Dragonheart

 

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Cohen
Produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis
Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue
Story by Charles Edward Pogue
Patrick Read Johnson
Starring Dennis Quaid
Sean Connery
David Thewlis
Pete Postlethwaite
Dina Meyer
Jason Isaacs
Brian Thompson
Julie Christie
Music by Randy Edelman
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) May 31, 1996 (1996-05-31) (United States/Canada)
October 18, 1996 (1996-10-18) (United Kingdom)
Running time 103 minutes
Country Slovakia
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $17 million
Gross revenue $115,267,375 [1]

Dragonheart is a 1996 fantasy adventure film directed by Rob Cohen. It stars Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Dina Meyer, and the voice of Sean Connery. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and various other awards in 1996 and 1997. The film also inspired a direct-to-video sequel, Dragonheart: A New Beginning.

Contents

Plot

In 984 England, the knight Bowen (Dennis Quaid) mentors Saxon prince Einon (Lee Oakes) in the ideals of chivalry in the hope that he will become a better king than his tyrannical father. When the king is killed while suppressing a peasant rebellion, Einon rushes to claim his crown and is mortally wounded while fighting the peasant girl Kara (Sandra Kovacicova). Einon’s mother, Queen Aislinn (Julie Christie), has him taken before a dragon whom she implores to save his life. The dragon replaces Einon’s damaged heart with a piece of its own on the promise that Einon will rule with justice and virtue. However, Einon soon becomes as tyrannical as his father, enslaving the former rebels and forcing them to rebuild a Roman castle. Bowen believes that the dragon’s heart has twisted Einon, and swears vengeance on all dragons.

Twelve years later, Einon’s (David Thewlis) castle has been rebuilt and Bowen has become a dragon-slayer. Brother Gilbert (Pete Postlethwaite), a monk and aspiring poet, observes Bowen slaying a dragon and follows him to record his exploits. Bowen stalks another dragon to its cave, but the confrontation ends in a stalemate. The dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) states that it is the last of its kind, and thus if Bowen kills it he will be out of a job. The two form a partnership to defraud local villagers with staged dragon-slayings. Bowen calls the dragon Draco, after the constellation of stars. Unbeknownst to Bowen, Draco is the dragon who shared his heart with Einon, and through this connection any pain inflicted upon one is also felt by the other.

Meanwhile, Kara (Dina Meyer) seeks revenge on Einon for murdering her father and is imprisoned. Einon recognizes her as the one responsible for his near-death and attempts to seduce her. Aislinn, disgusted by what her son has become, helps her to escape. Kara tries to rally the villagers against Einon, but they instead offer her as a sacrifice to Draco, who takes her to his lair. Einon arrives to recapture her and fights Bowen, declaring that he never believed in the knight’s code of honor. Draco intervenes and Einon flees. Kara asks Bowen to help overthrow Einon, but the disillusioned knight refuses.

Bowen and Draco’s next staged dragon-slaying goes poorly and their con is exposed. Draco takes Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert to Avalon, where they take shelter among the tombs of the Knights of the Round Table. Draco reveals the connection between himself and Einon, stating that he hoped giving the prince a piece of his heart would change Einon’s nature and reunite the races of Man and Dragon. Through this action Draco hoped to earn a place in his namesake constellation, which is a heaven for dragons who prove their worth. He fears that his failure will cost him his soul, and agrees to help Kara and Gilbert against Einon. After experiencing a vision of King Arthur that reminds him of his knightly code, Bowen agrees to help as well.

With Bowen and Draco on their side, the villagers are organized into a formidable fighting force. Aislinn presents Einon with a group of dragon-slayers, secretly knowing that killing Draco will cause Einon to die as well. The villagers are on the verge of victory against Einon’s cavalry when Gilbert strikes Einon with an arrow. Draco feels the pain also, falls from the sky, and is captured. Einon realizes that he is effectively immortal as long as Draco remains alive, and determines to keep the dragon imprisoned. Aislinn attempts to kill Draco during the night, but Einon murders her.

The rebels invade Einon’s castle, and Draco begs Bowen to kill him as it is the only way to end Einon’s reign. Einon charges at Bowen with a dagger, but Bowen reluctantly throws an axe into Draco’s exposed heart. Draco and Einon both die, and Draco’s body dissipates as his soul becomes a new star in the constellation. Bowen and Kara go on to lead the kingdom into an era of justice and brotherhood.

Cast

Background

Alternative Japanese Poster.

