Directed by Ryan Little
Age of the Dragons takes Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and transforms it into a pompous fantasy film about dragon hunting with just a pinch of steampunk thrown in to guarantee viewers will have no freaking clue what age the events of the movie are supposed to be taking place in.
The fantasy makeover transforms the great white whale into a great white dragon. Ahab is now a dragon hunter crazily obsessed with slaying this fire-breathing white dragon that left his flesh charred and blinded him in one eye as a youth. Everyone is attired as one would be in a medieval fantasy flick and occupies buildings straight out of the Middle Ages.
Then there’s the matter of the Pequod, Captain Ahab’s famous whaling vessel, now a huge, land-roving, all-terrain, tank-like steampunk vehicle motorized and fueled by God know what. Every single time they showed this, whatever it was, it reminded me of a large Mardi Gras float designed to resemble a medieval castle. It must also have been part Tardis because its interior sure did seem larger than its exterior. A fact director Ryan Little tries to hide by filming most exterior shots either not in full view or at a long front or back angle designed to make the Pequod appear longer than it actually is.
The impression I got of Age of the Dragons was that of a film desperately requiring a bigger budget, as evidenced by the questionable size of the Pequod and the distinct lack of dragon hunting in a movie that is all about dragon hunting. The great white dragon makes a brief appearance in an opening flashback and will reappear briefly later in another flashback to this flashback. Dragon hunting will consist of exactly one scene, a short skirmish with a single dragon that really doesn’t make dragon hunting seem all that difficult if you’ve got a good strong harpoon throwing arm. The final showdown with the white dragon barely qualifies as a showdown due to the white dragon being rendered almost an afterthought in the dramatics of the scene. Calling this finale anticlimactic is putting it mildly, and last I checked it was the whole point of the story.
The bigger failings, though, are performances that are more community theater than “Masterpiece Theater” and a tone of epic seriousness that makes for a dreary bore when it isn’t teetering on camp.
Danny Glover is Ahab, and to be completely honest, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of his performance other than to give the man credit for giving his all in the role – perhaps too much. Glover’s grandiose portrayal is sometimes so over-the-top it walks a fine line dangerously bordering on laughable what with him barking much of his poetic dialogue that sounds as if it was lifted verbatim from the original tome with enough tweaking to repurpose it for a movie about dragons.
The dialogue in this film is all over the map, sometimes sounding like it came straight out of the novel and other times sounding too modern in contrast to the more flowery verses.
Corey Sevier makes for a generically handsome Ishmael boasting just enough scruffy facial hair to remind us he exists in a possible medieval time and didn’t just walk directly off the set of a 21st century CW Network drama. Uncharismatic to begin with, Sevier also narrates this epic tale of obsession and revenge with less passion than the narrator of a PBS nature documentary about whales.
Those familiar with the novel will remember “The Rachel” as the name of a sister ship the Pequod encounters. In this version, Rachel is the name of Ahab’s smoking hot adopted daughter, the orphaned child of his old dragon hunting partner. Rachel apparently suffers from some sort of rare genetic defect that causes her hair and make-up to remain perfect at all times despite never seeing any signs that she owns a hair brush or a make-up kit. And you better believe she’ll find bland romance with young Ishmael. Melville’s novel is considered to be a definitive work of literary Romanticism; now someone’s finally gone and put some actual romance into it.
Reimagining Moby Dick as a fantasy flick about dragons is not the worst idea in the world, and it could have worked – could have. It just doesn’t work as fantasy, adventure, or as a reinterpretation of classic literature. I give them credit for trying, but that’s about all the credit I can give it.
1 1/2 out of 5
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