Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire (2017)
Action, Adventure and Fantasy Await in This Exciting New Chapter of the Dragonheart Saga.
It’s been a hot minute since I watched one of these. Heck, to be honest I’m not even sure I ever saw the third one, only to figure out that there was a fourth and apparently work on a fifth. Well, perhaps thankfully I’m in a fantasy sort of mood - only time will tell if that’s actually something I should be thankful for. Still, dragons and fire and swords are bound to show up in one way or another, and who doesn’t like listening to Patrick Stewart? Get your lighter’s out, it’s time for a Dragonheart movie.
Fun fact, this movie was edited by Chuck Norris. No, not that Norris (I was confused as well) - but rather one Charles Norris. He did the sequel to Man with the Iron Fists. I had fun there from what I recall, so I’m anticipating rather correctly that editing isn’t a complete crap show here. By no means did I not feel like this was a direct to video sort of movie, but it at least kept a lot of it’s editing down to a passable or sensible amount for better or worse. I mean, there’s definitely a few moments in here where you’ll think to yourself “that was the best take?” and sort of question if maybe they should have added another cut to add more punch, but it largely does a good job with it. Can’t say the same for the camera - this thing has as much shake as a found footage movie at times, when there’s really nothing going on that would call for it. All that being given, it at least flows rather well for a fantasy movie, even if the thing might as well just put a sticker on it’s cover to let you know it’s going to be everything you figured it would be down to the mold lines you might need to shave off a bit.
Still, despite it being similar to so many things I’ve seen at this point in that journey they call life, I should probably elaborate a bit on the plot. You’ve got dragons, and apparently there’s something that happens when a dragon bonds with a person (the dragonheart series is known to have dragons sharing hearts with people to keep them alive) that can potentially cause some mutations of sort down the lineage line. Two such kids are the focus here, one having it much more rough than the other do to scale placement, with the first portion of the movie largely focusing on the son while the daughter is missing. Old king kicks it, dragon who should die with him doesn’t, and leads to him finding the son, and later the daughter shows up. Queue up the sibling rivalry and misunderstood or poor calls upon their interactions, and by the end you have one fed up old dragon whose really worried about his afterlife. It delivers upon every step that it sets up - which is good - even if those steps are about as routine and foreseeable as if you had already read the script.
The performances here are a bit of a mixed bag. The mains do a relatively good job, despite some quick-to-change opinions when the plot finally needs them to come together instead of being enemies. Some of the side characters do a good job - one earl, the priest - when they are given anything to do. A lot of the rest are sort of mediocre at best, or at times you wonder if they really just didn’t care they were on film at all. Our dragon does a fine job with what he’s given, and does a nice enough job of delivering emotion while also sounding tired and old. Lines for any character aren’t always the best, but they do what they can with them for the most part, and the movie does a decent enough job showing some finer points of “good” traits in both the siblings as it progresses. There won’t be any awards being given out here, but it’s still better than a lot of things I’ve seen - particularly if you are just looking at it as a straight to video movie (regardless of if it is or not).
Effects department is about on par with what I remember of the franchise - which is to say not the most convincing dragons interacting with people in costumes and the occasional other effect. At times, the dragon looks decent while emoting really well, and others you’d say it wouldn’t hold up all that well if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s not old enough to really have that claimed. It’s largely all passable, but if you have one of those people that look at eye-fests like Valerian or Star Wars and complains about the computer graphics, then for sure they are gonna hold a beef with you for having them watch this. The other sides of things fair a bit better. Special fire looks good, a particular shot of the dragon’s head through a tent as shadow looks really neat, and the scale prosthetics on the mains look well applied. Costumes are also pretty well done, adding in some character here and there while largely just focusing on the settings immersion. Yeah, some of the vikings might look less like vikings and more like the Highlander, but their costumes still scream vikings regardless. If I had to lodge a complaint about the costume department, it might be the lack of impressive suits of armor, but in all honesty it’s not like that was common for everyone to have in the real back-when, so I can’t hold it against the fantasy movie for not wanting everyone in it (although I’m guessing perhaps budget was more to do with it).
Audio is balanced well, and has some nice instrumental backings. Nothing is really sticking out to me in my head afterwards, but they do a good job of checking the standard emotion boxes as they play over a scene - be it whimsey or sad. There is no difficulty in hearing actor lines, regardless of if some magic or dragon action is going on, or a battle in the background. Despite some of the performances being a bit less enthusiastic than perhaps called for, line deliveries are generally all pretty well done. The movie never feels very quiet, usually with some form of music in the background when there isn’t other sounds happening, but the background effects also don’t tend to stand out nearly as much as in some other movies. It’s a good thing that the deliveries are decent enough and the rest balanced to it though, as you will get quite a few scenes of exposition - some of which you didn’t really need as it was already somewhat gone over.
So I didn’t see the entry immediately before this, and outside the “people now get scales” part I didn’t find myself lost through any of this movie. It’s nice for a sequel to be standalone, but I also do wonder if perhaps I’d get more or less out of this had I seen the one before, as it’s my understanding that both that and this are prequels to the first movie. In general the movie is pretty upbeat, giving it a happy to watch feeling despite it not feeling like much new. It does have a tendency to focus on characters as though they may be some important person, despite them not really factoring into the plot that much. A side character gets freed from an arranged marriage, for example, and then the movie makes a point to show you how now shes attracted to some young fella, and it does this two or three times. The movie is already plenty short enough, so maybe it was done as a filler thing, or perhaps it’s just a character that’s more important in a future movie or someone I don’t recall from one of the few I have watched, but it’s also not the first movie to do this to me recently, where I felt like the camera shot was adding this bizarre level of focus to a character.
Largely harmless and filled with morals about family and some trust and wisdom action that I can recall from previous entries, this one isn’t bad if you don’t have anything else to watch. It’s not going to satisfy that fantasy itch as much as something like Lord of the Rings, but it also requires much less involvement from you. It tells a pretty self contained story, although potentially having seen the preceding movie would have added more to it. I didn’t have the highest standards for this after having seen the first two a long time ago, and honestly I may have only benefited from that. Still, it’s entertaining enough to not be boring with it’s routine footsteps, and who doesn’t like hearing Patrick Stewart’s voice coming out of a dragon? Maybe in the next one they’ll hit up Morgan Freeman.