DragonHeart is a 1996 British-American fantasy action-adventure film directed by Rob Cohen. It stars Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Dina Meyer, and the voice of Sean Connery. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and various other awards in 1996 and 1997. The film received mixed reviews but was a box office success.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Cohen|
|Produced by||Raffaella De Laurentiis|
|Screenplay by||Charles Edward Pogue|
|Story by||Charles Edward Pogue|
Patrick Read Johnson
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Edited by||Peter Amundson|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$115.3 million|
An English knight of 'The Old Code', Bowen, mentors a Saxon prince named Einon, in his ideals with the hope that he will be a better king than his tyrannical father King Freyne. While suppressing a peasant rebellion, the king is killed in an ambush and Kara, a young peasant girl, accidentally causes Einon to be mortally wounded in the chest. Einon's Celtic mother, Queen Aislinn, has him taken before a dragon and asks it to save the boy's life. The dragon replaces Einon's wounded heart with half of its own on the promise that Einon will rule with justice and virtue. However, Einon proves even more tyrannical than his father by enslaving the former rebels that killed his father and forcing them to rebuild a Roman castle. Bowen, believing the dragon's heart twisted Einon, swears vengeance on all dragons by hunting them down.
Twelve years later, an adult Einon's castle is rebuilt. Kara asks that her father be freed after years of slavery; Einon agrees, but instead kills him to "free" him. Meanwhile, Bowen has become a very skilled dragonslayer. Brother Gilbert, a monk and aspiring poet, observes Bowen's prowess and follows him to record his exploits. Bowen stalks a dragon to its cave, but the confrontation ends in a stalemate. The dragon states that he is the last of his kind and they agree not to kill each other, instead forming a partnership to defraud local villagers with staged dragonslayings. Bowen names the dragon Draco, after the constellation. Unknown to Bowen, Draco is the dragon who shared his heart with Einon and feels any pain Einon feels.
Kara, seeking revenge on Einon, is imprisoned after a failed assassination attempt. Realizing she is responsible for his near-death as a boy, Einon attempts to seduce her and make her his queen. Aislinn, despising what her son has become, helps Kara escape the castle. Kara tries to rally her village's people against Einon, but they instead offer her as a sacrifice to Draco. After she is taken to Draco's lair, Einon arrives to recapture her and fights Bowen. As they fight, Einon demoralizes Bowen by declaring that he never believed in the code and was only using Bowen to learn how to fight. He gains the upper hand and nearly kills Bowen; Draco intervenes and reveals his half-heart, causing Einon to flee in horror. Kara asks Bowen to help overthrow Einon, but the disillusioned knight refuses.
Bowen and Draco come upon Gilbert at another village. Kara, disgusted by their actions, attempts to expose them, but the villagers do not believe her until after the staged slaying, while Draco is playing dead. When the villagers decide to carve him up for meat, he takes flight, revealing the scam. They then surround Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert, declaring to make them their meat instead. Draco rescues the trio and takes them to Avalon, where they take shelter among the tombs of the Knights of the Round Table. Draco tells Bowen about himself and Einon: he had hoped that by saving Einon, it would change his nature, reunite the races of Man and Dragon, and earn Draco a place in the stars, where worthy dragons go after they die. Instead, he fears his actions have cost him his soul and agrees to help fight against Einon. After a vision of King Arthur reminds him of his knightly honor, Bowen agrees as well.
Bowen and Draco organize the villagers into a formidable army, and they are nearly victorious against Einon's forces when Gilbert strikes Einon in the heart with an arrow. Draco, feeling Einon's pain, falls from the sky and is captured. Einon, realizing he is effectively immortal so long as Draco lives, is determined to keep the dragon safe. Aislinn, knowing of the connection, attempts to kill Draco during the night, but Einon intercepts and kills her instead.
