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observation notes: Dragon Crusaders

The Asylum's latest offering - the fantasy epic Dragon Crusaders - hits DVD this Tuesday and comes to us from writer/director/cinematographer extraordinaire Mark Atkins, who also delivered this year's highly-respectable Battle of Los Angeles, a film considered by many to surpass the film it ties into.

Now, I feel I should mention I'm not the biggest fantasy fan - dragons, knights, Medieval times; these things have never really done it for me - but I am a HUGE fan of excellent storytelling, and for my money, at least, Mark Atkins is one of the greatest auteurs The Asylum's ever had, so I went into this one with high expectations. And they were met.

The story revolves around a group of Knights Templar, their order now dissolved, fleeing like fugitives through the countryside. When they come across a village being ransacked by pirates, their nobility trumps their practicality and they decide to enter the fray for the sake of the defenseless villagers. Their heroism is rewarded with a curse that transforms them into hideous winged gargoyles. The only way to cure themselves - and save the world, as it turns out - is to confront and destroy a powerful Dragon King. Heavy shit here.

You know I don't like to spoil things, so all I'll say of the story from here is that it's a well-paced, suspenseful and thrilling script rife with action galore: storming and pillaging, sword play, riding sequences, mano-e-mano altercations and, of course, spectacular dragon-fights.

This leads me into a bold declaration: the VFX in this are INCREDIBLE, quite possibly the greatest to date for the studio. I seem to be saying that every couple of months this year, but that doesn't make it hyperbole. The team lead by Joseph Lawson has been consistently upping their game project after project, and Dragon Crusaders continues that streak. The creatures are fluid, frightening, well-articulated and alive.

As for performances, Dylan Jones as Knight John conveys all the purest qualities of a soldier: stoicism, compassion, self-sacrifice and honor. He's a fiercely cool head when all Hell is popping off around him, a soulful warrior. Simon Lloyd-Roberts as Maldwyn, another of the Knights, gives a sound performance himself, his character a hotter head than Jones', all the above-mentioned qualities with an added dash of youthful bravado and impassioned emotionality.

But it isn't just the fellas turning in the awesomeness in this one: the two leading ladies - Cecily Fay as Aerona, sword-slinging badass, and Sinead Byrne as Neem, a witchy surviving villager - are both luminous and captivating. Fay is downright impressive in the fight sequences, a one-woman spectacle as deadly as she is beautiful. She plays the role with confidence and coolness, the mark of any hero. Byrne, in contrast, plays Neem as one well aware of the real dangers they face, and thus appropriately worrisome, frantic and terrified.

So then let's take stock here: tight script, rad visual effects, solid performances across the board. Add sweeping, elegant direction by Atkins and a pulse-pounding, riveting score by Chris Ridenhour, and what you get is a truly epic fantasy film that's intriguing and entertaining, sure to please.

But as usual, don't take my word for it; see for yourself this Tuesday when the DVD hits Qwikster queues everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Strange... the opinions are up and down on different places where i look. So this mixed emotions about this movie make me wanna watch... just to form an opinion myself. (and a female swordfighter... who doesn't want to enjoy that?)