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on 18 July 2008
I've been a Dragonlance fan since I was 15. I'm 24 now and I'm still hooked. So needless to say I was eagerly awaiting this, even if my expectations weren't high. I could so easily see how this could go wrong. So I snapped up the US DVD as soon as it was released and can confirm that it HAS gone all wrong, just not in the ways I expected.

The main problem is that the animation is awful. Really and truly awful. As has been said many times before the 2D animation would be passable for an 80's kids cartoon, but frankly is not acceptable by today's standards. The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series had better animation and is over 20 years old now. The 3D animation is also lacking and really is quite pointless as it doesn't really fit well with the overall 2D style, though, bizarrely it does still have the same stuttering framerate. So this film is a dog to look at, but it's not all bad.

The soundtrack is pretty good. While it doesn't jump out at you fits well and really makes you wish they had the animation to match. The voice acting is variable. While Michelle Trachtenberg is unconvincing as Tika, Michael Rosenbaum is passable as Tanis, and Keifer Sutherland totally nails Raistlin (Raistlin is easily the best thing about this DVD).

The direction is amaturish though. Firstly the attempt to shorten it to 90 minutes was a mistake as many well loved scenes from the book had to be cut and those that are there are rushed through so quickly that it struggles and largely fails to build any drama. Plus they give away a big twist from later in the trilogy, proving they have no faith that they'll get a chance to complete the trilogy. I hope they do finish the trilogy though because it IS still salvagable at this point.

The other annoying thing is the way they hammer home the central massage of "faith" making it feel like I'm being preached to. I don't remember it being so dogmatic in the books but maybe that's my memory playing tricks on me.

So why did I give it 3 stars if it's so bad? Because I enjoyed it anyway. I came in with low expectations and so was not overly dissapointed. For someone who's read the books I think it can feel like a light jog down memory lane and so is fairly enjoyable. It's not the definitive movie we were hoping for but it's fairly entertaining none the less. If you haven't read the books, go read them first. If you have then you've probably already ordered this. Just don't go in with high expectations.

Update 09/03/14 - 6 years ago when I wrote this review I feel I was a little over enthusiastic. While I stand by everything I wrote I no longer feel I can justify the 3 star score. Make no mistake, this film is terrible and the score should reflect that, not my ability to enjoy rubbish. For example, I love watching the D&D movie. Every time Jeremy Irons oppens his mouth and starts chewing the scenery I laugh so hard it hurts. But I would never give it more than the one star it deserves because it does literally everything with total ineptitude. As such I've lowered the score to 2 stars. And even then I'm being generous.
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on 5 August 2009
Let me give a little context to that. When I was about eleven years old, I was browsing through my local library, looking for my next read. I had devoured most of the books of interest to me - at the time mainly adventure stories or science - and whether to get rid of me, or out of genuine inspiration, the librarian recommended Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I had never read any fantasy before, though I had dabbled a little in sci-fi. DoAT was a heftier book than I was used to reading at the time, but I said I'd give it a whirl. That simple recommendation was to change my life. A whole new world opened up to me with that book, and it has been instrumental in forming my tastes and interests since.

I am now thirty years old, and while I can see the limitations of the book, I can still proudly say I love this story and world without feeling my affection is clouded by nostalgia. It is most definitely a story that would translate into a fun cinematic experience. For years I yearned to see a live-action version (at one point, in my late teens, I even tried to write an adaptation myself, but gave up as I didn't know what I was doing!) so when I saw that an animated feature was on it's way, my interest was understandably piqued. A mixture of 2D and 3D animation sounded interesting, initial concept art gave the impression that things were going in the right direction, and when casting decisions like Kiefer Sutherland as Raistlin were announced, my heart started to pound; could it be that I was at long last going to get the visual experience I had dreamed of for twenty years? The answer is `Good God, NO!' Not even close.

This is one of the clumsiest and most blatantly cheap movies - adaptation or otherwise - I have ever had the misfortune of sitting through. Where to begin? The story is there, much as it is in the book, but rather than adapt it to the medium of film, they have just crammed as many elements onto the screen as possible without any effort put into actually telling a story. Scenes rush past in a blur as the filmmakers tick off events rather than create an immersive and engaging experience. Characters pop up to appease the fans, but bar a couple of the leads, none of them are given any space to grow and breathe. I could go on and on, but there is no way to explain how dazzlingly lazy this work is without showing you the movie, and I refuse to put anyone through that.