The rebels invade Einon's castle, and Bowen throws Einon from the top of a tower. While he tries to free Draco, the dragon begs Bowen to kill him and end Einon's reign. Bowen can't bring himself to kill his friend, but Einon rises up and charges at Bowen. Reluctantly, Bowen throws an ax into Draco's exposed half-heart, killing Einon and Draco. Draco's body dissipates as his soul becomes a new star in the constellation, and Bowen and Kara lead the kingdom into an era of justice and brotherhood.
- Dennis Quaid as Bowen
- A knight who becomes a dragon-slayer and then allies with Draco. Director Rob Cohen was impressed with Quaid, telling producer Raffaella De Laurentiis "[Quaid] is a knight of the old code." Cohen called Quaid "obviously intelligent and fun to work with", and said that he "really [thought] he [was] Bowen." Quaid underwent rigorous training for the role, mostly practicing sword fighting. Quaid and Cohen both wanted Bowen's sword technique to have an "Eastern flavor", so Quaid trained with Japanese sword master Kiyoshi Yamasaki.
- Sean Connery as the voice of Draco
- The last remaining dragon. Cohen felt it was "very important that [the dragon's] personality be derived from the actor who was going to play the voice", and said that Connery was the only actor he had in mind for the role. He described Connery's voice as "unique" and "instantly recognizable", but said that it was "what [Connery] stood for in life as an actor and as a man that most related to what I wanted for Draco." Voice recording for Draco was done in three sessions. To help animate Draco's facial expressions, Cohen and the ILM animators took close-up shots of Connery from his previous films, categorized the clips according to what emotion was being expressed, and put them in separate tapes for easy reference.
- David Thewlis as Einon
- The tyrannical king who shares part of Draco's heart. Cohen cast Thewlis based on his performance in Naked, stating "what makes a villain scary is the brain, not the brawn." The young Einon in the film's opening scenes was played by Lee Oakes.
- Pete Postlethwaite as Gilbert of Glockenspur
- A monk and aspiring poet who joins Bowen and Draco in the revolt against Einon. Cohen wanted Postlethwaite for the role based on his performance in In the Name of the Father, feeling that "anyone who was assured in a dramatic role could take Brother Gilbert and make it real and charmingly funny."
- Jason Isaacs as Lord Felton
- Einon's second in command. He hires Bowen to slay a dragon running rampant around his village, but refuses to pay after learning more of Bowen.
- Julie Christie as Queen Aislinn
- Dina Meyer as Kara
- A peasant girl who seeks revenge on Einon for killing her father. Meyer was the second actress Cohen interviewed for the role. Cohen stated that he needed an actress who was "strong and someone who could, in the end, handle herself with these double viking axes and look believable." Sandra Kovacikova plays Kara as a child.
- Peter Hric as King Freyne
- Einon's father and Aislinn's husband, a tyrannical ruler.
- Brian Thompson as Brok
- Einon's knight who served alongside Einon's father when he was king.
- Terry O'Neill as Redbeard
- Kara's father.
Patrick Read Johnson, who wrote the story for Dragonheart, first proposed the idea for the film to producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. Johnson described it as "The Skin Game with a dragon in it...or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Dragon", and that he wanted "the idea of a dragon and a knight conning villages for money" because he thought that the concept was "not only funny, but kind of sweet". De Laurentiis originally intended for John Badham, Rob Cohen's then-partner, to work on Dragonheart. According to Cohen, Badham "didn't respond" to the material, so Johnson was then asked to direct the film. According to Johnson, before the film was ever called Dragonheart and had the element of the shared heart, it began with the premise of
the last dragon and the last knight that finally meet up in a stalemate and make a deal. This was sort of the first scene that I thought of with the knight in the dragon's mouth with his sword against the roof his mouth. I knew they would come to the conclusion that they only way for them to continue to survive was to stage these mock battles all over the countryside and get paid in heaps of gold.
