisdo is portrayed as a bit of a selfish swindler... These were his main characteristics, but not his entire personality in the series. Over here, they just stick to these features, which is sad. You could've gotten some depth out of him! And yeah, he did change to a more happy personality in the end... which is totally against his character! He can be jolly, but in his own, subtle way. He goes from grumpy-and-always-lingering-behind to -bridge-sliding-happy throughout this movie.... That is not Gwisdo! Especially since this movie is a prequel to the series, where he is a grumpy swindler again.
Lian Chu is just as basic as Gwisdo. He's the more down-to-earth, slightly clumsy hero of the two. I can just say the same thing about Gwisdo's personality here: they sticked to the principals.
This just bugs me so much! I mean... okay... it's better than say... Happily N'ever After, where a character only has one trait: either "good" or "evil", almost nothing besides that. They have some traits... but that's really it.
There is one more character I have to get into: Zoe. Children characters acting tough are usually really hard to write without them being anoyying, especially when they constantly get in trouble. I did think Koda from Brother Bear
was a bit obnoxious, but MAN... this girl... this girl is like the stereotype "how not to write a kid"-character. She is loud and boastful and keeps telling everyone how she loves the bravest of knights and will one day be a dragon hunter herself... and then she almost dies like 3 times and when in danger she starts running, hiding and screaming instead of acting brave. She is just so obnoxious. Gwisdo wants to leave her alone to die a few times in the film, and yeah, I'm actually siding with him here. She's just one big anoyyance.
I guess I should also bring up Hector. He just serves as third wheel here. True, he was also a bit of a character only used for comic relief in the series, but he at least served some kind of purpose there. Here he just acts 'funny' once in a while and carries the main character's baggage. Oh, what a hero.
There are these other side characters like Zoe's uncle and his servant, but these guys have even less of a personality as our main leads.
Story? Yeah... actually... this is just a long CGI version of an usual episode of the series. How did pretty much all episodes go? Heroes have to slay this dragon, some side conflicts come up, they kill the beast and the side conflicts are resolved. The end. How did this movie go? Exactly like an usual episode, just with a few more side conflicts and dragged out to feature-film lenght, but besides that it's just like the storyline of an episode.
And even if it wouldn't be the same storyline as most episodes, this is still something we've seen before in other movies. The plot where the main character realizes his past, the grudge against the child gets dropped and eventually they develop a good friendship, the beast gets slain. Not really original. Now, I usually don't judge on originality, seeing how pretty much nothing is new nowadays. But the excecution, on which I do judge, was just as basic as can be. They don't really take any risks, nor do they try to execute it that original. Its just one onoriginal lenghty episode of the series in CGI, basically.
Now let's get into the character design. Like I have mentioned in some of my other reviews, I don't always take this into concideration. If a movie wants to have it's own identity and style, who am I to judge? I do, however, judge when things look too awkward or off. If a movie wants to focus on wolves, the animals should look like wolves (cough, Alpha and Omega
, cough) at least... when they don't this is just offputting.
As you might've noticed... Dragon Hunters has its very own and unique style. And I'm going to talk about it right here, right now.
Let's go back to the series for a minute. Yes, the characters did look a kinda goofy in it, but the series had one thing going for it that this movie doesn't have: 2D animation. It was allowed to look off for a bit since it actually worked for a bit. The characters had very distinguishable designs and it sort of worked. Why? The characters were drawn flat, and thus allowed to look kinda goofy. Why do the Fairly Odd Parents look so off in 3D? Because they are designed to be 2D animated!
Same goes for these charaters. They just look rather off in 3D, especially since the series already had really over the top designs. I mean... like... really off. The animals in the Legend of Sarila
looked off, but this looks even more strange, since these are our main characters. It kind of looks okay on Gwisdo, I guess, who was about the most anatomically correct character of the entire series. Lian Chu is probably the biggest problem: he just looks too goofy. He's this really tall musclebound warrior with a huge upper body and a tiny lower body. It just doesn't work on him. I think that they either should've made this movie 2D for it to work, or they really had to alter his design for a bit.
The main villian of the movie, the World Gobbler Dragon, also looks really off. I know that they were going for a big and ferocious dragon, (a note for Dragon Hunters noobs: the so-called dragons of the series hardly looked like dragons, so if you are looking for creative designs that are really dragons, check out How to train your Dragon
) but it just looks rather off. This is supposed to be the biggest and most ferocious dragon of them all... yeah... a Terrible Terror looks more frightening than this goofy thing.
The other characters just look 'meh'. They still look more like 2D characters trying to be 3D, but failing for a bit. The creators really do have a habit of giving their characters either too broad or too long faces, don't they? If there's one thing I give this movie credit for, it's the background designs. Just look at these. So creative and gorgeous!
Pacing? One of the other points where the movie falls flat on, kinda. There are quite a few moments that are needlessy dragged and others that are needlessy short. Most of the scenes just had an okay pacing, though. There's just these few scenes, especially the ones with the grating girl, that could've been shortened.
The acting isn't mind blowing either. Don't get me wrong, the actors captured the overall voice of the characters in the series fair enough, but did they really have to get different ones for the movie?
