Jack’s Bad Movies: DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight (2008)

IMDB’s description

A barbarian woman with a miraculous healing staff gains the help of a group of to-be heroes as an army of dragons invades the land.

Author’s Note: As a fan of the book series, I was excited when I heard they were making an animated movie. I imagined something long the lines of Record of Lodoss War. Unfortunately, this project was given a fate worse than death, which was to be labeled “complete” and sent out to the world.

The movie starts with a little world building. The gods were good (and bad) and one tried to take over the world, but was beaten back, and then the people became arrogant and the gods smote them for it. 

Now some guy is talking to a five-headed dragon about a staff and some disks and a bunch of other things. I guess he is sending this woman with bat wings to find the staff (or safeguard it). It is Verminaard and Onyx. Onyx is a black dragon in disguise. 

Seven minutes in and we finally start where the book starts. A reunion of old friends. Tanis Half-Elven (Michael Rosenbaum) meets Flints the Dwarf (Fred Tatascoire). Flint strikes me as the kind of friend who constantly insults you, i.e. not a real friend at all. Tanis shows his pointed ears for the sake of the audience, there was no reason he’d have to show his ears to long time friend Flint.

They keep mentioning these gods abandoning them 300 years ago. Get over it already! Anyways, they get attacked by some hobgoblins. What kind of village allows hobgoblins to take up residence and provide “security”? They are looking for a staff (and a fight), but they only find the latter. Tasslehoff the Hobbi..er Kinder (Jason Marsden) shows up to save Tanis. Fewmaster Toede (leader of the hobgoblins, but looking very different from them) runs off. After a little walking they arrive at the Ewok village on Endor (or close enough), AKA Solace. 

I take no inspiration from a space soap opera

At the inn, they meet up with Sturm (Marc Worden), Caramon (Rino Romano), and Raistlin (Kiefer Sutherland). And then we are introduced to Tika, whose primary purpose seems to be walking around while her bosom bounces. An old man, who gave exposition at the beginning of the movie is still here, spinning his pointless tales. He incites a riot, and then the staff the goblins are looking for is revealed. The long run of it is, the group of six now becomes eight, with Riverwind (Phil LaMarr) and Goldmoon (Lucy Lawless), one more and they could have had a fellowship. 

Fleeing the inn, they run into a bunch more hobgoblins, kill them, and then run from the hobgoblins, then fight them again, then flee on a boat. And then they have to give us exposition about magic works, for anyone who has never even heard of magic. And then Raistlin notices there are two massive constellations missing from the sky. You would think this is the kind of thing everyone would notice. Surely some of these people navigate at night by the stars. Anyways, he says the gods have returned to battle each other.

Goldmoon and Riverwind come from the same small villager in the plains, they are essentially native Americans, and yet, Riverwind has dark skin, and Goldmoon is pale. The voice of Riverwind is the guy who played John Stewart in JLA/JLU, and Tanis’s voice played Flash in the same show. It is a little weird. 

The hand-drawn stuff is decent.

On the road, fleeing from the persecution of the town of Solace, the fellowsh..err companions come across some monks, who claim to have a sick person hoping to be healed by the blue crystal staff (the one Goldmoon has). And here is one of the big issues with this show. For some reason, all the dragons, and dragon creatures (like the humanoid Draconians) are computer generated, while all everything else is hand drawn. The hand drawn art is kind of old fashioned, but it looks good enough, particularly for a fantasy film. And yet, the makers decided to make this glaring bizarre choice to mix the two, and not seamlessly.

I look so much worse that Smaug ever did.

Anyways, they fight these Draconians, who for some reason have no weapons, and Flint, who has previously been seen fighting with an axe, a short sword, and a dagger, is inexplicably bashing their heads in with a log. They win that fight (Sturm nearly dies, but they heal him with the staff), and then they run into a forest and get harassed by some ghosts. The ghosts are also interested in the staff, and so they take them to a paradise, and speak to a unicorn. She sends them on a quest to find some ancient texts about the true gods. On the way they find out that Goldmoon’s village has been destroyed, by whom? Verminaard, the guy from the very beginning of the film, but the real mystery is Goldmoon sees her parents strung up, and their skin tone matches Riverwind’s, not her own. Maybe Goldmoon is secretly adopted.

And just like that they arrive at Xak Tsaroth, a city destroyed 300 years ago during the Cataclysm. Raistlin bewitches a gully dwarf, and she leads them underground into a treasure room, with a dragon (Onyx from the beginning of the movie). Tanis and Raistlin stand right in front of the sleeping dragon and then get into a heated argument with raised voices. Incredibly, the dragon wakes up. Goldmoon attacks it with her staff and disappears, and then they flee back to the surface.

On the surface, they believe Goldmoon is dead, when Tanis takes his anger out on an old statue, they find Goldmoon alive. She says the dragon was destroyed, which means that encounter with the dragon was super easy.

And just like that, they return to Solace… and are immediately captured and put into caged carts. Tanis is reunited with a cousin, Goldmoon heals a man whose arm was chopped off. The crazy old man (thus far not claiming to be a scientist) from the beginning of the movie is also in the cart. Goldmoon then fails to heal a little girl and blames it on herself.

The wagons are attacked by elves, and even though all their weapons and gear were taken, Tanis inexplicably has his bow, his arrows, and his sword inside the cage. The old man frees them with magic (not quite a dramatic as he did in the book). The elves slaughter the Draconians. And the elves are just as racist as the dwarves.

This is the fully weaponized Tanis inside the wagon cage

In the fantasy home of the elves called Riverw… er Qualinesti, Tanis is reunited with his childhood sweetheart. Tanis, who is half-human, half-elf, has spent the whole movie complaining about how he can’t be accepted by either side, and dated Caramon and Raistlin’s sister, and also Laurana, but he can’t reconcile his mixed blood. The solution from my standpoint is for him to find another half-breed to marry, but he isn’t smart enough for that.

The king of the elves has a new quest for them go to Pax Tharkas and confront Verminaard. Tanis finds religion pretty quickly, and then Laurana wants to marry him. They are first cousins though, so I think that, more than any half-human status, may be the real reason everyone disapproves of them being together.

All the companions agree to the mission and then Verminaard sends his dragon army against the elven homeland. Gilthanas (brother to Laurana, cousin to Tanis) opens a secret door and they find a bunch of imprisoned humans. Goldmoon heals a man, and then they get all the children and prisoners and try to lead them out of the secret tunnel. It is blocked by enemies, and Tanis has another crisis of conscience, again. Tanis is like a broken record.

The perfect blend between hand-drawn and computer rendering

They try to slip out the gate, but are seen. Verminaard states he is going to kill everyone, and he means it, because he kills his own men in the first attack with dragon breathe. The old dragon that was guarding the children then attacks Verminaard, the old man Fizban falls to his death, though it is quickly revealed that he is Paladin (the god of good) in disguise.

They fight Verminaard, and win, and then Riverwind and Goldmoon are married. Tanis reflects on what has become of Kitiara, and then we learn she is also a dragon highlord. Plot twist! Roll credits.


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