It is 1000 A.D. ca. At last, the peasants' revolt against the despot king has come to a turning-point: the monarch himself has fallen on the battlefield and his heir, prince Einon, has been seriously wounded because of an unforced accident. Brought to a cave by his mother, queen Aislinn, and his teacher Bowen, a strong and noble knight sworn to the high ideals of the Ancient Code, the boy is saved by the gift of the dragon, the half of its heart, who dwells in the cave, swearing that tiranny and bloodthirst will be buried forever. But Einon, years going by, proves himself a despot more evil than his deceased father and Bowen, believing that the heart of the dragon did poison Einon, swears to hunt the creature for the rest of his life.
Twelve years later, Bowen comes back to his birthplace, the honour and the Ancient Code now only a pale memory, replaced by resignation and anger. Together with a writer, friar Gilbert, the knight finally finds the last of the dragons, and after an evenly matched glorious fight, the two decide to join forces together to achieve each one's advantage: in every village attacked by Draco (this is how Bowen calls the dragon), it will feign death, so the knight will get the reward and the dragon will not be killed by the other fame seeking knights. Life goes on, but the story has its turning-point when Bowen visits the burial place of King Arthur and when he meets Kora, the beautiful daughter of the man who guided the past revolt. Bowen, finding out that Draco is the dragon who saved Einon's life and that Einon himself betrayed Bowen's confidence since he was a child, at last regains his ancient honour and thirst of justice and joins forces with Kora, Gilbert and Draco in order to defeat the monarch's tyranny, knowing that the destiny of Einon and the dragon are totally bound together...
The locations are wonderful. The movie has been completely filmed in Slovakia, in order to save money; however this choice has been very good: castles, lakes, grain fields, etc., yielded a perfect medieval setting. The cast acted well, especially when the actors had to play scenes with an imaginary dragon, something new when at the time the movie was filmed. David Thewlis' interpretation of the Bad is noteworthy, he makes himself hateful for all the duration of the movie. On the contrary, Julie Christie, the most famous of the entire cast, is listless and dull, acting her role in a not at all convincing way. The musical score is very good, symphonies that could be listened to without the dialogues and the environment sounds, but alas the DVD makes doing so impossible. Of course special effects and the dragon are the main features of this movie. For the first time, on the movie screen (and on our beloved widescreen) a character is TOTALLY created and animated on a computer, for all its 27 minutes of "acting". The result is astonishing! The dragon, phisically modeled on the basis of Sean Connery's face (his voice, very full and warm), is wonderful, imperious and more than ALIVE. Anytime it appears on the screen the audience is literally caught, the pretence/reality boundary is brought down and Draco seems to have a soul, thus really belonging to the cast. A big credit goes to the great ILM, but above all to the passionate director Rob Cohen who, as seen inthe making-of, helps defining in the right way every gesture, every glance, every word in order to make Draco more and more real, with its fears, its rage, its emotions. We could complain about the little physical interaction between the dragon and the other characters. Anyway this is usual in these kind of productions and is not simple to achieve it: scenes like the hug between Bowen and Draco under the rain of Avalon, which is present in the original storyboard, would have made the movie better.
The story, though simple and linear (the struggle between good and evil), anyway hides some small and big interpretations. At first, eventually, there's no place for the classical, taken for granted, love relationship between the hero and the beauty (though letting Dina Meyer, a real hotcake, go is really a shame :) ). Thus there's room for the marvelous history of true and sincere friendship between Bowen and Draco. The dragon, given its tremendous look, has always been seen as the incarnation of evil in other movies and cartoons, but here we can see that evil can lurk everywhere, and we cannot judge from appearances. Moreover, death and life after death are really important parts of the story, though it doesn't seem so. Though the movie doesn't stress this that much, the story is centered on the search for justice, for the right deeds that lead to the so longed goal, to paradise, actions that give meanings to life and therefore to death. Deep, almost religious, matters that can encourage us to give the best for a right cause, no matter what it is.