DragonHeart

Riddle me this: what is 18 feet tall, 43 feet long, breathes fire, flies like a bird and talks with a Scottish accent? Answer: Sean Connery. The star of The Rock shows up in Dragonheart as Draco, a 10th-century dragon who leads Bowen the dragon slayer (Dennis Quaid) on a merry chase. Actually, Connery doesn't appear at all. The dragon is the remarkable computer-generated creation of Industrial Light & Magic's wizards, who devised the dino magic in Jurassic Park. Connery's performance is purely vocal, though damn if Draco doesn't look like the great Scot. The ILM team used Connery's mouth and twinkling eyes as a model.

Dragonheart delivers the goods — if you're about 5 years old. Others may find it unintentionally funny. "I am the last one," Draco tells Bowen in a voice that sounds like a man in a kilt gargling with mouthwash. The mouth imagery gets pretty grotty. Bowen sits on the dragon's tongue, sticks his sword in the roof of its mouth to avoid being gnashed and suffers the stench caused by flesh wedged between dragon teeth. "Cool," said a tyke sitting near me.

It might be, if Dragonheart lived up to its dragon effects. Unfortunately, the script by Charles Edward Pogue is bogged down with lumbering exposition about how Bowen and Draco join forces with a peasant girl (Dina Meyer) to whup the wicked ass of King Einon (David Thewlis). Year's before, Draco had saved Einon's life at the behest of the king's mother, Queen Aislinn (the treasurable Julie Christie, back onscreen after nine years — and most welcome). So Draco gave the creep a piece of his heart. The catch? If Einon dies, so does the dragon.

Quaid and Connery conspire to put some heat into this flapdoodle, but Rob Cohen, who directed Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (is this guy obsessed with dragons or what?), can't decide if he's making slapstick or tragedy. Back in the '50s and '60s in fantasy films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, Ray Harryhausen created awesome monsters and effects with models and miniatures. Harryhausen didn't need computers to astonish us. He relied on underlying emotion to create a potent sense of wonder. Dragonheart, for all its digital pow, feels untouched by human hands.

From The Archives Issue 737: June 27, 1996