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Dragons: Fire & Ice

November 14, 2004Reviewed by: Rodney Figueiredo
DVD Released:
10/12/2004 (3992) Views

 
Film 6 out of 10 6
Video 7 out of 10 7
Audio 7 out of 10 7
Extras 5 out of 10 5
Overall 6 out of 10 6




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It seems that with the success of fantasy films in the past few years, we have seen an upsurge in the number of fantasy-based animation as well. This is not to say that the fantasy genre has been absent from the animation sphere, but it seems to me that people are ready to see more films about dragons and magic. Of course, the ones that really benefit from all of this interest in the fantastic world of magic spells and brave heroes are the toy makers and home video distributors. They are the ones who profit from the sales of hero action figures, toy castles, and dragons of every shape and size, and of course DVDs. Many of these toy manufacturers have partnered up with animation studios to promote their product via home video. This is nothing new, and I can remember when I was younger and He-Man was one such fantasy-themed toy promoted directly through a television show. My neighbors and I all wanted the latest He-Man action figure, complete with the castle and matching weapons. However, I have never before noticed building block makers promoting their products through cartoons. Recently, Disney and Lions Gate Films (formerly Artisan) have released animation directly linked to building block toy makers. In the case of Lions Gate, they have just released a new CGI film called Dragons: Fire & Ice, based on the toys made by Mega Bloks (a company I had previously never heard of).

Dragons: Fire & Ice was created by the Montreal-based company Mega Bloks in order to compete with LEGO and other industry leaders. With the incredible success of Bionicle in the last year, it is no wonder that other companies like it will try and enter the market using animated DTV releases. This company specializes in everything from regular building block cars and fire engines to complex spaceships. It also makes other cartoon and television-based toy blocks including those of some Disney properties, Power Rangers, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sets for Dragons include large castles, ships, and other fantasy scenarios for children to play with their toys. Overall, it is very impressive and Iím sure I would have enjoyed these toys when I was younger, but now the company is playing in the new arena of television. Here the entertainment would have to rely on a solid story that could keep young kids entertained and excited about the toys. It is no surprise that Mega Bloks went to Lions Gate for this release. After all, both are Canadian-based firms, and Lions Gateís animation division has produced many toy-based cartoon releases (mostly using CGI) in the past few years with great success.

The Canadian-produced Dragons: Fire & Ice isnít the first computer-animated release by the Lions Gate division Family Home Entertainment (FHE). In fact, the same company (formerly controlled by Artisan) has excelled in releasing toy-based animated adventures featuring Barbie, Rescue Heroes, and G.I. Joe. Their latest effort is directed by Keith Ingham and Craig Wilson. In the past, Ingham has been involved in directing the animation of several Disney direct-to-video sequels such as The Enchanted Christmas, The Little Mermaid II, and Return to Never Land, as well as some Canadian animated TV shows like Silverwing. The movie is produced by Jonathan Goodwill who produced the hit show Beast Wars back in the late 90s. His influence can be seen in the basic designs of the characters in this film. The cast is also no stranger to Lions Gate with many of them having done work for previous Barbie and G.I. Joe releases as well as other cartoons such as Bionicle and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The Movie

The story begins with an introduction to this new fantasy world of Dragons. Apparently, some wise dragons came from the Dragon World through a portal to help humanity. They helped humanity by guiding them and by using their wisdom to make the prosperous. The graceful dragons used some crystals that gave them special powers over the elements such as wind and fire. However, this peaceful coexistence all ended one day when two human factions broke out in war. The Great Dragon King, Thoron, managed to keep the peace for a period of time, but it all ended when the Dragon Queen was assassinated and a rebellion started in the Dragon World. The dragons left the humans, closed the portal, and vowed only to return when peace had been restored. They also took the precious crystals with them to their world, leaving the humans fighting amongst themselves.

A thousand years later, the two factions, the Norvagens and Draigars, are still fighting but there is a new generation who is ready to see the end of war. On the Norvagen side is King Olsef and his only son Dev who is ready to see the day they conquer the Draigars. The Draigars are led by King Siddari and his only daughter Kyra, who also wishes to finish the war so that she can see the dragons return. Both kings are being advised by the legendary ambassador to the dragons Xenoz, who is a magician that lives in a large ice mountain. While most of the dragons in the world have left, two remain. Targon is a male dragon who lives with the Norvagen and Aurora a female dragon who lives with the Draigar. When Dev and Kyra both turn eight, their parents allow them to go on their first dragon flight. While in the air, they are surprised by a portal opening and a large black dragon falling on the earth causing a large explosion. The dragon, seeing the two children unconscious on the ground, sheds tears on them which leave a scar on their faces. Then, as quickly as he appeared, the dragon disappears beneath the earth.

