Review: ‘Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real’

Animal Planet has apparently run out of actual animals and thus must set its sights on mythological ones. Of course, even that doesn't entirely explain patterning this faux documentary after sibling Discovery Channel's successful "Walking With Dinosaurs" series, employing computer animation to create beasts resembling "Dragonslayer."

Well, it had to happen sooner or later: Animal Planet has apparently run out of actual animals and thus must set its sights on mythological ones. Of course, even that doesn’t entirely explain patterning this faux documentary after sibling Discovery Channel’s successful “Walking With Dinosaurs” series, employing computer animation to create beasts resembling (but not as good as) the movie “Dragonslayer.” Somehow, the “What if?” aspect — mimicking nature docs on creatures that exist, or at least once did — doesn’t pack much punch, squandering a sleek look and Patrick Stewart’s resounding narration.

Fabricating science based on the legends, “Dragons” begins with the notion that these flying nightmares were real, based upon recently unearthed “evidence” from a cave in Europe. The spec then labors to describe how dragons lived and functioned, from breathing fire (some sort of gaseous bladder thingamajig) to flying to their eventual extinction, while silly-looking actors pose as scientists and researchers.

They even create a story that essentially mirrors “Bambi,” following a young dragon that loses his mom before maturing and hooking up — you know, the whole “circle of life” deal, only bigger and uglier.

Alas, this approach detracts from the CGI work, which is periodically impressive, including a dazzling sequence of dragons mating in midair. Yet even that gets tangled up, as it were, in tedious scientific-sounding nonsense about how the delicate art of dragon love parallels the way eagles make eaglets, etc.

Ultimately, though, to what end? It all feels like a waste of considerable time and talent — a rather feeble excuse to inject a bit of showbiz razzmatazz into a channel confined by its brand name, in theory, to animals on this planet. If not, let’s all look forward to the “It’s a Wookiee Christmas” special.

Given the quality of the effects, a fictional story about a wayward dragon, minus the unnecessary educational footprints, actually might have been entertaining. Yet as constructed — cloaking this come-on to younger viewers as science by postulating how much fuel a dragon might require to toast a knight and his squire — it’s just one of those wrong-headed ideas that’s too flabby to take flight.

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real

Animal Planet, Sun. March 20, 8 p.m.

Production

Produced by Darlow Smithson Prods. in association with Tandem Communications. Executive producers, Charlie Foley, Kevin Tao Mohs, John Smithson, David McNab, Alice Keens-Soper; producer, Ceri Barnes; director, Justin Hardy; writers, Foley, McNab, Hardy; story by Foley, Mohs, Hardy, McNab.

Crew

Computer-generated imagery, Framestore Visual Effects and Animation Studio; director of computer animation, Mike Milne; CGI supervisor, Alec Knox; casting, Jenny Duff. Running Time: 90 MIN.

Cast

Narrator: Patrick Stewart
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