The pacing is truly appalling and shows up exactly how cheap a production this is. I am not using hyperbole when I say that the editing is the worst I have ever seen in a supposedly professional production. Rather than blend the scenes together with shots that flow from one scenario into the next, the filmmakers opt for fading to black after every other scene! Basically there were a bunch of different animators working on different scenes, which were then passed over to the laziest editor working in the business, who just faded to black between them rather than work out a narrative transition. The visuals are like something out of the eighties or early nineties, but don't expect that to mean classy animation in the vein of The Mysterious Cities of Gold; this is cheap and clunky. Some of it is just hideous, and wouldn't make a cut scene in a video game from that same era. The 2D and 3D elements mix like oil and water. At times the image is out of focus, and many shots appear to be nothing more than pan-and-scans across a still frame. The only person to come out of this mess unscathed is composer Karl Preusser, who actually does quite a good job at bringing a sound to the world of Krynn. It's just a shame that there are no visuals worthy of his score.

This film fails in practically every department. The action scenes lack action, the dramatic scenes lack drama, the comedy scenes lack comedy, the magic scenes lack magic, but most criminal of all, the characters lack character. One of the strongest and most enduring aspects of the whole Dragonlance franchise is the strength of their characterisation, but all this movie shows us are broad-stroke sketches. In fairness to some of the acting talent, they try their best, but they have been given nothing to work with here. With animation the actors can only do so much; it is up to the artists though subtle animation to reveal the internal struggles that motivate these people, but all we get here are cardboard cut-outs whose lips move as words are said.

There are many reviews on this page that give this DVD a favourable rating, and this is a delusion. I do not adhere to the mentality that you have to settle for whatever swill you are served because you're a fan. That's not being a fan; it's being a fanatic. It's being a fool. It is up to the so-called fans to step up and say this is not good enough, otherwise you are allowing yourself to be a piñata to cheap studios with no respect for the very things you claim to love.

Don't waste your time watching this. If you want to enjoy the story again, re-read the book. If however you feel you must see this movie for old time's sake, make like Tas and steal it.
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on 5 February 2009
Where do I start with this, well I am a professional director and a few years ago we were going for the rights to a live action production, but we put on hold due to the animation.

So here we go...
So much has been missed out that scenes are very inconsistent with each other, fair enoug, they couldn't put everything from the book into the film, but they could have tried a little harder to create at least some element of consistency.

2D and 3D is not a good mix, but the 3d Ddraconians were quite well created, more than could be said for the 2D characters.

I was very surprised, I mean from a professional point of view, Raistlin's character was very wooden, the random coughing became annoying, he is much worse than portrayed.

It certainly isn't worth the wait, but I am glad I waited til the price was drastically reduced before buying.

On a plus side, I am in personal contact with Margaret Weis and we are currently making plans for the live action project, and so a trailer will be ready by the end of the year, but rest assured, the actual project will remain true to the books.

Generally, it's fine for kids to watch if they have never read the books, but if you have read the books and love the characters, then you will be disappointed. It just lacks so much.
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on 30 November 2008
Shards of a broken dream lie all around us.
What a farce. It's easy to critque the loss of key passages from the book, but that was inevitable. What wasn't inevitable was the shameful animation, pitiful voice acting and complete lack of cohesive story.

Standout moments of despair include Riverwind's growing racism, the director's obsession with tight shots of Tika and my personal favourite, the hobgoblin who throws up on Tanis in the openning moments of the film.

However it's also hard to ignore such apalling moments as the companions slipping past a draconian army who choose that moment to all stand facing a wall, shaking their identical arms and swords in perfect unison. Cheap. Speaking of cheap: it's tempting to say that the animation is consistently awful, but this isn't true, in fact in a slightly worse step, it seems to oscillate between awful and childishly terrible. The continuity on the drawing means that Flint can be as tall as everyone else when sitting down, but only reach up to Tanis' waist when standing. Although on several occassions he is gifted with the most amazingly immense arms. Perhaps lugging those disproportionate tree trunks around is what's causing him to look so tired.

Mind you I've not laughed that much in a long time. And not just slight chuckling, decent out loud laughter. Wine seems to help. So, watch it with friends who remember it, but are old enough to find it funny.
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on 21 October 2008
This is possibly the most terrible piece of animation I have ever paid out my hard-earned pennies for. It is also the first of my many reviews that I have had to slap a one-star review on, and that is only because I cannot go any lower.

