Wednesday, 8 April 2015
This is a movie of many flaws, but as a kid I didn't give two hoots because it already had an awesome freakin' dragon.
How do I feel as an adult? Well, to be honest, this is one of the few times when I think kid me might have been on to something.
Because look, Dragonslayer might have a very slow opening act, and comedy bits that aren't really all that funny, and a female lead who has to carry all the idiot balls, and a male lead who's not very likeable when you get down to it, but it also has Vermithrax Pejorative. She could teach Peter Jackson's Smaug a thing or two, let me tell you.
There are other reasons to like the film than just the dragon (the awesome dragon). I quite like the adversarial humans in the movie, for instance. Sure they're callous and venal, but they're callous and venal in very believable ways. You can see why they act as they do, beyond just "because they are the bad guys". And there are some interesting things going on with the other secondary characters, too. But really, it's all about Vermithrax.
The plot of the film is largely in the title, really: there's a dragon (an awesome dragon) and she needs to be slain. She's not a terribly good neighbour you see, to the point where twice a year a female maiden (chosen by lottery) has to be sacrificed to appease her. This is understandably not a popular situation among the people living nearby, and they thus appeal to the great sorcerer Ulrich for aid against the beast.
What they get instead, for various reasons, is his apprentice Galen (and yes, that is a very young Peter MacNicol of Ally McBeal and Numb3rs). He's a bit full of himself, but his heart's more or less in the right place, so I'll try to forgive him that.
I'm not sure why there was a burst of ambitious live action fantasy films in the early 80s (this film, Krull, Clash of the Titans, even Flash Gordon, arguably). It certainly wasn't their box office performance, I know that. Whatever it was though, it made it a pretty good time to be a nerdy kid.