Chasseurs de Dragons (Dragon Hunters) Reviews
Even the story seems creaky - a young princess dreams of vanquishing the arch dragon, that her uncle has kept at bay for years. She runs away from the castle (with underdeveloped motivation) and therefore gets saved by a "team" of Dragon Hunters - one, the strong, pure hearted, but kinda dim Lian Chu (wish they would have called him Dim Sum), and the conniving, quasi jive talking Gwizdo - they form an odd couple indeed... just as we've seen in countless other films.
Upon rescuing the girl, the team decides to return her to her uncle, hoping to receive a reward - instead they are sent on a mission to rid the realm of the arch dragon "world gobbler". The rest is a quest, which provides some nice imagery and artful animation, but is ruined by the typical casting of the characters involved. The little girl won't stop yakking while Gwizdo continues to be the typical wise cracking non hero... and Dim Sum? He says next to nothing, continually looking into the camera with a bewildered look behind his fu Manchu.
The film is also a bit lazy as it reused several shots - in particular those of a crowd laughing at Dim Sum as he tries to vanquish some kind of giant caterpillar. This is jarring when set against Roger Deanesque vistas of small jagged worlds tumbling through space. Such shots are nice, but the implausibility of jumping from one "planet" to another further reminds you that at all times you are watching animation - not something visceral. I suppose you could suggest that the film is just a dream, and being French, I suppose that's possible... but then I must compare it to another French film that was actually a dream - Fantastic Planet. There you had a film with a purpose, exploring many sci-fi themes with originality - while with Dragon Hunters; well, I'm not sure what the purpose was, or why this film got green lighted - it doesn't cover any new ground and really, except for it's quirky, yet nicely done animated style, has no reason to exist.
The beauty of the world is very much based on le petit prince, and is just adorable.
But beyond the great design, this film is difficult for adults and non-animation lovers to engage in. While its themes--a combination of a bug's life and Kung Fu Panda--are powerful and universal, there's no subtext to anything anyone says. It's all delivered quite squarely on your shoulders. There's also a lot of goofy comedy instead of a solid emotional moment. Lastly, the character animation isn't very fluid. Instead it's much more cartoony, with big, sweeping movements. It calls attention to the fact that it's an animated film, but not in the cute and appealing squash-and-stretch way. It's more of being able, at least on a subconscious level, that the movements aren't human.
I liked it a bit more than what I expected but it just didn't fully grab my interest. A near-miss.
The movie is intense and younger children should watch the movie with a loved one. However, a second viewing can be done alone, once he ending is known. I watched it, watched it again with my 17 year old daughter and I am giving it to friends with young children to watch.
This film deserves more attention than it has received. This english language family friendly film takes place in an imaginary universe and is suitable for children 5+ and the whole family. PG rated. Has some scary monsters, poop & doo doo references. Otherwise harmless and acceptable. The plot is average and the dialogue is sometimes odd (as if it were written in fench and translated to english). Forrest Whitaker is very good as the lead. This film is a visual treat. Kids will enjoy the tried and true story line, and parents can appreciate the interesting imagery and presentation. This decidely european film is different from typical U.S. fare and is a good, but not great, change of pace.