Dragonlance is and always should be a treasure for SF&F fans of all ages. It has had such appeal for well over twenty years and every so often I still pick up a tattered copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles as if I'm meeting an old friend after many years apart. When I discovered that the first book had been animated I immediately located it and ordered it. I have to say that I have seldom had my expectations so horribly dashed.

It's a disaster.

The story has been so heavily abridged to fit the timeframe that nearly every part of the book I liked has been hacked out of the film. Characters barely get to say anything and after it is all over you still know nothing about them or care about them in the slightest. Whole plot elements are missing along with the great depth that the saga has developed over the years. The Verminaard cutscenes are frankly cringe-inducing. The end has been completely changed and ruins the set-up for the next part of the story. The animation is frankly unacceptable; it's of a poorer standard than the Dungeons and Dragons series of the 1980s. One can only wonder why they bothered hiring Jack Bauer and Xena to do voice dialogue when they had so few lines left (If you fancy some fun, why not go through the film and actually count them - does either character manage to get two dozen lines?). It's just plain... shoddy.

How to get it right next time (and to plug other products on the review)? Completely rewrite the whole Chronicles series as an episodic series, good examples being Robotech, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, or better still anime series such as Orphen. Animation doesn't necessarily have to be cutting edge like Appleseed - Ghost in the Shell SAC isn't incredible but it works very well and is cleanly finished off. Finally, if you get the animation and script right, the actual voice talent won't matter so much - how many people actually notice that John Hurt was Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings? The best thing that any prospective producer needs to do is know the source material, stick to it, and do it justice. Do this, and there is no reason why a Dragonlance series shouldn't take its place among the epic series of animation this century. But as for this dvd, I'd only recommend it for film students looking to show a case study where projects can go so horribly wrong.

I would strongly recommend would-be purchasers of this DVD to instead consider the following, please take a look at them because they are good material and the price is quite reasonable:

Robotech - Complete Saga Box Set
Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series
Mysterious Cities Of Gold - Complete Series
Orphen: The Perfect Collection (REGION 1) (NTSC)
The Lord of the Rings (Animated Version) [1978]
Dragonlance Chronicles (TSR Fantasy)

Also, for a look at more current animation:

Appleseed - Ex Machina [2007]
Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex - SAC 1st GIG - Complete Box Set
Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex - SAC 2nd GIG - Complete Collection [2005]
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on 25 February 2008
Whilst this film isn't everything that I'd hoped for I didn't think it was half as bad as many other reviewers seemed to think. The quality of the animation is very much on a par with 80s cartoons like He-Man or the original Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. Whilst this is obviously disappointing given that we're in 2008 now, it doesn't mean the film is un-watchable. You've just got to ignore the odd scene where characters slide down the screen instead of actually walking and when boats zip across the water without the oars moving!

The producers made the (ahem) unusual decision to mix cgi animation with traditional 2D animation. All of the dragons and draconians are 3D cgi, whilst everything else is 2D. I have no idea why they made this bizarre decision but on the whole I didn't think it looked 'too' bad. The two different animation styles are blended together reasonably well, although some of the fight scenes are a little reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen monster films - you know, where the actors are obviously fighting thin air and the monsters have been added in later. It seems odd to think of a cartoon having the same problem, but that's what it kind of looks like when you have a 2D hero waving a sword in the general direction of a 3D draconian. And another thing about the fight scenes - I don't think the animators could decide what rating the film was actually going for. In some scenes you don't really see anyone getting killed (it all happens off camera) whilst in others you've got blood, severed limbs and death galore.

I thought that the voice acting was pretty good on the whole, particularly Michael Rosenbaum as Tanis and Kiefer Sutherland as Raistlin. Lucy Lawless sounds a little flat as Goldmoon, as do some of the secondary characters. Frankly I'm suprised they got so many big name stars in on this project. The soundtrack is also pretty good - infact, it's probably the film's strongest point.

As far as faithfullness to the book goes, it's remarkably close. Considering it's only 90 minutes long I think it's really impressive that they've tried to cram in as much of the original story as possible, only leaving out a couple of minor scenes. However, the short run time does mean that some scenes seem very rushed. The one that leaps straight to mind is the encounter at Xak Tsaroth. This makes up the bulk of the mid-story in the book but in the film the encounter literally lasts about five minutes (if that).

All in all I'd say this film is worth checking out if you're a Dragonlance fan. It's not the great film adaptation that the book really deserves but it's not a complete waste of time.
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on 26 February 2008
After seeing everyone else's reviews, I seem to be one of the only people around who actually liked this movie.