Eight years later, both Dev and Kyra are trained fighters ready for the battle of their lives. Both have incredible gifts directly linked to the scar on their faces. The winds respond to Devís mood and become agitated when he is angry. With Kyra, all flames respond to her anger and anxiety. The two secretly meet on a battleground to end the war once and for all. They soon find out that they are equally matched and that their scars have a deeper significance. When the two armies finally meet on the battleground, they are attacked by dragon-like creatures called Nogards (get it?) who are led by half-human creatures called Vorgans and their leader Gortaz. The two armies are quickly overwhelmed and their kings are kidnapped. Xenoz comes to save the two young royals and are takes them to his ice palace on Dragon Mountain. There, Xenoz shows them his ice crystal which once belonged to the Dragon Queen. He tells them of a powerful crystal named the Aurathon which has enough power to end the war between the nations. He wants them to bring it back to him from a rogue dragon that lives deep underground. They will have to work together to finally bring peace and the dragons back to their world.

The story continues from there with many twists and turns along the way. Overall, it is a simple story running just over one hour in length. Any more than this and I would probably have lost interest in the story. Dev and Kyra are interesting characters, and they are the ones who finally discover what was behind the dragons leaving their world (a high point in the story). They also learn the mystery of the Black dragon that shed tears on their faces and the key to their powers. The villainís identity probably will not come as a shock to anyone, but I doubted my instincts for a moment in the story until it was confirmed just moments later. As for the two main characters, it was interesting to see these characters progress from being trained warriors to becoming peacemakers, although there was no clear character arch for either one of them. It was fun to see both of them using their powers since they could combine their powers to send fireballs flying through the air. I was a bit confused as to why the title of this release was Fire & Ice since the two powers represented were Fire & Wind (ice is only controlled by Xenoz). Still, I suppose it is a cooler title (no pun intended).

Video
7 out of 10 7


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The only other FHE release I have reviewed for this website is Rescue Heroes: The Movie (a release I did enjoy), and one can say that the animation style is similar in both of them. I suppose that since the story is based on building blocks, it is not a bad thing for the characters to look like boxes. To me, it seemed like there was minimal amount of rendition done to these characters (enough to make them move correctly) but very little texture or detail. The characterís boxy look was only a problem in the beginning of the movie, and I did forget about the designs as the story progressed. As mentioned, many of the designs reminded me of the characters from Beast Wars with their glossy/boxy CGI look. Many times, it looked more like a video game than an animated movie. Still, the actual picture is clean without any noticeable specs of dust or fragments. The movie is not very bright, but there is a considerable amount of color in the designs. Blue, green, and red hues are most prevalent in the set designs. The movie is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio, with a running time of approximately 72 minutes.

Audio
7 out of 10 7


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The movie is presented in both English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround Sound tracks. These tracks are pretty good for this type of release without too many daring effects. There were some explosions and battle scenes that sounded good, which did impress me a little. It is a suitable track, that doesnít need to be any better than it already is. The audio is only available in English, although there are English and Spanish subtitles available in the release. I was slightly surprised that no French track was available as it is primarily a Canadian product, but there might be another version available in the Canadian market.

Bonus Material
5 out of 10 5


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While the box claims eight separate special features, (Interactive Motion Menus! Full Screen Version!), there really are only three features in this release. Inside the disc there is a Trailer for the film. In an age where many DVDs donít include the trailer to the actual film, Iím glad that someone is paying attention and Iím glad it is there. I also had no clue what this movie was about, so it was nice to get a brief introduction with the trailer. The only other option on the DVD was an option to play the movie in ďKrystal Model.Ē Playing the movie with this option allows one to find out more about the main characters when a crystal appears on the screen. I watched the movie in this mode, and I did find it helpful when I wanted to know more about the characters. However, most of the things I learned in the bio (itís a written bio that appears when you click on the crystals) I learned just minutes later in the story. It does not, however, give any of the major plot points away, which was a positive aspect to this feature. Initially, I was afraid it would give the characterís hidden agendas and identities away, but again it did not.

DVD-ROM

It has been quite some time since Iíve actually seen a special feature on the DVD-ROM part of the disc. Here, one can play the Dragons Game on their own PC. I believe it is the same game that is available on the Dragons website, although I am not completely sure as I did not get a chance to play the one online. It is not a hard game, but I would have to focus harder on not dying to get through to the last level (I believe there are five levels and I died in the fourth). Basically, in the game, the player gets to choose between Dev and Kyra to go through the five levels, picking up keys, swords, and crystals to defeat the villain. Overall, itís an enjoyable game that could take up to about thirty minutes to an hour to complete.

Wrap Up

I was initially put off by the animation in this release, which I found primitive compared to what we are used to seeing these days. In the age of the Pixar/Dreamworks rivalry, Iím still amazed that some computer-animated films can look so plain. Still, the actual story in this film (and there is one, albeit a brief one) is mostly entertaining. I soon forgot all about the boxiness of the character designs and the vacant expressions on some of their faces, and became engaged in the story. It is a simple story about two warring nations having to come together to defeat a powerful villain, and it has been done a million times before. However, it always works, and this story will fascinate kids (young boys primarily) who enjoy hearing stories of dragons, heroes, and magic crystals (what is it about crystals and fantasy anyways?). This is the target market after all, so they should enjoy it. It is also not very long, which makes it just bearable for adults who have to watch it with their children. Donít be surprised if your child asks for the toy once they find out they exist. There is a coupon book inside the case to make orders if oneís interested.

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Reader Rating : 6.40
Total: 57

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