As bizarre at it may sound, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight is a rare example of a book that I actually read prior to its adaptation into a movie. Well, sort of. The movie adapts one of the Dragonlance novels, and the Dragonlance novels are a spin-off from the Dungeons & Dragons franchise that sort of cross those strategy games with Choose-Your-Own Adventure type mystery novels for young adults. I’m not sure if I specifically read Dragons of Autumn Twilight, but I was familiar with the kind of universe that the story is set in, long before the 2008 film was released.
The film was heavily panned when it was released, and while I agree there are numerous problems with the movie adaptation, I actually though it was watchable under the circumstances. Dragonlance is no Lord of the Rings, or even a solid B-movie fantasy like Willow, but it is enjoyable.
The film was released direct-to-DVD, and clocks in with a running time of only 90 minutes. Some of the voice actors include various prominent actors including Michael Rosenbaum, Kiefer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless,Michelle Trachtenberg, and Jason Marsden. Much of the criticism of the film had to do with the fact that the filmmakers were trying to squeeze a complex novel into a very short 90 min animated feature, so its difficult for the audience to get to know the characters, or understand much of the plot for that matter.
Is this a valid criticism? Yes. I paid close attention to the movie, and I had a hard time connecting with many of the characters, and the plot is very hard to follow when large chunks of it have been removed from the novel and the movie proceeds at a breathtaking pace. At the same time, I enjoyed many aspects of the film. In this fantasy world, there are a number of battles and events with multi-headed dragons, which I really hadn’t seen outside of Greek mythology. It also introduces the element of the protagonists being having to deal with Draconians, which are humanoid beings with dragon-like features, and serve as a sort of middle ground between the mortal humans and the magical dragons.
If nothing else, the bizarre world that the animated movie gave me glimpses into made me want to go back and look into the original 1984 novel that the movie is based on. Perhaps a much longer, live action movie could do the source material justice, but that’s unlikely to ever get made. In the meantime, the obscure direct-to-DVD cartoon serves its purpose of capturing your interest for 90 minutes, and introduces audiences to that world. Not the greatest dragon movie in the world, but certainly far from the worst.
** out of ****