March 3, 2013

The Dragon Chronicles: Fire and Ice (2009)

I'm not sure if you've heard of Pitof. He was originally a very successful French visual effects designer, working on The City of Lost Children, Joan of Arc, Delicatessen and Alien Resurrection. He then made the leap to directing his own films, beginning with the wonderfully stylish Vidocq (aka Dark Portals in Australia). Based on that film Warner Bros hired him to direct Catwoman, starring Halle Berry.

I always liked Roger Ebert's review of Catwoman, in which he noted "it's not enough that careers are ruined, somebody should be slapped". I always figured it was Pitof who got slapped, probably unfairly - with a script that bad no one would have managed to make anything too watchable. After all, post-Catwoman he seemed to vanish entirely from the filmmaking world.

But no! He came back with his third film, The Dragon Chronicles: Fire and Ice. It's a bit of a plummet down in stature from Catwoman, which was a massively expensive Warner Bros summer tentpole. The Dragon Chronicles is a Romanian-produced film, bankrolled in part by the Sci-Fi Channel to add to their continuing line of really quite awful monster and fantasy movies. It's apparently the most expensive Romanian film of all time, because they spent US$3,000,000 on it.
The film has a kingdom, and a wise king (The Mummy's Arnold Vosloo), and a headstrong princess (Angel's Amy Acker) who'd rather be out adventuring, and a young male warrior (Tom Wisdom from 300) destined for greatness, and an ageing knight (John Rhys-Davies from The Lord of the Rings and Raiders of the Lost Ark) from the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of wise soldierly advisors. It's also got an evil villain king, and an untrustworthy chamberlain, and dragons dogfighting. What I'm basically saying is that it's a very predictable, cheaply-made, by-the-numbers fantasy flick, supporting just slightly by a group of solid B-list fantasy actors.

Poor Pitof. There are glimmerings of style here, occasional visual flourishes, or inventive uses of CGI backgrounds, or nice lighting, but there simply isn't the money or production talent here to back the guy up. He deserves better than this. Hollywood should give him a solid screenplay and a decent second chance.

Should you watch this film? If you used to enjoy the likes of Deathstalker or The Sword and the Sorcerer, then sure, why not? If you didn't, you'd probably be best off saving the price of the DVD rental and the 90 minutes you won't get back.

Note: this review was original published on my old Livejournal account in 2010.

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