Leo Craven On… Dragons

Dragons

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Is there seriously anything cooler than dragons? And let’s be clear; I’m talking about the enormous, fire-breathing kind with massive wings, steely scales, and a penchant for destruction (pacifists like ‘Puff’ and ‘Elliot’ do not count!). My love of dragons started as far back as I can remember, influenced greatly by the story of Saint George and the Dragon (minus the religious context), toy sets with knights & dragons, my mom’s Boris Vallejo calendars, and the infamous ‘Smaug’ from the book ‘The Hobbit’. In fact, as a child, I used to daydream that sleeping dragons would emerge from the hills (I grew up in the country) and reclaim the earth by laying waste to our trivial existence. In retrospect, I now understand why my parents insisted I had too much free time on my hands and put me to work on the horse ranch…

Anyhow, I invite you to join me on this adventure as I journey through the landscape of Dragons in cinematic history by re-visiting my personal movie-viewing experiences starting with…

Sleeping Beauty

SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959)

I was only about two years old when my parents took me to the theatrical re-release of Sleeping Beauty in 1979. I know it’s unusual for adults to be able to call upon memories from that early on in our lives, but Maleficent as a dragon burned an image deep into my mind. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of going to see the new movie “Maleficent” in the theater last summer year, and had my fond memories of dashing heroes and bad-a** villains torn to shreds by some ‘alternate universe’, heaping pile of cinematic…well, let’s just say I wasn’t a fan. Speaking of my youth, how about…

Smaug Animated

THE HOBBIT (ANIMATED-1977)

While this movie came out in 1977, I didn’t actually see it until it was released on VHS (or Betamax, I can’t remember) in the early 1980’s. In retrospect, this movie sold Smaug and Tolkien’s entire magical world short, but as a kid, I was still totally infatuated with it (those goblins gave me some serious nightmares too!). Around the same time I also watched…

The Flight of Dragons

THE FLIGHT OF DRAGONS (1982)

I fully admit that many of the dragons in this movie were a little too ‘nice’ for my tastes, but Bryagh (pictured above) did his fire-breathing species justice. During my childhood there weren’t a lot of non-animated options for dragon viewing, but a precious few fanned the flames of my growing fondness of the flying beasts such as…

King Ghidorah

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)

An old-school release, this was easily my all-time favorite Godzilla movie. I’m hoping with the success of 2014’s Godzilla remake that they might bring King Ghidorah back for the next one. Another classic that I absolutely loved growing up was…

Sinbad Dragon vs Cyclops

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

This was the ‘King Kong’ of dragon movies, boasting an epic battle scene between a dragon and a cyclops. Totally cheesy graphics by today’s standards, but this movie (along with “Clash of the Titans” and “Star Wars”) wore out at least two of our VCR’s growing up. I will conclude my personal ‘Golden Age’ of dragons with the sole attempt Hollywood made at creating a live-action dragon movie before the CGI era really took hold…

Dragonslayer

DRAGONSLAYER (1981)

While unsuccessful at the box office, this movie represented a substantial effort to bring dragons to life on the silver screen. As I wrote this article I realized that I’m going to have to watch this movie again as I don’t remember very much about it, other than what sounded familiar to me on Wikipedia and IMDb. For those unfamiliar with this film, it was a fantasy / action-adventure set in a fictional medieval kingdom about a young wizard who attempts to defeat a 400-year-old dragon named Vermithrax Pejorative.

The greatest breakthrough in cinema for dragons, in my opinion, actually came in 1993 when the ground-breaking “Jurassic Park” was released. Overnight, the possibilities of applying CGI to bringing beasts and monsters to life became endless, and while I enjoyed watching the dinosaurs wreak havoc in their mega-blockbuster, I was even more excited about the prospect of Hollywood finally bringing realistic dragons to life. A new era of dragon-themed movies soon followed, starting with…

Dragonheart

DRAGONHEART (1996)

I was so excited about this movie when I first heard about it. The casting was solid, but then I read that Sean Connery was voicing the dragon…”oh no”, I thought. Unless the dragon’s name is ‘Smaug’, I’m under the stern belief that dragons should not talk. My belief was upheld by a movie that I desperately wanted to like, but ended up being sorely disappointed with (and still left me yearning for a dragon movie that paralleled Jurassic Park). Next came along…

Reign of Fire

REIGN OF FIRE (2002)

To date, this is probably my favorite live-action movie featuring dragons. The story line was solid, the dragons were awesome and the cast features some A-list talent including a pre-“300” Gerard Butler. I’m not willing to go as far as to say that this was the dragon movie I’d been wishing for, but it was a huge step in the right direction. Next came along a movie that isn’t an actual ‘dragon’ movie, but included a great dragon scene…

Goblet of Fire

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005)

The best of the “Harry Potter” movies in my opinion. Again, I’ve only seen this movie once, but it was far and away my favorite of the series. This was Young Adult (YA) entertainment at its best. On the end of the YA entertainment spectrum we have…

Eragon

ERAGON (2006)

Much like “Dragonheart”, this movie was highly anticipated, but poorly executed. I haven’t seen this movie in quite a while, but just the movie stills alone make me sad. It’s hard to believe that a movie with Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Robert Carlyle was this bad. In fact, this movie ‘killed’ the momentum of dragons in cinema for several years until…

Smaug

THE HOBBIT : THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)

Finally; the dragon that we all wanted to see brought to life on the silver screen. Technically, Smaug was in parts 2 & 3 of the Hobbit trilogy, but I refuse to acknowledge “Battle of Five Armies” since (spoiler alert) Smaug’s role should have ended in “Desolation”. I’m still not crazy about a ‘talking dragon’, in principle, but the formula of Tolkien, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Jackson made this dragon the ‘real deal’.

Even though I loved Smaug, I still feel as though I haven’t seen the best dragon movie that Hollywood can deliver. Perhaps that’s because I shouldn’t be looking for a movie, but rather I should turn my visions of fire-breathing treachery to the world of television and…

Game of Thrones

GAME OF THRONES (2011-)

Now this (so far in the series) appears to be everything I’ve been looking for in a dragon story line. The dragons continue to get bigger and fiercer in each season and their Queen, Daenerys, is part of a lineage who’s history sounds like it could have been the premise for the greatest dragon movie of all time. Unfortunately, GOT has so many different characters and plot lines that the dragons don’t get very much screen time. And, with the current production costs already coming in at approximately 6 million per episode, it’s unlikely they’ll invest too much additional budget for extended dragon scenes down the road.

I’m still holding out hope that eventually dragons will be featured more prominently on the ‘big screen’. Recently, a 2-year lawsuit was settled, freeing up Warner Brothers to begin work on a new Dungeons and Dragons movie (let’s all pretend the last attempt never happened, okay?). We also might get a nice dosage of dragons in the upcoming Warcraft movie (June, 2016). As long as neither of these movies tries to make the dragons talk, I’m all in!

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