Johnson and Charles Edward Pogue collaborated on the script and submitted it to Universal Pictures on a Friday, and two days later on Monday morning, Universal gave Johnson the green light to start making the film as the script produced such a strong emotional response from studio executives. After Universal approved the script and gave the go-ahead on the film, Johnson and De Laurentiis scouted Spain for filming locations. Johnson described Dragonheart as its own phenomenon that took off in Hollywood since it was "a movie that everybody wanted to be in, and everybody wanted to score, and everybody wanted to be the cinematographer of, and everybody wanted to direct." For a test of a campfire scene, Johnson had the then-unknown Clive Owen stand in for Liam Neeson as Bowen opposite an animatronic Draco made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
As tests for Draco were being done by the Creature Shop, Universal believed it would be better to wait as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) were doing computer-generated imagery (CGI) tests for Jurassic Park that could potentially benefit Dragonheart. Additionally, according to Johnson, Universal saw the Creature Shop test footage as the pretext for the quality of the final film, and went behind his back trying to remove him from the project and give it to an A-list director since Johnson only had one film to his name at the time. Raffaella De Laurentiis tried to negotiate the budget to one the studio would accept at around $21 million but Universal wouldn't accept an amount lower than $23 million, and would ironically end up spending roughly triple the amount on the film. When Universal ended his contract, Johnson was only paid and given credit as executive producer and for writing the story. For his desired direction for the film, Johnson said
...I wanted this to be a more noble film than it ended up being. I still wanted it to be fun, and I wanted it to be charming and clever. I wanted it to have a more European feeling. Like something Terry Gilliam might do.
Then as Universal sought a replacement director, Richard Donner was approached and Kenneth Branagh was declined when the studio said the amount he asked for to both star in the film and direct it was too expensive. After working with De Laurentiis on Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993, Rob Cohen agreed to take over as director for the film. Johnson said he harbored no ill will for Cohen taking over the project until he "started hearing the horror stories about how Chuck Pogue was being treated, and then I started seeing Rob taking credit for things that weren't his to take credit for"—e.g., in the "Making of Dragonheart" featurette on the DVD, Cohen says he was aware of the project for years before he got the directing job, and that Johnson was merely involved with the script. Cohen also took credit for Draco's design and Sean Connery being Draco's voice actor. Johnson cites an article from Cinescape magazine "where Rob is again asked about the origin of the project and he basically tries to sell the idea that I was some film student that somehow got attached to this great project that somehow pre-existed my involvement."
Patrick Read Johnson's manager Melinda Jason also managed screenplay writer Charles Edward Pogue, who previously wrote for David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly and was working on an adaptation of A Princess of Mars for Disney. When meeting for drinks in Bora Bora, Johnson pitched the idea for Dragonheart to Pogue and he agreed to work on the film. Together, Johnson and Pogue worked on the script, developing the characters and the Old Code. According to Pogue, the script for Dragonheart is among his best work and it moved countless people to tears. After the script was completed in 1990, it went unchanged for the next four years, but since it got such a resounding response, Universal fired Johnson in the hopes of getting a more experienced director like Steven Spielberg. Since Jurassic Park was released and Universal Studios sought to have Draco made with CGI like the dinosaurs, this meant the script had to be altered in accordance with Draco's allowed screen time based on the film's budget. As a result, Draco would be seen in the film less often compared to his appearances in the original script, which included a sequence with Bowen flying around on Draco's back.
According to Pogue, production on the film became troublesome after Rob Cohen was hired as he felt the director "had neither the poetry in his soul nor the panache to bring Dragonheart to the screen." Changes to the script under Cohen's direction include the Queen Aislinn character being reduced to "a glorified bit player", the deletion of a scene between Pete Postlethwaite and Dennis Quaid by a riverbank where their characters Gilbert and Bowen talk about their goals and motivations, and scenes showing the developing love story between Bowen and Kara, which is only alluded to in the final film without any proper resolution. For example, there's a scene that was filmed of Kara and Bowen declaring their love for each other, during which Bowen asks Kara for her "lady's favor", Kara reveals she was raped by Einon and therefore has nothing to give Bowen, and ends with Bowen kneeling and giving her a chaste kiss on the hand. Cohen reportedly removed the scene because he felt Kara should be more of an action-oriented character swinging axes around, and didn't believe she would go around making "sappy speeches", but according to Pogue, the scene was cut because Cohen couldn't get the desired performance, which involved having Kara and Bowen in an intimate embrace instead of the kiss on the hand, and got into conflict with Dina Meyer. This also caused the deletion of a scene of the peasant army giving Bowen a suit of armor they make for him and Bowen being overwhelmed with emotion, which Pogue deemed Dennis Quaid's best scene. Cohen's desire to showcase Draco as the film's main attraction caused vital "connective tissue" scenes of the film to be dropped and as a result made the film feel inconsistent and rushed. Pogue said the film also suffered because of Universal aiming to turn Dragonheart into more of a kids' movie as the dark and serious elements were either removed or dumbed-down. As said by Johnson, "They messed with the script and started adding things like, "Ready or not here I come! It's Draco!" I mean, we never had that stuff in our script! All this cheesy crap that just juvenilized the picture."
