Freely mixing elements from Arthurian legend, Robin Hood, Siegfried , Don Quixote and assorted other Anglo and Germanic myths, director Rob Cohen has pulled together a simple yarn of an itinerant dragonslayer who decides to team with his prey to rid the land of an evil ruler who has betrayed them both. Tale’s poignancy stems from the fact that fire-breathing, armor-plated, high-flying creature is the last of its kind; when he dies, dragons will have entirely passed from the Earth.
The added complication in Charles Edward Pogue’s screenplay [from a story by him and Patrick Read Johnson] is that, because the dragon once gave young sovereign Einon (David Thewlis) half its heart so that the monarch could survive a grievous injury, their fates are intertwined; if one dies, the other will expire as well.
Wandering the realm, Bowen (Dennis Quaid), who was once young Einon’s tutor in swordsmanship, encounters the Sancho Panza-like monk and poet Gilbert (Pete Postlethwaite) while hunting the few remaining dragons that terrorize the countryside. After roping and cornering a magnificent specimen, Bowen and the beast, which speaks with the inimitable burr and persuasiveness of none other than Sean Connery, come to a cleverly capitalistic business arrangement.
Predictable incidents ensue, including a duel between Bowen and his grown-up former student, and, ultimately, the tragic showdown that will spell the joint fates of Einon and Draco.
Everything here has been seen plenty of times before, except for the exceptionally sophisticated, wise and well-spoken dragon, courtesy of many hands but notably those of Scott Squire’s Industrial Light & Magic team, which did Jurassic Park. Along with the excellent dragon effects, production’s trappings are handsome but economical-looking. Pic was entirely shot in Slovakia.
1996: Nomination: Best Visual Effects