Dragon Dynasty Movie Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
DVD released by Koch Media
Directed by Matt Codd
Written by Berkley Anderson
2006, 89 mins, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 14th May 2012
Federico Castelluccio as Marco Polo
Peter Kwong as Shang Sel
Aaron Hendry as Giovanni
Dion Basco as Gao Ling
Stana Katic as Ava
James Hong as Gao
Dragon Dynasty is the slightly embellished retelling of the true life story of Marco Polo, the 13th century Venetian merchant whose exploits helped establish trade with the Asian continent. What stops this film from appearing on the History Channel or on the school syllabus is that there isn’t any solid proof that Marco Polo was chased back to the European continent by a couple of fire breathing dragons.
Marco (Federico Castelluccio - Sopranos) and brother Giovanni (Aaron Hendry) have just finalized agreements with Chinese Emperor Gao (James Hong - Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China). Everyone is overjoyed by the opportunity for both nations to prosper by the deal, apart from spiritual advisor and sorcerer Shang Sel, who is also the only person stubborn enough to spitefully release two dragons to try and destroy everything in their path to stop the treaty.
Although Dragon Dynasty is only just being released on DVD, it was actually created directly for the Sci-Fi Channel in 2006, so it would be unfair to comment too harshly on the special effects, but all things considered it’s not too bad at all. Sets look effective, costumes look authentic and the dragons aren’t disappointing. There are a few entertaining moments of carnage that are scattered throughout the film and some brilliant deaths. What the film misses, however, is diversity. After the second dragon attack 25 minutes into the film, you long for something different to happen. Eight minutes later? Dragon attack. Nine minutes after that? Dragon attack. Eight minutes... I’m sure you get where this is going.
At least the sorcerer Koura in Ray Harryhausen’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad mixes it up a little. A six-armed goddess of evil, a one-eyed centaur, a flying homunculus imp and a wooden ‘savage siren on a rampage’. Now THAT was a sorcerer. Shang Sel just walks very slowly behind the dragons’ destruction, raising his arms like a melodramatic cheerleader. As far as sorcerers go, that’s kind of lame.
Shang can definitely fight though. In fact, the choreographed fight scenes in Dragon Dynasty are all really well executed and when they do happen, they make a great change from repetitively battling flying reptiles. What does let the movie down is the characters. The acting is upsettingly wooden and the ‘Europeans’ talk like the English language was introduced to them by the Mysterons, but above all else I really don’t care about anybody. Any time somebody dies, I struggle to remember their name or why I should care about them. Scenes that should be overflowing with passion and emotion feel like an inconsequential checkpoint to signal where the adverts can go.
Dragon Dynasty does for Marco Polo what Brad Pitt did for Troy and Gerard Butler did for Spartans. Depending on whether you’re a film fan or a historian, you’ll either think it’s an exciting retelling of history or the bastardizing of our past. Generations will think grow up thinking Polo brought gunpowder to Europe and invented cannons, but if you can also believe he had to avoid dragons to get it here then maybe the world you live in is a much more entertaining place than everyone else's.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.
Fun Fact: Both James Hong and Peter Kwong were in Big Trouble in Little China. If they got Carter Wong and James Pax, now THAT would be a brilliant reunion. Also Director Matt Codd is much more famous for working as a concept artist on some of the most incredible films of the last twenty years from Twelve Monkeys to the upcoming Amazing Spider-man.