First of all, the movie was called DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT/ A DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS ADVENTURE TALE
Yes, it really said "Adventure Tale" in three places on the clamshell and on the disc inside. But hey, I knew it was going to be dumb. It's a D&D cartoon.
My expectations? Low. Still, I chose it over whatever Sci-Fi Original was playing on Sat night because Mango Eater liked the cover and I wanted to see if it was appropriate for him.
Three minutes into the film, I knew he was never going to see it. This movie had heads on pikes, hanged people, corpses strewn everywhere, people punctured by arrows and dying in the dirt--Oh yeah, the kid who wouldn't even crack the cover on Megaman NT because it "looked like it had fighting in it" wasn't going to be watching this one.
Did I mention that it was PG-13? For "Fantasy, Action and Violence"? Not "fantasy action" which got the old X-men cartoon a Y7 rating on TV because it had unrealistic fighting. This was three separate things in a list. WTF is up with listing fantasy as a reason for a PG-13 rating?
But listen, I expected this to be bad. Honest. I knew it would suck, but I was really, really hoping that it would suck in the best way possible. I hoped it would be derivative and generic and filled with mindless action. I hoped it would stay much too close to the gaming source material and have a party of mixed characters all working toward a single plot coupon.
Well, I got that last thing, at least. What I also got was a turgid, dull, overly-angsty and incompetently-animated snorefest. The fight scenes (of which there were plenty) had no drama to them at all. A cheap-fest like Dragonball Z has more emotional content to the combats.
And they didn't even stick to their own story! A central tenet is that the world has no healing magic in it because the gods have abandoned the people (or whatever--no cleric magic). But right in one of the first fights, one of the party gets stabbed three times. Then, after the fight is won, they all run away as if nothing had happened. Of course, if you're treating injuries as if they're a reduction of hit points, why not? Just don't expect me to care about a lack of healing magic when injuries aren't all that injurious.
And it was just so dull and obvious. Every story beat had to be hand-fed. Right near the end, the team of heroes make a big deal of sneaking into the enemy castle to rescue a bunch of children. "Now we have to get these kids to safety!"
Cut to: the bunch of them strolling down a castle corridor in a big clump, all la-de-da.
Not to mention, when they do return to the sneak-ret entrance, they find it guarded by five bad guys. Nevermind that they have already defeated twice that many before, and nevermind that the baddies are playing dice and so, so ready for a sudden ambush. No, what that means is that Our Hero decides to lead his party of warriors and the freed women and children back through the castle and across an open courtyard while the enemy army was standing at full attention, cheering about all the good guys they were going to kill!
It's one thing if the hero makes this bold strategy and it works. But it doesn't. Not only that, but the entire army sets on them and a dragon swoops down and incinerates a couple dozen kids.
That dumbass hero deserved to be hung just on general principle.
Oh, and after all that fighting and death, guess how many from the original party of heroes actually die? You got it, none of them.
So shitty. And yet, and yet.... I still wanted to show it to my son. I still wanted to watch it again to mine it for something that would remind me of all the fun I'd had playing rpgs way way back when. It's amazing the hold that sort of thing can have on you. And by "you" I mean "me."
By the way, the movie had dragons, but no autumn, and pretty much no twilight. I have no idea why it was called that. I assume it had something to do with the D&D book it was adapted from, but I expect I'll never know.