If there is one thing we can agree on, it’s that most fantasy books and movies tend to lean on a series of expected tropes. The 1996 DragonHeart movie tries so hard to twist many of these tropes that the outcome is, well different.
Hi everyone! As a survival tactic, I’ve turned to some of my old favorite fantasy movies, and this one has stood the test of time better than others. Even better, they’ve made a handful of sequels that are begging to be explored. Fun fact: this is one of the few movies accidentally acquired because I rented the DVD then turned it into the wrong Hollywood Video. Does that date me, yes it does.
Perhaps the biggest trope that gets twisted in this movie is that of the evil overlord found in King Einon. He’s greedy and kills indiscriminately and doesn’t hold to the vows he’s taken. Where this gets twisted is that he has half of a good dragon’s heart so lots of story twisting has to happen for this villain to get what he deserves.
The Good Bad Dragon
Dragons in most fantasy are either all bad or all good. They are only around to either roast precious damsels and hoard gold or dispense much needed help to the main character. DragonHeart has a bit of both. All the villagers seem to agree that dragons are always bad and out to heat and eat their livestock. However, the nobility have insider info on the dragons where they are good and can be appealed to for favors. Our noble-ish night Bowen skirts that line by using the good nature of the dragon to blackmail poor villagers.
There has to be some suspension of disbelief in all fantasy storytelling or the audience wouldn’t listen at all. We are willing to accept the existence of dragons in order to enjoy a good tale. Most stories have a few times where the main character refuses to believe an obvious truth because we like the whole twisty-ness of it all. In DragonHeart, Bowen has been searching the entire British Isles to kill off all of the dragons. When he gets to the last one and has to make a deal, he doesn’t realize this is the same dragon that he feels betrayed him. It’s not until it’s relevant to the story that the dragon reveals himself.
The Noble Sacrifice (Um, Spoiler Alert…)
This one happens all the time. Someone super important to the story has to sacrifice their life in order to make victory possible. In DragonHeart this gets super literal. The bad king, Einon, can’t die unless the dragon dies because he has half the dragon’s heart. They literally have to kill the dragon to emerge from the battle victorious. It’s bittersweet and noble (and such a stupid waste of perfectly good dragon!).
The Charming Rogue gone Good
Our dear knight is a good guy at heart who has bad things happen to him so he feels justified doing less than noble things to get by. Think Han Solo. He’s a good guy but also needs money and happens to have a few tricks up his sleeve. Bowen is charming and everything a gal could want in a rogue, but ultimately has to save the day by doing the last thing he’d ever want, kill a friend – in this case the dragon.
My review of DragonHeart
DragonHeart is entertaining even after all these years. The CGI is great considering the year this movie was released and the story is interesting and has some nice twists. There are a few things that will always bother me. Namely, the script is super kludgy and obvious – no subtlety here. Also, I wouldn’t have picked Dennis Quaid for a Medieval period piece, like at all.
It was fun to see actors like Jason Isaacs and David Thewlis when they are practically teenagers, especially since they both were in important rolls in Harry Potter.
For it being family friendly, I’d say it’s fine for the majority of families. There is violence stereotypical to standard Medieval fantasy (not Game of Thrones, mind you. More like Conan the Barbarian), mild depictions of injury and blood, no offensive language, and one cringey moment of bedroom innuendo that doesn’t result in anything.
For sentimentality’s sake I give DragonHeart 4/5 stars
If you like Dragon stories, check out these two anthologies!
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