Having completed his mission to open up trade with China, Marco Polo guest of honour of the Emperor as he preparings to return home. Fearful of the influence of European customs if the country opens up to trade, Shang Sel unleashes ancient dragons from a magic stone and they attack the Palace. The creatures are stopped and Marco is entrusted with the sacred stone as he returns to Italy, but Shang Sel is following him and when the dragons are unleashed again they will threaten the whole world...
One of the great mass of SyFy (né Sci-Fi) channel original productions, Dragon Dynasty is a surpringly entertaining sword and scorcery take on the giant CGI monster theme. The storyline starts off at a good pace, bringing in the dragons and villain very quickly and the pacing never really lets up with plenty of action scenes throughout - with a surprising willingness to kill off main characters and a few unexpected turns, the film builds to the expected firey climax. The unusual setting means the film is free of many of the usual creature feature clichés and even the addition of a woman and the inevitable romance fits well into the script.
Using a real character and setting does allow for easier script writing, with no background required for the explorers, which means despite the lack of characterisation we still know what is going on. However the script does struggle to portray their epic trip back to Europe and it seems to pass in a few days. Their capture by a tribe of savages does come across as rather random and out-of-place (feels more like something out of a jungle adventure), but it makes for a good set-piece action sequence. The dragons are rather inconsistent - they are apparently supernatural which does ameliorate some questions about their abilities, but their random attacks on towns makes no sense and like so many creature feature monsters they seem to conveniently disappear when needed.
Director Matt Codd has worked as illustrator and concept artist on a number of major Hollywood films - his artistic eye is certainly visible here as the film is attractive presented and the CGI well incorporated, the dragons look superb even if the CGI blood and fire look rather poor and a few CGI backdrops are rather noticable. The practical effects are good and the film contains probably the most flaming stunt-men of all time as well as a surprising number of (CGIed) gory deaths, including plenty of head eating dragons. Set design is good in the cities but the town attacked mid way through feels more like Celtic England than the Near East it is supposed to be and like the script the production never really captures the feel of their lengthy expedition.
Italian born Federico Castelluccio (best known for his part in The Sopranos TV series) gives a decent enough performance as Marco Polo and performances are better than average for the genre, if entirely unmemorable. Veteran actor James Hong (Blade Runner (1982)) plays the Emperor at the film's start.
Dragon Dynasty is a made-for-television 'sword and monster' film, so was never going to be a revered classic, but for viewers wanting an entertaining 90 minutes then this is worth checking out - some good looking dragons, plenty of full-body burns and decapitations, loads of ridiculous gory effects and a script that keeps going for the full runtume more than balances out the inconsistently behaving monsters and middling performances. An above-average Sci-Fi Channel Original that will certainly appeal to genre fans.
|Anyone famous in it?||No-one well known.|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Matt Codd - worked as a concept artist on a selection of major films including Saving Private Ryan (1997) and Van Helsing (2004) and has directed a few SyFy productions such as Super Eruption (2011)|
|Any gore or violence ?||An excess of bloody deaths and lots of immolation.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None.|
|Who is it for?||Fans of sword and sorcery and creature features should enjoy this.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The clean digital print, no transfer issues - the many dark scenes are all clear.
|Audio||5.1 Dolby Surround - sounds fine.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL|
|Other regions?||No US release, also available in the UK on Blu-Ray.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.|