The Dragon Hunters is a relatively unknown animated film of French origin - though here overdubbed in English - and it owes a lot to that country's wider appreciation of the comic strip: whereas in the UK only Tintin and Asterix have gained universal endorsement, huge swathes of the French treat them as a distinct art form. Many of those artistic merits are on show in this film: gorgeous artwork, full of imagination, humour and thought, with great use of light; interesting characters who are as fully developed - complete with ambitions and a backstory - as the original, Chinese-inspired world they live in; and a slightly grown-up aspect to what at first feels like should be strictly for children.
It is this last aspect that makes the film sit awkwardly between two posts: the plot - a quest to the end of the world to defeat a monstrous dragon - is so basic and simple to accomplish it is distinctly childish, but the characters are too complex for the same young child to fully appreciate until they are older; the world they inhabit is head-scratchingly strange, and better just accepted than questioned, as there are few answers offered, even in the DVD extras. The final action scene is scary enough that they may never want to see how the film finished. Certainly having seen it once, the second time around my children themselves turned the film off when it began to reach the scary bit at the end because they knew what was coming... Bless.
Overall as a film this was disappointing; the film had great potential that its plot failed to live up to; but it does have some great ideas and fun, interesting concepts which could have been developed into a stronger story. It is a case of the journey being far better than the destination, and its many merits still make it a curiosity, though not perhaps for younger viewers, unless they won't see the end, or are very brave.