Dragonheart is set in the latter half of the 10th century in Britain, after the conquest of that country by the Saxons (in reality, not all of it was conquered). In the novelization, it is revealed that Queen Aislinn was born into one of the native Celtic tribes. Freyne vanquished her people and took her for his wife by force. As a Celt, Aislinn reveres dragons, while Saxon Freyne has made his name by killing them; his shield bears the device of a sword severing a dragon’s neck.

The novel differs from the film on a few points, usually more violent or graphic than the film. When Einon tries to seduce Kara in the film, she escapes unharmed; but, in the novel, the king rapes her. The novel is also more of a love story than the film, with Bowen confessing his love for Kara.

There are references to King Arthur and the “old code” of Camelot throughout, with Draco taking Bowen, Kara, and Brother Gilbert to fabled Avalon. The film’s central theme is Bowen’s devotion to knightly ideals and his disillusionment when his pupil becomes a tyrant, followed by the revival of his chivalric spirit when confronted by the spirits of Arthur and his knights.

The said “Old Code” is recited during the story by the Shades or animated memories of the Knights of the Round Table; it is written below.

…inside the circle of the table,
under the holy sword,
a knight must swear he will obey
to the eternal code,
eternal as the table,
a ring bound to honour.
A knight is sworn to valor,
his heart knows only virtue,
his blade defends the helpless,
his might upholds the weak,
his word speaks only truth,
his wrath undoes the wicked.
The right can never die,
if a man still remembers him.
Words are not forgotten,
if a voice pronounce them clearly,
The Code always shines,
if a heart preserves it brightly…
The Old Code….

In the film’s commentary director Rob Cohen said he tried to make a film about what he himself believes in: living your life according to a set of ideals.

Soundtrack score

Dragonheart OST
Soundtrack album by Randy Edelman
Released May 28, 1996
Genre Soundtrack
Length 45:33
Label MCA Soundtrack

The score was composed by Randy Edelman. The main theme song, “To the Stars”, was used in the film Two Brothers, such film trailers as Mulan and Seven Years in Tibet, and clip montages at the Academy Awards, making it a well known film score.

Track listing

  1. “World of the Heart (Main Title)” (03:17)
  2. “To the Stars” (03:11)
  3. “Wonders of an Ancient Glory” (02:21)
  4. “Einon” (03:53)
  5. “Last Dragon Slayer” (04:00)
  6. “Bowen’s Ride” (02:33)
  7. “Mexican Standoff” (02:20)
  8. “Draco” (01:13)
  9. “Refreshing Swim” (01:25)
  10. “Re-Baptism” (02:47)
  11. “Bowen’s Decoy” (03:22)
  12. “Kyle, the Wheat Boy” (04:24)
  13. “Connection” (02:25)
  14. “Flight to Avalon” (02:54)
  15. “Finale” (05:28)

Reception

Dragonheart received mixed reviews, scoring a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics praised the premise, visual effects and character development but panned the script as confusing and clichéd. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, saying “While no reasonable person over the age of 12 would presumably be able to take it seriously, it nevertheless has a lighthearted joy, a cheerfulness, an insouciance, that recalls the days when movies were content to be fun. Add that to the impressive technical achievement that went into creating the dragon, and you have something to acknowledge here. It isn’t great cinema, but I’m glad I saw it.”[2]

In 2006, Draco was ranked no. 6 on a top 10 list of movie dragons by Karl Heitmueller for MTV Movie News.[3] The film is also notably the first to use ILM’s CARIcature software.[4]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Winner/Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Effects, Visual Effects Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West Nominated
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Best Fantasy Film Universal Pictures Won
Best Costumes Thomas Casterline and Anna B. Sheppard Nominated
Best Music Randy Edelman Nominated
Best Special Effects Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival Hollywood Digital Award Scott Squires Won
Satellite Awards Outstanding Visual Effects Scott Squires Nominated
Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival Best Film Rob Cohen Nominated

Other media

After its release, Dragonheart spawned a spin-off 2D hack and slash game for the PlayStation and Saturn called Dragonheart: Fire & Steel, made by Acclaim Entertainment, which was met with mostly negative reviews due to bad gameplay, poor quality graphics, and a generally unimaginative design. In late 1996, Acclaim ported a PC version of the game, which received similar criticism. There was also an original Game Boy game based on this film.[5]

References

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Dragonheart
[hide]v·d·eFilms directed by Rob Cohen1980s

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Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993) · Dragonheart (1996) · Daylight (1996) · The Rat Pack (1998)
 
The Skulls (2000) · The Fast and the Furious (2001) · xXx (2002) · Stealth (2005) · The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)