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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Fire & Ice - The Dragon Chronicles (Blu-ray)
Fire & Ice - The Dragon Chronicles (Blu-ray)
Entertainment One // Unrated // November 23, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 4, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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"Well, dragon slayer! The dragon has returned."
"That's too bad."
"Do something."
"Do it yourself."

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Augustin (Arnold Vosloo) is the beloved monarch of a sleepy little kingdom that's known nothing but peace for decades. Then, all of a sudden, terror rains from above! Or reigns from above. Maybe both! I don't know. Anyway, a fire dragon swoops in and torches everything in sight, returning every few weeks until Carpia lays in smoldering ruin. Augustin cannot save his kingdom, but he can, perhaps, save his people. All he has to do is cede all of his power to the sinister King Quilok (Ovidiu Niculescu), who you know is bad news because he has earrings along with a dyed-gray goatee and cropped hair that make him look like a background dancer in a Bone Thugs video. Hark! Maybe there is another answer after all. In all of recorded history, only one man has ever felled a dragon. The guy had his knighthood revoked, and there are all sorts of treaties that accordingly forbid Augustin from enlisting his aid in playing Medieval Orkin Man, but plucky Princess Luisa (Amy Acker) isn't one for rules and parchment so much. This royal tomboy just wants to save what's left of father's kingdom, so she sets out on a grand adventure!

The bad news...? The hero in question is long dead. The good news...? His son Gabriel (Tom Wisdom) is still alive and kickin', and everyone knows that knights always pass down their skills -- y'know, nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, dragon slaying skills -- to their kids. The other bad news...? Gabriel is still bitter about Pop being dishonored and dismissed, having no interest in kings, kingdoms, or flying, firebreathing lizards. Luisa sticks with the spirited, pretty pretty princess card long enough to find the right combination of bribes to bring Gabriel and his inventor sidekick Sangimel (John Rhys-Davies) onboard. Their plan is simple:
  • Phase 1: Swipe the mystical Macguffin that's protecting Quilok's kingdom.
  • Phase 2: Unleash a hibernating ice dragon and send it into battle against the mighty fire dragon.
  • Phase 3: ???
  • Phase 4: Everyone lives happily ever after!
But wait! Could
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the cure be worse than the disease? If you've read such immortal classics as "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", you may already know the answer.

One of the first things you see on the flipside of the case for Fire and Ice: The Dragon Chronicles is "from the director of Catwoman", and...yeah, that's kind of the review right there. Borderline-nothing about the movie works. The screenplay reads like something nicked from a Legend of the Seeker fan-fic group on LiveJournal. Every beat is stale, familiar, and telegraphed an hour or so in advance: the stinging betrayals, the two pretty people who hmmph-can't-stand-each-other and soon fall in love, and the reluctant hero's change of heart once the climax rolls around. The dialogue creaks along with eightysomething minutes of puns and clich├ęs that were probably translated from Romanian to French to English.

Fire and Ice's ambition far outstrips its budget, with its unconvincing visual effects work and medieval costumes that look as if I'm at a ren faire in Beaufort, South Carolina. The design of the dragons isn't particularly menacing -- think the 1998 Godzilla mixed with a stingray -- and they're far too disconnected from everything else that's happening in the movie. Most of the dragon battles pit the two creatures endlessly flying towards each other against a plain blue sky. Maybe you'll get some clouds in there too, but there's so little connection between the dragons and the world around them for it to have any dramatic impact. Every trace of action in the film is awkwardly staged and incomprehensibly photographed. Not only is it not even a little bit exciting, but honestly, there were times when I couldn't even tell what was going on. This is one of the most poorly edited flicks I've ever stumbled across. It too often feels choppy, characters will be in completely different places from shot-to-shot, they'll use takes where the lip movements don't match the dialogue we're hearing even a little bit, and again, it ravages whatever thrills there may otherwise have been in the action.

Fire and Ice features an international cast, many of whom don't speak English as a first (or probably second or third) language. Delivering a line proves to be as impossible a struggle as vanquishing a dragon, with long Shatner-ian pauses scattered throughout or random syllables being emphasized. It's unfortunate because some of these actors are so charming in the making-of featurette, such as Cabral Ibacka who plays a stoic knight, but I'd cringe with every last word in the film itself. Then again, this is a movie where the climax involves an oversized pinball game with a dragon and our hero making this face for several seconds straight, so whatever:
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

I adore Amy Acker, but she's no great shakes in the part of Luisa, and her stab at a British accent can make for some rough going. Tom Wisdom doesn't really exude "hero!" so much. Maybe that's deliberate, but he seems like he'd be more of a comfortable fit as a sarcastic sidekick. To no one's surprise, John Rhys-Davies steals every scene he's in and scores all the best lines as he gnaws on the scenery. I also like Arnold Vosloo as King Augustin. He's not really given much to do, but I appreciate the fact that the kindly king isn't an old, short, dumpy guy with a big gray beard. Vosloo has enough of a commanding presence to feel as if he could be a leader of men, and he sells the more heroic aspects of the character as well as can be expected.

Uninspired, glacially paced, and poorly written, directed, and acted, Fire and Ice: The Dragon Chronicles fails on just about every conceivable level. It's not even the unintentionally funny sort of schlock that SyFy is usually known for with their made-for-TV movies. Ack. I'd rather suffer through Dragon Wars: D-War again than this. Skip It.

It kinda feels as if I'm just watching Fire and Ice on SyFy-HD and not a shiny, newly-minted Blu-ray disc. Some of the more expansive shots are lacking in detail, and the ride across the fields that opens the movie looks kind of digital and shimmery. In general, the film grain has a harsh, digital appearance, really, and the image especially struggles whenever fog creeps in. Detail and texture are quite strong whenever the camera's closed in tightly but otherwise isn't anything remarkable. The golden tint to much of Fire and Ice quickly grows tiresome, and the cold blues that sometimes take its place really aren't any better. Passable but lackluster.

Fire and Ice: The Dragon Chronicles swoops onto Blu-ray with a low-bitrate AVC encode that fits on a single layer disc with plenty of room to spare. Although the disc's menus are interlaced for whatever reason, the film itself is the usual 1080p24.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does sound richer and fuller than the six-channel
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Dolby Digital track (448kbps) elsewhere on this disc, but it's kind of forgettable too. Even with endless scenes of the dragons soaring overhead, the sound design remains anchored up front. There are sparse effects that skitter into the surrounds -- blasts of fire, the cracking of a massive sheet of ice, a crumbling cave, debris scattering after an explosion -- but Fire and Ice often might as well be a stereo track. It lacks the full-bodied roar I'd expect out of even a low-budget fantasy flick. The bass rumbles at time but feels thin and hollow. There's no heft to the Casio keyboard score either. The film's dialogue has a tendency to sound clipped, and there's one scream at the end that winds up being nothing but static. It's a weak effort.

Subtitles are limited to English (SDH), and there aren't any dubs this time around.

Not much.
  • Making-of Featurette (17 min.; SD): The making-of featurette -- inventively titled "Making-Of Featurette" -- is a straightahead promotional piece. Y'know, it runs through each character and the actor behind 'im, there's some chatter about the extensive visual effects work, piling together such an international cast and crew, endlessly praising Romania as a mecca for filmmaking...mostly routine and uninsightful.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): The only other extra is a high-def trailer.

The Final Word
Not that the channel behind Mansquito or Mega Piranha is known for quality, but Fire and Ice: The Dragon Chronicles is shoddy even by SyFy's bargain basement standards. Skip It.
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