So if you read the news, the late, great actor Peter Postlewaite passed away at 64, famous for roles in “Jurassic Park: The Lost World”, “The Usual Suspects”, and most recently, “The Town” and “Inception”. But for me, Postlewaite will always be remembered for the role I first discovered him in – as monologuing Gilbert of Glockenspur in “DragonHeart”.
Long before a slew of forgettable direct-to-DVD sequels, “DragonHeart” was an enjoyable fantasy flick about unlikely friendship in a time of tyranny. For his part, Postlewaite plays the aforementioned Gilbert, a traveling monk who has taken a hero-worship liking to knight-turned-freelance dragon slayer Bowen (Dennis Quaid). Little does Gilbert know, there’s a secret to Bowen’s success – namely a partnership with a dragon named Drago (voiced by Sean Connery). The pair go from town-to-town getting rich off duels that are – for the most part – re-enactments. But Bowen isn’t the only one who has a secret – Draco once performed magic heart surgery on the Bowen’s dying prince Einon. The prince lived – only to become a brutal tyrant years later (played by David Thewlis), with the monarch’s life now bound to Draco’s. Now, Bowen, Gilbert and the feisty peasant Kara (Dina Meyer) must work with Draco to oust the power-hungry king before its too late.
Directed by Rob Cohen of “The Fast and the Furious” fame and co-written Patrick Read Johnson (“Spaced Invaders”), this movie is simply a lot of fun. Even post-Avatar, sharing the screen with an entirely CGI character remains a potentially dubious situation, lest we forget about Jar Jar Binks. But I don’t think Jar Jar would be half as infamous if he was voiced by Sean Connery. The former 007 adds a gruff yet majestic presence to Draco while still never taking himself too seriously – and managing to chew scenery just through his voice alone. Quaid plays Bowen with a disillusioned swagger, making for an excellent counterpoint to the dignified Drago. The future Professor Lupin, Thewlis is casually sinister as Einion, and the film also features memorable appearances by the already-mentioned Postlewaite along with Jason Issacs, Brian Thompson and Julie Christie.
These days, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a dragon on TV – usually on SyFy channel. But in its day, “DragonHeart” was the “How to Train Your Dragon” of its time – a fun movie about two unlikely allies. While it isn’t perfect, a good story, good performances and good special effect cover up any lingering flaws. Overall, if you have to watch a movie about a dragon, watch one with a lot of heart and even a little bite with “Dragonheart”. In its own way, it’s a fitting tribute to Postlewaite, who remains a scene-stealer even in a supporting role.
Own DragonHeart on DVD for $6.90 shipped from Buy.com.