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Dragons from the and the World

Name: Dragon Fighter
Production: Velocity, Thinkfilm
Director: Phillip J. Roth
Original Aired Date: January 4, 2003
DVD Release Date: February 18, 2003
Genre: Sci Fi / Action
Rated: R (This site rate it PG-13)
Running time: 85 min.
Budget Estimate: N/A

Dragon Contents:
This rating only indicates the dragon contents and importance they play in the movie/game/episodes reviewed.

R a t i n g :
This rating indicates how good or how bad was the movie/game/episodes reviewed. A rating of 5 stars on 10 is considered as the average which mean it is not good but not bad either.

Reviewed by Tempest
No alternate review available


There can be only one dominant species.

Dragon Fighter is a "hunters become hunted in close space" kind of direct to video movie but saddled with a low budget; this will be apparent many time throughout the movie and I will get back at this later on. Some of the things that surprised me, is the drawings into Dr. Ian Drackovich's office. I can recognize many of them and it's fun to see that someone has been reading dragon websites while trying to make a dragon movie. Too bad it's not a stellar one.

At any rate, Dragon Fighter involves a lot of themes covered in Jurassic Park (1993), such as the danger of bringing back extinct species, the risk versus reward of scientific experiments and the scientist lust for recognition. They could have developed those themes a bit more deeply, as they merely scratch the surface which makes the whole thing a bit cliché. But it's a B movie so it's to be expected.

Does Dragon Fighter is worth seeing? Only if you have time to kill. Does the movie is enjoyable? Yes for the first part. Could it have been better? Certainly. For example The Outer Limits TV series (1995) are an agglomerate of short stories with not a terribly big budget but there are plenty of little jewels in it simply because of the strength of the storyline and the ending can be good or bad for the hero. Sadly Dragon Fighter have a weak plot, making it hard to ignore the other shortcomings...


Story line:
The story began in 1109, in England with a scene of medieval soldiers on horseback chasing a dragon. They manage to engage him in some sort of large cave, the dragon seems to have the upper hand in the battle but during the combat a landslide bury everyone save for a single soldier.

Fast-forward to modern times in northern California, Dr. Ian Drackovich (Robert Zachar) is traveling in helicopter with Capt. David Carver (Dean Cain). Carver seems to be the kind of soldier who isn't an all-in-muscles-nothing-in-the-brain and seems to have figured out most of the setting right away. He is assuming that Drackovich is involved in something related to cloning as the operation is covert, the large amount of medical supply implies a medical experiment but the lack of animal subjects suggests he is making his own. I would have thought about something else (like experiment done on humans) but having a character to explain the story from the start also helps the viewer to know exactly what is going on without having to waste time to make the hero figure out what's happening.

So, they head toward an oldt bomb shelter in the middle of nowhere that was turned into an underground laboratory under military supervision. There, he will replace Capt. Sergei Petrov (Hristo Shopov) as the person in charge of the security. Other people manning the lab are: Dr. Meredith Winter (Kristine Byers) a biological engineer, Dr. Greg Travis (Marcus Aurelius) an veterinarian, Bailey Kent (Vesela Dimitrova) a genetic engineer, Kevin Korish (Robert DiTillio) a system analyst as well as a cook and two technicians. The personnel at the lab are doing research on cloning for the purpose of bringing back extinct species (or possibly preventing some current species from going extinct). The movie take an interesting turn when Dr. Drackovich manage to get a DNA sample from an excavation team that has dug out a fossilized remain of an unknown dinosaur believed to be about a thousand years old. The laboratory isn't allowed to clone anything that pre-date mankind on penalty of funding withdrawal and prosecution. However the carbon dating was confirmed to be correct (so it's within their mandate) and out of fear that other laboratories may begin to work on their own samples, they proceed to resurrect the creature. Note that during the discussion about the nature of the creature discovered, Capt. Carver guesses it right that the only explanation is that the creature is a dragon. However, it doesn't make much sense at this point to put forward this kind of hypothesis and it almost make Carver looks like he had read the movie script and already know how it will end. Moreover it reduce the significance of when he wanders into Dr. Ian Drackovich's office and find all the dragon material there.

