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Two years ago this January, sci-fi and fantasy film geeks suffered a major blow with the death of English actor Pete Postlethwaite. you forgot to honor him? Well, now’s your chance. while your marathon may include anything from Alien 3 to Inception, there’s one choice that stands out as appropriate for you AND your nerdy children. No, not the second Jurassic Park (though you’ll note the film went south only after Postlethwaite’s Allan Quatermain-type character disappeared). I’m talking about Dragonheart, which released a year earlier (1996) and applied Jurassic Park’s computer-generated creature effects in a fresher fashion.
I still remember the first time I saw a TV spot for Dragonheart. I was immersed in the fantasy novel series Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – not to mention the role-playing tradition it grew out of – and was convinced that the movie being advertised was an adaptation of the same. But when I tried to announce the title along with the voiceover guy, he said “heart” where I said “lance,” which left me only mildly disappointed. When you’re that steeped in fantasy, anything with “dragon” in it is bound to entertain.
Dragonheart definitely has a dragon in it, dubbed Draco (after the constellation) and brought to life by Sean Connery’s telltale brogue and special effects that still look great today. Wrongly blamed for the reign of terror carried on by King Einon (David Thewlis, also known as Professor Lupin from the Harry Potter films), Draco avoids the vengeful wrath of former knight Bowen (Dennis Quaid) until the two earn each other’s sympathies and form a partnership. Postlethwaite joins in as the comic relief in the form of a traveling monk and poet, but has no monopoly on humor in this movie, which tends to emphasize family-friendliness over anything else. There are enough swords and battles to earn the PG-13 rating, but what sticks in the memory (or the heart) is Draco and the score that soars with him, specifically “To the Stars,” the main theme reused several times elsewhere.
Whether you’re looking to remember a brilliant actor or hoping to ease your tweens into more epic fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings, Dragonheart delivers!