Sure it wasn't a live-action 3D movie with lots of computer graphics, a five-star cast, and didn't include every bit of information from the books, but most people seem to forget that, although Dragonlanc is a mainstream product in the fantasy market, it is not, sadly, mainstream in the movie market. Very few fantasy films will make it onto the big screen (Eragon and Lord of the Rings being examples of exceptions), and as such there would never be chance to get a movie that everyone would like, and so we have to accept what we have been given and just be thankful that some people out there took the time to make us a movie.

I was at first very worried about the animated graphics. I was aware that most producers of fantasy films tend to draw their movies in 80s style cartoon animation, and being a child of that era I remember just how awful that kind of artwork was. I expected the lips to be stiff and somewhat out-of-sync with what was being said, and the movements to be a little jerky and traditionally stereotyped.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised. I actually quite like the 2D graphics. They move well, speak well, and therefore, was quite pleased.

I wasn't so sure about the 3D animation. I wasn't quite sure that the 2D and 3D blended well. I understood that the animators probably thought that this blend of 2D and 3D would make us believe there was something more amazing and otherworldly about the dragons and the draconians if they were done in 3D, but I didn't really think it worked all that well. It would have been MUCH better if the whole thing was done in 2D. It was a nice attempt, but they would have turned out far better if it was just all animation. I still enjoy watching it despite this, but think it should just be left as 2D animation only. Just my opinion.

The only thing that really bugged me about the movie was that the scenes were incredibly short and clipped together. I can tell that this movie was made specifically for the existing fans--those who have prior knowledge and have already read Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The scenes are so short that only a reader would understand what was going on--a new watcher would feel overwhelmed by so much going on without them having the chance to understand it and just switch off. You really need to extend the film to over 2 hours to get everything in.

And because they have a time limit to work to, some scenes are eventually cut out or shortened. One of my favourite bits was cut out--that being Tas the Amazing Wooden Dragon. And also characters were cut--namely Berem and Eben (I'm assuming Berem will appear at the end of Winter Night when he starts to play a more prominent part), but anyone who really thinks about it will understand why this was done. Time limits and director's choice. Eben wasn't really necessary apart from comedic and suspicion value, and Berem isn't important at this time. Scenes like the one in Darken Wood with the Forestmaster really could have gone on a bit longer, and the scene where they meet Bupu, as there it seemed really fast.

And, and this is just a personal opinion, I think Lucy Lawless would have made a better Kitiara than Goldmoon. Though I will hold that judgement back until I hear who may play Kitiara if Winter Night is animated.

The best part of the movie is Tasslehoff. I'm an avid Raistlin fan, but Tas in the movie just wins. He was done absolutely SPOT ON. Looks wise, speech wise, etc. Tas was brilliant. Jason Marsdon had better keep on doing Tas all the way to War of Souls (if you decide to animate that far--I sincerely hope so--I'll buy them if no one else will!)

But overall, I enjoyed the film, and watch it often, and look forward to hearing about Winter Night being done.
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Back in 2001, a movie based on the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game was released. It can charitably be described as, "Not all that it could have been." At the time many fans pondered why Wizards of the Coast had allowed an inexperienced director to adapt their best-known product using his own (not particuarly impressive) homebrew campaign world as a basis, rather than using some of their best-selling novels as a source, such as RA Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden books or, the more popular suggestion, the epic Dragonlance saga by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Well, in 2006 it appears that someone finally took the (rather obvious) move of licensing the Dragonlance world and series to be used as the basis of a movie trilogy.

For readers of a particular age (those who grew up in the mid-1980s), Dragonlance is as seminal a fantasy touchstone as Tolkien. The original Dragonlance Chronicles is a traditional tale of a band of heroes who come together and get embroiled in the ongoing war between the armies of dragons, led by the dark goddess Takhisis, and the forces of light, represented by the god Paladine. Over the course of many battles and adventures, they eventually succeed and overthrow the Dark Queen. What is more interesting, however, is the internal journey many of the heroes undertake, most notably that of the extremely morally ambiguous mage Raistlin, who is torn between his loyalty to his friends and his own thirst for power, which forms the basis of the superior sequel series, The Dragonlance Legends.

That a film adaption of Dragons of Autumn Twilight has taken so long to arrive is surprising. The original trilogy sold well over 4 million copies in its first decade in print, and Weis & Hickman are often credited - alongside Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks and Raymond E. Feist - of helping to kick-off the post-Tolkien epic fantasy boom. At the same time, the demands of such an adaption are notable. The story features sequences involving armies of dragons attacking cities, lots of magic and enormous battles. Making a live-action movie would have been impossible before the advent of the CGI age, and an animated film would have disappointed most of the fans.