To return to the story, bringing back something to life is apparently not very time consuming because after merely 3 hours, they manage to have a creature three time bigger than a human. I don't think it's necessary to give the creature such ability because it's something that would be more appropriate for a space alien biological life form than to a creature from Earth. At any rate, they try to retrieve the creature, but there is an explosion in the incubation room (creature breathing fire?) that kill two technicians as well as cutting the communication lines with the surface (the communication panel or at least some important wiring was apparently passing just behind the clean room). The explosion has also opened a way to into old (and relatively short) tunnels around the facility still left there when they build the place and the dragon decided it might be a good place to start exploring. From this point forward, everything goes from bad to worse as the hero try to remain alive while being hunted by the dragon.

SPOILERS...
(select the text with your mouse to read it)
The place is obviously not intended to wage a war and indeed it has a very small number of weapons but it is difficult to accept that a shotgun supposed to be able to kill an elephant in a single shot has no effect on a slightly smaller creature. Also, at some point the fusion reactor of the base (I'm not sure why they need such technology to power this base, it would have made more sense for the base used a outdated nuclear reactor) is going to explode supposedly creating an explosion 53% the size of Hiroshima. But in the end, two soldiers are seen scavenging for biological samples in a secondary laboratory a hundred feet below the first one. This second lab looks to be in a near perfect condition with a dragon fetus growing in an incubator, paving the way for an open-ending... or a sequel.


Images:
The dragon is often seen walking in a hallway toward the viewer. It's okay but after a few times of reusing the same shot over and over, it just highlights the lack of budget to put the dragon in different angles and situations. The dragon doesn't interact much with its surrounding environment either. Aside this, I think he looks rather fine for a low budget movie. Aside from the dragon the CG helicopter could have been a lot better. In fact they could have rented a real helicopter for that scene. Aside this, the base look like a real underground bunker; a bit dark but it's right for the setting. Lastly, the movie makes ample use of split screens, it has some appeal in some situations but it's like anything else if you abuse it (and they do) it can be annoying and ruin the intended effect.


Sound & Music:
The music is good across the whole movie and I don't remember noticing that the music was inappropriate. The theme song is played often during the movie but it's appropriate. So really, I have no complain or any negative observation on that point.


Acting:
The acting isn't bad in itself. At the beginning, the main character fall a bit in to "know-it-all" category (figuring out the exact purpose of the secret lab even before having set foot in the place, and suggesting that the DNA sample from an unknown dinosaur comes from a dragon... not very credible explanation) but aside this everyone else behave like normal people.

However, in the second half of the movie it seems that the actors have forgotten who they are supposed to be and start acting, for the lack of a better word, like idiots. Carvers hate fire, it's a phobia for him but nowhere in the movie this is even remotely apparent. I'm still not sure why he clings to a sword he founds in Drackovich's office up to the very end of the movie knowing full well that guns has no effect (does he wants to try his luck in close combat?). Dr. Ian Drackovich will earn a Darwin Award near the end and Kevin Korish would probably win the second price (remind me who are supposed to be the highly intelligent scientist versus the mere soldier, here). At this point no matter how much efforts the actor put in their character the plot and the weak script make it difficult to believe that this is how normal people would react and behave if they found themselves in this kind of situation. There is also very little character development which tend make the viewer completely indifferent to whenever those characters live or die.


R a t i n g
Images:(5.0/10) - Fair
Sound & Music:(7.0/10) - Good
Story line:(3.0/10) - Poor
Acting:(3.5/10) - Poor
Innovation:(3.0/10) - Poor
Educational Value or
Level of Wisdom:
(2.0/10) - Very Poor
Overall:(4.0/10) - Shoddy
Note: the overall is not an average, but more a general appreciation of the movie as a whole.
A rating of 5/10 should be considered as something not good but not bad either (# bad points = # good points).