Another change Cohen made to the script that was a bone of contention to Pogue was the lack of logic in the addition of the pigs to the swamp village scene. In Johnson's words,
Critical elements were missing, things were replaced, and there was all this silly stuff. Like this village that's surrounded by 10 million pigs, but all the people are starving, and yelling out, "We're starving! We need meat! Let's kill the dragon," but they're surrounded by pigs! So, I'm trying to find the logic here. I just didn't get that.
Pogue explains that Draco uses the scams he and Bowen do as a way to "pick at Bowen's conscience and test his morality" as each village they go to is more poverty-stricken than the last. This point would come to a head and serve Bowen's character arc at the swamp village where its people are beyond poor and Bowen feels he can no longer justify the scams as a way of being a thorn in Einon's side. When Cohen added the pigs to the scene, Pogue told De Laurentiis this would make everyone look stupid because the villagers were supposed to be starving, trying to eat a seemingly dead Draco for an easy meal before turning on Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert for being the victims of a joke, and yet they're surrounded by pigs that would have sustained them. Both Pogue and De Laurentiis brought the illogical nature of adding the pigs to Cohen's attention but he disregarded their concerns, so the pigs stayed in the film and the elements that would serve Bowen's arc were rendered moot.
According to Johnson, the script changes also damaged the character of Einon. Johnson envisioned Kenneth Branagh or a similar actor in the role of Einon as a quiet and confident villain with a sense of unpredictability that would go crazy once he realized that his fate is connected to Draco's. To Johnson, the script revisions turned Einon into a brat who constantly shouted and a character that couldn't be developed.
This was a guy who had been given immortality. He knows it, or at least believes it. He's been saved by a dragon; he's blessed, and unstoppable. An unstoppable guy doesn't go around raging, he's supremely confident and quiet. He kills with a whisper, and not with a scream. My idea was Kenneth Branagh, or someone of that ilk. They made Einon into this character who had nowhere to go. Throughout the whole first act of the movie was just screaming and yelling and throwing things around! He was just being a whiny brat. Where do you go from there? You can't get bigger, and you can't get smaller because the movie is supposed to build. My idea was for him to just be so quiet and you just wouldn't know what he was going to do next. He had half of a dragon's heart inside of him. And it isn't until you see this dragon return to come for him, and he realizes that if the dragon dies he's dead, that he really begins to panic, and then he starts to go crazy. That's what you want, but you don't start there!
During his time location scouting in Spain, Johnson created the character of Draco and he and Pogue shaped it for Sean Connery, a client of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) at the time, who was Johnson's only choice in mind to voice Draco. According to Johnson, he wanted to "animalize" Connery's voice by giving it "deep resounding rumbles, and make the vocabulary such that it didn't sound quite human" so that instead of how it's heard in the final film, "it wasn't just gonna be Sean Connery's voice coming out of the dragon".