Which makes it all the more inexplicable that, in 2006, Paramount and Wizards of the Coast agreed to go with an animated film. And not a CGI movie or a high-quality animated feature employing the best Korean or Japanese animation houses in the business, but a cheap 'n' cheerful adaption by an unknown Indian company which employs less-advanced animation techniques than mid-1980s episodes of He-Man. The animation is somewhat stilted throughout and the character designs tend to be somewhat bland (with arguably only Fewmaster Toede really being a memorable design). Even more bizarre is the decision to use rather weak CGI to depict the dragons and their half-humanoid servants, the draconians, leading to a mishmash of styles which detracts from the story.

The other problem is that the entire 400-page novel has been squeezed into a 90-minute film, leading to severe compression of the story. Fan-favourite scenes such as the wicker dragon are thus lost, and climatic events in Pax Tharkas are simplified considerably. Lots of character development is also abandoned on the cutting room floor, and elements such as Tanis' continuing inner turmoil at being caught between the elven and human worlds but not a part of either are depicted clunkily. Raistlin's story arc more or less survives intact, and is enlivened by a decent vocal performance by Kiefer Sutherland.

That all said, the writer does do a good job of transmitting the background story to the viewer. A pre-credits, Fellowship of the Ring-style prologue gets the story across quite straightforwardly, and the adaption makes use of the fact that they're not making it up hurriedly as they go along (as the original writers of the novels did) to set things up ahead of time. High Lord Verminaard doesn't just show up out of nowhere as he does in the books, for example.

As a slice of entertainment for young children, the film works quite well (although a few scenes do contain blood, and Tasselhoff Burrfoot has become a psychopath in this adaption, stabbing a goblin repeatedly through the heart in one particular scene, so parental discretion is advised), and fans of the novels may get a nostalgic kick out of seeing their old favourite characters on screen. It's also notably a better viewing experience than either the live-action 2001 Dungeons and Dragons movie or its utterly horrific direct-to-DVD sequel (Wrath of a Dragon God, which may actually be the worst movie created in the history of humanity to this time, the works of Uwe Boll of course excepted). However, the adaption does have the feel of being a major missed opportunity. With better animation and a more generous running time, this could have been a very good adaption indeed, but instead it has to settle for being rather mediocre.
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on 7 December 2007
I am a massive fan of DL, have been for 20 years and the fact that a movie is finally on the horizon is fantastic.

I too have also seen the trailer, but what the last review failed to mention is that it is a very rough cut, nothing more. Even so, it is still impressive and shows that that DofAT is well worth the wait
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on 29 March 2008
The Dragons of Autumn Twilight Book was published in 1984. Since that time there has been animation the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Akira, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo... The list goes on. That fact alone damns this film version of the novel more than anything else I can say- nearly twenty five years of classic animation and the producers and directors really believed that this would be acceptable.

Anyone with an interest in Dragons of Autumn Twilight is likely to be more than familiar with its origins as a book based on the Dungeons and Dragons Roleplaying Game. The story involves a group of adventurers who gather after 5 years apart and are drawn into a battle between the returning Gods of Light and the celestial Queen of Darkness. It contains all the D&D staples, elves, dwarves, magic, and of course dragons and none of these elements have been removed from the film. The original novel is certainly no work of art but it is a great fun read and certainly enjoyable enough that this should have been a fun watch as well. It's not.

The first and most obvious issue with DoAT is the animation. The character designs are well done enough and every character should be recognisable from the descriptions in the book but unfortunately good design is not enough when they are so poorly drawn. The animation is also frighteningly jerky at any time that characters are moving quickly and the fights have no weight. As other reviewers have pointed out the animators have made the bizarre decision to animate certain parts of the movie with CGI. This is primarily done with the dragons and the humanoid draconians, making it particularly jarring when the poorly animated heroes are battling the poorly CGI animated draconians. The voice acting is also notably poor despite a cast that has a few genre stars (Lucy Lawless, Kiefer Sutherland, Michelle Trachtenberg) and it is clear that they were mostly there to collect their paycheques.

Ultimately if you're a big fan of the novel it may well be worth it to watch this, if only to see the story realised on a screen. The story remains pretty much intact (although some part have been abridged and the ending made far more blatant) and that's generally a positive. However be aware that the quality will frustrate you throughout and make any fan of the material angry that they haven't even tried to make a decent effort. Poor.
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