Alright, I should be judging the acting itself, not who they picked. It was just... alright. The actors do a well enough job, but don't have the most original script to work with, kind of like Happily N'ever After
in that aspect. Come on, you got Rob Paulsen to play the lead! Rob Paulsen! The guy who plays Pinky from Pinky and the Brain
? Yeah, that guy! He's such a funny and good actor and they just gave him nothing to work with.
I do think that this lower voice does match Lian Chu a slight bit better, since he had a voice that was a tad higher for the series, but other than that there isn't much to his, either.
Now let's talk about the animaton for a second. The quality of it.... really varies throughout the movie, and it's also a kind of subjective.
Let me just tell you that the overall animation is just generic. Not bad like in many not-so-popular CGI movies, but still no Pixar or Dreamworks, either. It's just overall pretty decent. One complaint I could launce at the overall animation is that it sometimes looks a bit off, but this is the mistake of the oddly-designed models, not the animators, so I won't count it here.
But where it gets interesting is in some of the action scenes, mostly the ones where they flee. The animation goes from trying-to-be-Pixar to really toony and purposefully choppy. They are clearly trying to capture some of the slighty goofy tone the show had here.
I've read complaints about this, that people think that the animation is suddenly going worse, and yeah, on one hand, they're right. It does go from pretty decent animation to suddenly goofy. But on the other hand, it's clearly what they are aiming for. I did like to see some of the goofyness of the show back in the movie.
So I guess that the animation is really subjective. From a critical point of view, I think that they either should've gone for an overall toony look or a more serious look for the movie. It does look sorta out of place to suddenly see the characters running as if it were a Tom and Jerry
cartoon, especially when the rest of the film is animated pretty good.
Now let's jump to something I really like. The background environments. Good Golly are these amazing. I'd say that if you like aestetic background dessign, you should definetly
check out this movie! They are big, they are pretty, they are somewhat strange. They are just...I don't even know how to describe it. I can watch these background for hours and never get tired of them. Whether it's castles or forests or skies we're looking at, it all looks incredibly well done and there's a lot of effort put into these things, clearly!
They don't exaclty look realistic, but definetly realistic enough for the movie. I don't think they should've gone more realistic, otherwise the characters would've looked even more out of place than the already do.
I just love the environment of this! The found the perfect balance between realism and cartoonism on them. Pixar could've taken notes on these, seriously! Gah! *dies*
Now let's talk about the setting as well, which I also really love. Going back to the series, it took place in a fantasy realm where there was no real earth, but just small pieces of land flying around in the air. Some were big, some were small. It was mostly a medieval setting, but it also had quite a few steampunk elements.
If you know me, you should know that I love settings like this, and nope, it didn't dissapoint here. The perfect backgrounds make the setting even more epic. I love that they also didn't leave out the steampunk elements in the movie. The series had flying ships and quite a few steampunk-ish mechanisms, and yes, they were in here. Mostly the steampunk elements. They were incorporated really nicely into this huge map that, sadly enough, only appears once. But it still looks really cool!
I loved the setting in the series, and the gorgeous backgrounds over here make it even better.
The soundtrack over all was nice. Nothing memorable, but it was good enough. I was a kind of sad to hear that they didn't use the opening tune, which I always really enjoyed, heck, they got The Cure to preform it, as the credit or intro theme or something. But for what we got it was alright.
But I am afraid I'll have to end this review on a not so good note... The humor. Oh boy, does this fall flat. I kinda cracked a smile at the animation becoming puprosefully cartoony at some points, since I didn't see that one coming, but the actual jokes in here are just not funny.
Okay, I guess that the younger ones can laugh enough about Hector being silly (I really wish that they used him for something different than comic relief, though) but most of the humor is just fart jokes or Gwisdo acting funny. Fart jokes. Hah. Funny. I know that this movie is probably appealing more to young boys than girls, like the series also kind of did (it did have some pretty cool female characters, though!) but this is just stupid. And they don't do it once. They do it a few times. And it just blooowss. For the characters acting crazy, sure why not. I hardly laugh at jokes that are... well... jokes, but I guess that the average child can enjoy them. Our main team and that annoying third wheel. Talking about the girl, not Hector, he's actually enjoyable.
So for an overall judgement:
Dragon Hunters is a not very original movie with basic characters, plot points and humor. Nothing about it really stands out, but it isn't that horrible either. It does have some awkwardly designed characters, but the beyond amazing backgrounds totally make up for that and some of the other flaws of the movie.
Is it bad? No, just above basic. And not Happily N'ever after basic, but pretty good basic. The characters do still have some form of personality and I like the story, while not too original, fine. They just could've done more with the concept of the series.
Recommended, 6 out of 10. I'm really conflicted on this one. I guess that this is really a subjective movie. If you've seen the series, I'll say go see it. But if you haven't, you might want to check out the series first. This does seem like a good movie to show to younger kids. It does have a nice message and tone and doesn't talk down to them, while still having this upbeat charm to it. If you are older than a kid and wondering whether or not to check out this movie, I'll say that you'll like it fine if you just want your nice characters, fantasy world and basic story. If you don't like that, don't bother watching it.
Director: Arthur Qwak, Guillaume Ivernel
My rating 3 out of 5 stars