Plot: What’s it about?
While many thought Draco was the last of the noble race of dragons, it is now known that a young dragon exists, Drake (voiced by Robbie Benson). If it becomes public knowledge that Drake is alive and well, it could mean danger for him as many would love to capture and hunt him down. He soon meets a friend in the form of Geoff (Chris Masterson) a young orphaned stable keeper who wishes to leave his current life behind. If Geoff wants some fantasy and adventure, who is better to help him in this quest than Drake, a living and breathing dragon? If Geoff can persuade Drake to do what he says, he might be able to achieve a personal dream of his…to become a knight. The two soon begin to travel the lands getting into adventures, usually coming out as heroes and saving the day for those who need help. But all is not well, as powerful forces within the kingdom seek to bring their adventures to a close and the wily pair may not have what it takes to defeat this kind of power.
I liked the original Dragonheart a lot and I was doubtful as to how good this direct to video could be. I had read some bad reviews before I sat down to watch the disc, so perhaps that had me expecting something on the verge of cinematic trash. Maybe it was my (very) low expectations or just my desires for this to be good, but I found this to be a decent movie. Not a good or great movie by any means, but a decent one that is worth the effort for fans of the original and children. I know the acting is borderline bad and the storyline needs a ton of work to resemble a well told tale, but I found myself enjoying the ride the first time through. I will admit this seems an episode of Xena or Hercules if you watch the production values, but even so it was a fun ride. Even though I liked the movie I can’t recommend the disc as a purchase as I don’t believe replay value is that high. This is the kind of movie you can watch once and enjoy, but don’t have the desire to watch on a regular basis. I recommend this movie as a rental and commend Universal for the bonus materials, while chiding them for releasing this title with a poor visual transfer.
This movie was directed by Doug Lefler, who manages to create a not terrible movie given his resources. While I was never blown away or stunned by his visual compositions, they never strike me as bad either so I guess average is better than awful. All the needed visual information is present on screen and well placed, so no complaints from me on this one. His previous work on Xena and Hercules is more than evident here and it sometimes seems like an episode of one of these shows. It sure looks like they used some of the same costumes and sets, to be sure. So while Lefler doesn’t impress me with much in this movie, he does an adequate turn when you consider the obvious low budgets involved. The voice of Drake is supplied by Robbie Benson, who is perhaps best known for being the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Benson’s tone seems solid for this character, though he lacks some of the youthful energy I expected from Drake. Chris Masterson (Singles, American History X) gives a solid turn as Geoff but won’t win many awards, since the role doesn’t call for much depth or range. The supporting cast includes Harry Van Gorkum (Gone In Sixty Seconds, Under Pressure), Matt Hickey (Maruya 2000), Henry O (Brokedown Palace, Romeo Must Die), and Ken Shorter (Persuasion).
Video: How does it look?
Dragonheart: A New Beginning is presented in the original 1.33:1 or full frame aspect ratio. This is a direct to video release and it looks the role, with a low quality visual presentation. Even though this was a direct to video film, I think Universal should have included an anamorphic widescreen version as I don’t think the framing would have been thrown off that much. The main flaw within this transfer is the poor compression technique, which results in all manner of visible and distracting artifacts and such. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the contrast seems to vary greatly from solid to overly dark which is also very distracting. The colors seem natural and bright though, which is a plus. This might not be a high profile release by any means, but it deserves better than this Universal.
Audio: How does it sound?
While this release doesn’t look good, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes sure that it does sound good. The musical score is effective and is the most active element in this mix, using the entire sound scope to render itself. This makes an enveloping and powerful musical score, which is always good in my eyes. The effects aren’t that powerful except in a few scenes, but you’ll notice the surrounds kicking in when they need to. The dialogue comes across loud and clear, with no problems I could located. This disc also includes a French 2.0 surround track and closed captioning.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This one didn’t make the Collector’s Edition cut, but it does come packed with a nice array of bonus materials. You’ll find the usual talent files, production notes, and trailer in the special features area, but you’ll also find more goodies. This release also contains three short featurettes, one a general behind the scenes piece, one with voice actor Robbie Benson, and the last one which examines the layers of the animation used to bring Drake to life.