by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
Forest Whitaker as LIAN-CHU
Studio: Peace Arch Home Entertainment
Directed by: Guillaume Ivernel & Arthur Qwak
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In a mysterious land of dragons and hunters who defy the laws of the Earth, a young girl named Zoe is completely absorbed in their tales of heroism. When a terrible dragon known as the World Eater threatens the land that her uncle Lord Arnold oversees, Zoe calls on some small-time dragon hunters to save the day. When the dragon hunters come face-to-face with the World Eater, they become true heroes with Zoe at their side.
WHAT I LIKED
There was something about the fantastic elements of “Dragon Hunters” that really captured my imagination. It was clear from the early moments of the film that this movie was an imported animated feature that had been re-dubbed for the English-speaking audience. However, it was still completely accessible and didn’t really suffer from cultural confusion that can be felt in similar imports.
Even though Zoe is the key to the story, the movie is more about the would-be dragon hunter Lian-Chu, who is voiced by Forest Whitaker in the English-speaking version. Lian-Chu’s story is epic from the beginning, with his entire village wiped out by this fearsome dragon threatening the land again. Lian-Chu proves he has the strength of both body and soul to fight the dragon, with the help of his rag-tag crew.
Many children’s animated films pull their punches too often and too much. It’s clear from the early scenes of “Dragon Hunters” that this film doesn’t mind getting its hands dirty, though. After wiping out a village and leaving a lone survivor, it’s easy to believe the heroes are in danger. And when the World Eater is revealed, he is as formidable as he is powerful as he is terrifying.
As an adult who still can tap into his sense of wonder he had as a child, I thoroughly enjoyed “Dragon Hunters,” not just as a kids movie, but as an action adventure film and as a visionary movie of strange monsters in a bizarre Medieval world.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Although these really didn’t bother me too much, “Dragon Hunters” does have a slate of stereotypical characters that have a tendency to ruin stories. First, there’s the wide-eyed kid of wonder in Zoe. There’s the goofy, wise-cracking sidekick in Gwizdo. And finally, there’s the furry dog-like companion. Sure Gwizdo was laid on a bit thick with his Steve Buscemi-esque voice and street-wise nature, but the mini pet dragon Hector is actually quite funny.
The animation looks a bit canned, which is to be expected from modern CGI features that aren’t released by the big studios. However, a lot of innovative thinking featuring wild dragon elements and bizarre powers overcomes the humdrum look of the movie.
The DVD comes with a video interview with Forest Whitaker, who is clearly the big catch in this home video release. The rest of the features are presented in a single-frame text format. These include character biographies, a dragon gallery and a look at the universe of the Dragon Hunters. The original trailer is also included on the disc.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Boys looking for a CGI adventure.