Paramount Home Video
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless, Michael Rosenbaum
About 20 years ago I was reading a trilogy of fantasy novels based on the AD&D universe. As you can imagine, these novels were Tracy Hickman's and Margret Weiss' novels that made up the first "Dragonlance" trilogy. I was enchanted by these stories and their characters and always held a special place in my heart for these books. I was quite eagerly awaiting Paramount's animated adaptation of the first novel "Dragons Of Autumn Twilight" and decided to give it a check-up.
"Dragonlance" offers a lot of traditional high fantasy fare. The entire AD&D universe is largely derived from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" body of work and as such you can find many similarities between the worlds, the inhabitants and their problems. Here it is the world Krynn that is threatened to be overthrown by the evil dragon goddess Takhisis and her army of dark minions, which include goblins, hobgoblins, orcs and Draconians among others.
A small "fellowship" of adventurers decides to put an end to the threat and to restore the powers of the good Gods in the world while the world around them falls apart under the bloody rage of the evil armies.
While all this may sound incredibly derivative, fear not. The "Dragonlance" story is filled with very unique twists and events that easily make up for all the borrowing it has to account for. The character of Raistlin alone makes for some of the most incredible adventures in the trilogy.
Sadly the animated feature film that is coming to DVD here is a sore disappointment. I am not sure who was in charge of this production but frankly, this is the most amateurish animated movie imaginable, that screams "We need to save money" in every single cell. Featuring stilted 70s cheap TV cartoon-style animation none of the characters has any personality. They hobble across the boring static backgrounds like foot lame soldiers. They have no expressions in their faces and endlessly repeated walk cycles make sure they all move exactly the same way like robotic automata. The hideous art direction of the film is made even worse by the absolutely ridiculous inclusion of certain computer animated elements. Not only do they break with the poor, flat visual style of the majority of the film, these elements are also so poorly integrated that you can clearly see they are images simply layered on top of existing animated footage. In short, this is an abomination that wouldn't have passed my judgment 10 years ago and it most definitely can't live up to today's animation standards. Any episode of Spongebob Squarepants has more character, atmosphere, style and professionalism.
The video transfer on this DVD is presentable and without major flaws. It offers the film up in its standard aspect ratio and is free of blemishes. However, the transfer is incredibly jerky – or did they simply skimp on a large number of in-between animations to save more money? – and while line detail is generally good, the overall look of the film is such that it is utterly unimpressive, no matter how well transferred it may be.
"Dragonlance" offers a good cast of voice talent, which was promising, but sadly even here the production falls short of expectation. Dialogues are stilted and stiff, never evoking the kind of drama necessary to carry such a story. A lot of it has to do with the writing as the dialogue feels incredibly unnatural in its flow.
The production's mix is also sticking out like a sore thumb with music mixed far too loudly, making for an extremely unbalanced mix.
Apart from the DVD's cover artwork perhaps, there is very little to like about this release. Stay away from this poorly conceived film that embarrasses itself and the "Dragonlance" franchise unforgivably.