Saturday, November 26, 2011

AGE OF THE DRAGONS, popular Syfy channel film, makes its digital debut

TrustMovies has rarely-to-never watched the newly-named Syfy (formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel). Now that he has viewed AGE OF THE DRAGONS, he better understands why. According to GoDigital Media Group -- which, along with KOAN, is distributing this film -- the little movie has received the third highest rating of any Syfy film this year. 'Nuff said. If this is the level of entertain-ment Syfy viewers want, count me out. Though based on/inspired by/stolen from -- use whichever you prefer -- Herman Melville's classic novel Moby-Dick (talk about provenance!), the movie drops enough "Moby" references to probably entice aficionados. Once you're actually watching the film, however, you can only be disappointed at the little use made of most of them.

Directed by a fellow named Ryan Little, shown at left (from a screenplay by McKay Daines, who had some "story" help from Gil Aglaure and Anne K. Black), the pacing is ponderous, with interior photography generally dark and confusing (exteriors are sometimes a bit brighter) and a screenplay that is not just simple but simple-minded. The movie is not that long -- a mere 92 minutes -- but it feels like forever, as it plods along with a noticeable lack of incident and little real story.

What story there is is set off by young Ahab losing his little sister to The Great White Dragon (above) and then, as an adult played by Danny Glover (shown below, who is clearly wasting his time and talent with stuff like this) tracking the nasty beast over hill, dale and decade, as he seeks revenge.

Instead of taking off Ahab's leg, as in the original, this movie's Moby, being a fire-breathing dragon, has simply "flamed," and therefore scarred, the guy something fierce. Hence the revenge. Or is that really what Ahab is doing? (Granted, the motivations of Melville's Ahab has been called into question plenty of times, but this movie's big revelation about the hunter is paltry by any standard.)

As for that dragon, we really don't see all that much of him. I have heard that Sufy doesn't like to spend a lot on big special effects, so that may be one reason why this Great Off-White Dragon sometimes looks gray (or darker). His best scene, shown above, comes as he camouflages himself rather cleverly, I think, in order to trap one of the bad guys.

Among the good guys are Corey Sevier (shirtless, above right: You can call him Ishmael) and John Kepa Kruse (center left) as his pal Queequeg. As the love interest -- love interest? In Moby Dick. Of course, and you knew it was coming, too: this is Syfy, right? -- Sofia Pernas (shown above, center right and at bottom of post) provides good looks and a little action as Ahab's sort-of adopted daughter, who can fight her way out of most any situation -- except a poorly handled, would-be rape that adds little to the movie's second half.

The wonderful Vinnie Jones (above, right) brings a nice air of professionalism to the proceedings but is still wasted as the short-lived Stubb (almost all the movie's characters are given names directly from Melville), who here appears to be Ahab's second-in-command.

The most interesting portion of the film has to do with the use of the dragons' vitriol (that glowing fluid in the photo at left: think of it as equivalent to whales' ambergris), which is extracted from the beasts and then marketed for coin. There's a grizzly-but-fun scene of the removal of one dragon's vitriol ball. Otherwise the movie pretty much plods along. When I was a kid we had Classics Illustrated -- comic-book versions of the great novels -- which of course our English teachers all disparaged. Were those teachers alive today, I'll bet they'd prefer them to the likes of TV-level movies such as this.

Filmed entirely in Utah (these are Mormon dragons?) Age of the Dragons can be viewed now on iTunes, YouTube Movies, and CinemaNow. Look for the addition soon (these may have been added already) of further venues such as VUDU, Amazon, Playstation and Cable VOD.

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