After location scouting was done, CAA sent numerous English actors to meet with Johnson for the part of Bowen including Gabriel Byrne, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan, while English actresses sent for the role of Kara included Elizabeth Hurley and Patsy Kensit. Johnson then met the then-up-and-coming Liam Neeson and the two hit it off, with Johnson noting how Neeson could be both brooding and funny. However, much to Johnson's chagrin, the studio refused to believe Neeson could pull off the action hero role due to him just completing Darkman. Wanting a big name lead actor for the film, Universal sent the Dragonheart script to actors such as Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as potential candidates to replace Neeson as Bowen, and even suggested that Whoopi Goldberg do the voice of Draco instead of Connery. Other actors considered to replace Neeson included Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Patrick Swayze, who was Cohen's first choice for Bowen before Dennis Quaid accepted the role. With the castings of Quaid as Bowen and Dina Meyer as Kara, Johnson said
...I love Dennis Quaid; I love everything he's done. I just didn't think he should be in 10th century England, any more than Kevin Costner should be in Sherwood Forest. Not that they weren't enjoyable in their roles. Frankly, I think Dennis Quaid saved the movie, as much as it could have been saved...Dennis Quaid just wasn't the right man for the role; Liam Neeson was the right man for the role... And Dina Meyer...again...10th century England?! Beverly Hills 10 A.D.? Bless her heart, she tried. It didn't help that they stuck her in that funny red wig that was constantly changing shape and size. The whole thing just flabbergasted me.
Johnson also claimed that David Thewlis' performance as Einon was greatly hindered by how the scenes with Lee Oakes as young Einon were shot first, and Oakes spoke with a thick Northern English accent, therefore forcing Thewlis to mimic the child actor's accent.
Dragon design and animation
To be able to stay within the budget that Universal was willing to shell out with Johnson directing, the developers approached Jim Henson's Creature Shop to create the Draco through traditional means. The dragon model, including a full-size head that could speak in real-time, was done within eight weeks time, and the crew then went to Shepperton Studios in England to begin shooting the film, starting with the campfire scene. The crew faced difficulties in keeping within the budget.
Phil Tippett, a visual effects producer specializing in creature design and character animation, and ILM were hired to work on animating Draco for Dragonheart. Tippett states that the responsibilities that his studio had for Dragonheart differed from what they did for Jurassic Park in that they were mostly responsible for the actual look and design of the dragon as well as the storyboards, blocking, and the timing of action sequences.
Tippett worked closely with sculptor Pete Konig in designing Draco. Konig crafted several maquettes that they showed to Cohen, and they worked on improving the ones that Cohen said "[felt] right", adding forearms to the design. Cohen's ideas for Draco's design stemmed from the traditional Chinese guardian lion, which Cohen describes as having "a lion-like elegance, a fierceness", and that it is "ultimately a proud...visually powerful creature". He also drew ideas from nature, such as the boa constrictor's jaw structure and the musculature of horses. Tippett also took into consideration how the scenes with Draco in it would be framed, the size difference between Draco and the human actors, and what he would actually be doing throughout the film. Draco's hide and wings were originally going to have an iridescent quality and his eyes were to be more detailed such as being able to dilate, but those design elements were dropped due to software issues and running out of time.
Tippett and his crew created a five-foot model of Draco for lighting reference, and an articulated model that could be used as a reference for Draco's poses. Because Draco would have more screen time than the CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (23 minutes for Draco, as opposed to six and a half for the dinosaurs), visual effects producer Julie Weaver and her team did a screen test for Dragonheart six to eight months before actual storyboarding, using a "stretched out" version of the Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park.
The film is notably the first to use ILM's Caricature software as it was developed to help lip-sync Draco's animation to Sean Connery's voiceover work, and noted for having the first realistic computer-generated dragon in film.
Actual filming began in July 1994 in Slovakia. During sequences with Draco and Bowen in them, visual effects supervisor Scott Squires and his teams used what they called a "monster stick"—a pole with a bar and two red circles at the top—as an indicator for where Draco's eyes would be for Quaid's reference. They also set up speakers through which Cohen would read Draco's lines for Quaid, which Quaid said "helped [him] out a lot."
While filming the scenes involving Draco in flight, the crew used a microlight as reference, and then edited the footage to "put Draco over the top of that and remove any traces of the aircraft."
