For years Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have been trying to get Dragonlance turned into a movie, but it always seemed to fall through. Finally they got their opportunity, but it wasn’t exactly what they likely were hoping for. Instead of an epic full feature film, Dragonlance received a straight-to-DVD treatment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie is bad however, there are many decent quality DVDs that have been put out in recent days. In fact, DVD is starting to look like the best way to get those smaller time movies and television shows out to the masses, in particular in the genres of horror, science fiction, and yes even fantasy.
The first thing to note about the Dragonlance movie is that it is done in a weird cartoon-CG mix. Cartoons are used for the majority of the flick, but computer graphics are brought out to portray dragons, draconians and magic. It is an interesting decision that I think was meant to help increase the awe of these things, but the mix falls short when it comes to draconians in particular which kind of looked silly. The dragons and magic is fine though and not necessarily a bad choice.
The cartoon animations however I have mixed feelings about. At some points, it is really cool, but much of the time it has the sad ability to put the movie in a bad place. What I mean by this is that the animations have an uncanny feeling of the original Scooby-Doo cartoon. Now this in and of itself is fine. I love the original show after all, however, that is an entirely different feel than this is. When put into this kind of story it makes a dramatic scene feel way overly corny and that becomes problematic. Instead of feeling any sort of emotion, all of a sudden you laugh. It doesn’t help at all that oftentimes I noticed that the voice-syncing didn’t exactly match.
The voice talent was OK I suppose. Whoever voiced Tanis was just plain awful which was a shame considering that this is the voice you hear the most. Much of the rest of the cast went well. I think Keifer Sutherland made a sufficient Raistlin, though it was hard to tell, I think they afforded him by cutting most of Raistlin’s lines out of the movie. Lucy Lawless was good, but I didn’t think it fit Goldmoon at all, I think her voice fit Kitiara’s much better which seemed like a shame to me that this is how they used their money. The bright sides of the voice acting was really those who played Tasselhoff, Flint, Laurana and Fizban all of whom seemed to shine out well in this format.
Writing-wise I don’t think the adaptation was great. The pacing seemed all wrong. I understand the difficulties that can exist when trying to to adapt a book into a movie. It is difficult turning 300 pages into one and a half hours, decisions need to be made on what to cut. But I felt that the screenwriters here wanted to get everything in so instead of cutting out pieces that could have been done in other ways, just gutted scenes leaving them completely hollow instead. An example is that of the character Bupu, whom was really important in the book to the story of Raistlin. But in the movie had about 2 lines and showed up for only a few minutes. Just long enough for Raistlin to charm and for her to miraculously give him Fistandantilus’ book. They could have just as easily let Raistlin find the book amongst the treasure and cut out Bupu entirely and they really should have if that was the route they wanted to go. Yet they felt the need to slip her in just because she was in the book.
And yet, overall I still was happy to see the movie and I liked watching it. I don’t think that the Dragonlance movie is going to bring any new fans to the series. The main thing it has the ability of doing is to fortify those fans who already love the book series. And maybe as a straight-to-DVD movie that is all it needs to be. I don’t think that an average fantasy fan would pick it up and like it or even get what was going on. However as an avid Dragonlance reader from the past, the movie was nice to watch. Overall, I would give the film a C.