Plot: Bowen (Dennis Quaid) is a knight who once trained the son of a King, teaching him the old ways and trying to help shape the prince into a compassionate leader. This would be a drastic shift from the boy’s father, who rules with an iron fist and when he orders the prince to witness a rebellion being crushed, things take a tragic turn. First the rebels mortally wound the King and when the prince also suffers grievous injuries, no normal treatment can save his life. But Bowen knows of an ancient source of power, a dragon who could grant the prince a piece of his heart, saving his life. The dragon agrees, but demands a promise that the prince will use his second chance to rule as a noble, kind King. The pact is sealed and the child’s life is spared, but he picks up right where his father left off, consumed by power and greed. Bowen blames the dragon’s magic and sets out to hunt down the beasts, to take vengeance. After decades pass, Bowen remains a dragon hunter and the prince has turned into a cruel leader, but what became of the dragon and what does the future hold for them all?
Entertainment Value: This is an odd one, an action/fantasy/comedy that has some bursts of fun, but makes some strange choices as well. The story is fine, but rarely makes any sense, from Bowen’s dismissal of dragons for no real reason to the plot to steal from peasants (to save them the tax burden) instead of the lords, as well as several other just out of left field plot movements. I don’t mind weird narrative choices, but for those after a more traditional action/fantasy experience, you might scratch your head in confusion at times here. I think the movie works best when it focuses on Bowen and Draco as these kind of rogue charlatans, but once it veers into making them heroes, DragonHeart loses a lot of momentum. I think if the movie were perhaps more subtle with this transition, the film would have made more sense, but rushing it and losing what little works wasn’t the brightest decision. But I still had some fun here, as Dennis Quaid turns in a goofy effort and when the focus is on humor, I think DragonHeart is solid. I wish the action scenes were more competent and the plot either made more sense or just went totally off the deep end, but I wouldn’t call this a total whiff. If you like dragon driven cinema, you could do a lot worse.
As I said above, Dennis Quaid’s performance here is quite humorous, as he seems to connect with the film’s more b movie slanted moments. He dials up his turn as a result and while it isn’t his finest hour, I think his effort is suited to the material, which isn’t exactly stable or serious itself. I think DragonHeart would be a better movie if the rest of the cast followed suit and if the script just dropped the pretense of a drama at times, as Quaid tends to be around in the film’s better moments. His turn is over the top and outright goofy at times (see the ridiculous reunion battle between Bowen and Draco), but it seems at home in the movie and is fun to watch. The banter with Draco is the real draw of the movie to me, which makes it a shame it is pushed aside in favor of a generic rogue turns hero angle. Dina Meyer is here and looks like a live action version of Brave, but isn’t given a lot to do. She has a lot of exposition to her character, but for some reason the film never makes use of it in meaningful ways. The cast also includes David Thewlis, Jason Isaacs, and the voice of Sean Connery as Draco.