Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 18, 2020)
Back in 1996, Dragonheart looked like a probable blockbuster. However, the movie did a lackluster $51 million in the US, a forgettable total even back then.
With a worldwide take of $115 million, Dragonheart didn’t flop. Still, it seemed like a disappointment for a movie with mass action appeal, and given the movie’s high budget, it probably didn’t turn a profit.
Despite these less-than-great box office receipts, Dragonheart spawned a direct-to-video franchise. These started with 2000’s A New Beginning, and 20 years later, the series continues via its fifth entry, 2020’s Vengeance.
Lukas (Jack Kane) leads a simple life as a farmer along with his family. This placid existence ends when violent raiders slaughter his clan.
Intent on revenge, Lukas sets out on a journey. Along the way, he meets Siveth (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter), an ice-breathing dragon who agrees to help him. Cocky mercenary swordsman Darius (Joseph Millson) rounds out this trio as they embark on their quest.
Although I saw the original Dragonheart back in 1996 and again on DVD in 2000, I’d not viewed it since then. I thought it offered decent entertainment but I didn’t embrace it enough to want to watch any of the direct to video sequels.
If Vengeance represents the quality of its other video brethren, I made the right choice. Dull, trite and cheap, the movie goes nowhere.
Expect a hackneyed “hero’s journey” here, one that shows a slew of obvious influences. We get some Star Wars, some Tolkien, How to Train Your Dragon and plenty of other inspirations.
All of these add up to a wholly unoriginal affair. We find nary a creative moment here, as everything we see feels stale and regurgitated.
Though the movie comes with an inherently simple plot, it tosses out a slew of unnecessary character complications. The filmmakers think these add depth – especially as the movie attempts a look at the issues related to the pursuit of revenge – but they feel like little more than windowdressing.
Despite these stabs at drama, Vengeance simply lacks the depth it needs to pursue these themes in a satisfying manner. The movie tosses out too many character domains with too little commitment for any of them to succeed.
One assumes Vengeance came with a limited budget, and it often feels like the story beats exist to avoid expensive effects scenes. When it addresses character notions, it keeps things simple and cheap.
Never mind that people watch movies like this for the fantasy elements. Maybe I’d mind the lack of action less if the plot points worked, but they feel so trite and unfocused that they’re ineffective.
The same goes for the effects, as they don’t hold up to circa 2020 standards. Because I’ve not watched the original Dragonheart in about 20 years, I can’t compare its CG to this flick’s, but I’d not feel surprised to see little growth in that department.
For well-made films, we’ve seen massive improvement in computer effects since 1996, but Vengeance doesn’t do much to reflect that. Siveth looks plastic at all times, and the dragon fails to integrate well with her surroundings.
Even though I entered Vengeance with low expectations, it couldn’t live up to them. Cheesy, dull and tired, the movie goes nowhere.