Welcome back, devotees of the dreadful, to the archives of the B-reels. I shall be continuing the theme of Dragons in this installment (get used to it) with a look at one of the more recent additions to my most treasured collection: Age of the Dragons!
In brief summary, Age of the Dragons is a retelling of the classic tale of Moby Dick, starring venerable paragons of the screen acting world, Vinnie Jones and Danny Glover, as it’s primary selling points. I would just like to say that, upon first stumbling across this film, I practically wet myself. This is potentially one of the best ideas for a film ever! This particular travesty is brought to us from the production companies Koan, Cinedrome and Dragonquest Productions (which, incidentally, has absolutely nothing to do with Dragon Quest the film). I’m not quite sure how the idea came about, but I’m almost certain that there must have been a fair deal of drug use involved in it’s conception.
The primary difference between this film and it’s source material is, of course, the world in which it is set. After trying to determine a date in history to which this fantasy could be comparable, I decided to simply file it under “miscellaneous adventure times”, the absurdity of the setting proving a little too much to handle. In a semi-medieval world of wooden taverns, long swords and bar-wench cleavages, we find a society driven forward by “Dragon Oil”, which can only be procured by gallivanting with a band of badly written stereotypes. It is the style in which they do this, however, that amazes me. Instead of just translating the ship and crew in to a hunting party, the cast is endowed with a massive iron boat which “drives” across the land, harboring a huge harpoon shooting ballista manned by Vinnie Jones. This is where the film cashes in most of it’s awesome points and gives us something unique, if a little farfetched, to mull over.
Aside from Jones and Glover there is little to rave about, in terms of cast, short of a few bit-parters and televisual drama robots. It should probably be noted that protagonist Corey Sevier recently appeared in the modern fantasy epic The Immortals as Apollo, though you will soon get tired of his droning narration grating on your soul. Jones and Glover most definitely steal the show, albeit only briefly in the case of the former; old Vinnie’s strangely lovable character being rushed to a somewhat premature grave. This reeks rather potently of Bethesda Studios syndrome, wherein the afflicted feels compelled to bag the biggest human commodity they can find and give them minimal screen time to either save money or hook an audience, if not both. In the cult cinema world, this is also know as Return to the Planet of the Apes syndrome.
In relation to the characters themselves, the film is surprisingly accurate when it comes to said characters’ actual names. The focal cast harbors a total of seven, which reduces throughout for obvious reasons, all being marginally representative of the key cast from Moby Dick. This similarity is, of course, majorly superficial as, upon closer inspection, the characters can be easily disregarded as the thrice washed after-stains of their original iterations. I would provide a revolting analogy, but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks yourself. I should probably add that Queequeg threw me somewhat: the dude’s meant to be a burly, tattooed, bad ass tribesman and we get a skinny little pretty boy barely distinguishable from the ponce we’ve got prancing around in the protagonist trousers!
A special mention should probably go out Danny Glover’s incarnation of Captain Ahab, which is just down-right legendary. The fella is crisped up to the max in his burn-victim makeup and has one white eye, made only more effective by Glover’s insistence on rasping every line like he’s got an entire fucking guttery’s worth of fish bones lodged neatly in his throat. This Ahab would, however, total take it if Patrick Stewart’s Ahab from the 1998 mini-series decided to prove his dominance. Fuck hunting dragons, this guy used to command a galaxy class starship!
The actual hunting is, of course, accompanied by the dragons themselves. I must admit that these are amongst my favorite dragons, and that is saying something! I would like kick up a fuss about them actually being Wyverns, but they are referred to as such in the later scenes, much to my sadistic disappointment. What impresses me most about these specific dragons is the fact that they’re not all that big, thus being just a stint more believable. I get tired of low budget flicks punching above their weight and delivering glorified polygons, this being a trap which Age of the Dragons sidles around rather neatly. The White Dragon itself is pretty God damn awesome, it has to be said, though it would probably benefit from a few more shadows; the insistence on having everything in plain sight presumably seeping through from the dark days of Alien Vs Predator 1. No matter how badass one’s dragons look, it’s tricky to get away with cheap CGI in this pixel-soaked day and age; you’d think the B-Movie masters would learn to implement a little chiaroscuro here and there! Although, these issues can be overlooked if one is feeling particularly generous, especially considering the excellent use of models in some of the later scenes. There’s some bits with baby dragons and one scene where they cut a dragon open, Empire Strikes Backstyle, and it’s just wonderful. It slightly warms my dry, icy heart to see prosthetics in proper use these days.
I’ll not bother detailing the story; if you don’t know the story of Moby Dick then you probably can’t read this article. Hell, it’s been the focus of enough Warner Brothers cartoons throughout the ages… Suffice it to say that each line is delivered with considerably more cheese than the last. The writing sounds slightly like a book of cliches being horrifically raped by some kind of mutated cheese monster whilst a small group of Shakespearean actors recite Mills and Boon novellas in increasingly comical voices. The cheese does, however, slip into hilarity in several instances. My favorite of all the film’s idiocies has to be Ahab’s “I know their hidden journey… as I know the veins in my arm!” which succeeds in making all of no sense.
In summary, this film is definitely worth a watch if you have as little to do in your spare time as I do, and I’ve not had a great deal of spare time recently! Although… that probably says more about the sorry state of my social life as opposed to the film… Either way, Age of the Dragons is a slightly shiny turd. A little shoe polish and stoic determination and they could have popped out a gleaming one! Between this and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I think the creative world might seriously be onto something… All we need now is a sci-fi reboot of Oliver Twist set in the dytopic future, with mutants and strippers and stuff. We’ll have a whole new genre!
AJT “Mutie” Neill