Although Draco is fully rendered in CGI, full-sized models of some of Draco's body parts were used for some of the scenes. One of them was Draco's foot, which was used to pin Bowen to the ground, and the other was Draco's jaw during the scene where Bowen gets trapped inside it. While the foot was a non-moving prop, the jaw had moving parts and was operated by a puppeteer.
According to Cohen, they spent an additional thirteen months working on the film after making the final cut of the film. He was in Rome to shoot Daylight on-location during this period, and had to review animation sequences with ILM and give them his comments and instructions through a satellite hookup.
Originally, after reading the script, Jerry Goldsmith personally requested Johnson to let him score Dragonheart when Johnson was set to direct the film. However, Goldsmith never got to write any music for the film as things fell through during Dragonheart's production and left the project when Johnson was let go.
The score was composed by Randy Edelman. The main theme song, "The World of the Heart" and "To the Stars", were used in film trailers such as Two Brothers, Mulan, Anna and the King, and Seven Years in Tibet, clip montages at the Academy Awards, numerous other film trailers, and the closing credits of the U.S. broadcasts of the Olympic Games, making it a well-known film score. MCA Records released the film's soundtrack album on May 28, 1996, which contains 15 music tracks.
Dragonheart was released on VHS on November 19, 1996, and on DVD as a "Collector's Edition" on March 31, 1998. The film was later released on HD DVD on May 29, 2007. Dragonheart and Dragonheart: A New Beginning were released together on a one-disc print known as "2 Legendary Tales" on March 2, 2004. Dragonheart was released on Blu-ray Disc on March 27, 2012.
Charles Edward Pogue wrote a 262-page novelization of Dragonheart, published by The Berkley Publishing Group in June 1996, based on his original screenplay with "several new inspirations that weren’t in any of the various drafts" and true to his vision of Dragonheart as the transcendent film it should have been. It has been released in several languages and in five editions in the U.S. to widespread critical acclaim, with readers praising Pogue's writing, how the book develops the story, setting, and characters more than the film, also noting its darker and more serious tone compared to that of the film. In 1999, the film was adapted into a junior novelization by Adriana Gabriel.
Differences from the film
Some of the notable differences from the film are:
- A scene where Kara, Gilbert, and the rebels gift Bowen with a new shield and suit of armor they design and make for him, adorned with the symbol of the Old Code (a silver sword hilt up within a golden circle) combined with the constellation Draco.
- Some of Queen Aislinn's background is revealed and she has a larger role as she did in the original script, including a deleted extended dialogue scene with Kara when she helps the latter escape Einon's castle.
- During the scene where Bowen and Draco scam Lord Felton, Draco causes more damage to the lord's property. His fireballs cause a blizzard of flour to cover everything and Draco causes a huge grist wheel to crash into the side of Felton's house. Bowen charges toward Draco on horseback and the 'fight' ends abruptly when Draco pretends to eat Bowen and flies off carrying his horse toward their waterfall base, leading into Bowen and Draco's discussion about the latter's yearning for death.
- A cut scene where Draco and Bowen scam an overweight lord in a village by a lake after dealing with Felton. Bowen 'shoots' Draco down with a bow and arrow and Draco falls into the lake, which eventually leads to their conversation about the Old Code and Bowen accusing Draco of pricking his conscience.
- As Gilbert practices archery in a forest clearing with Hewe and a boy named Trev, he inadvertently kills Brok's falcon shortly after the knight releases it. Brok, Felton, and two other men follow the fallen bird to the rebels' location. During the altercation, Hewe cuts off Felton's hand and the rebels are pursured, leading to Brok discovering the rebel camp.
- A vivid nightmare sequence where Bowen dreams of the dragons he had killed, himself fighting Einon, Einon shapeshifting into Draco, and Bowen being sucked into a black void where he's unable to hear himself screaming for Draco.
- More scenes with Draco than the film could afford to have.
- One being a 'hug' between him and Bowen in the rain in Avalon, which was in the original script and storyboards.
- Another being a scene where, on the eve of battle, Bowen flies around the rebel camp and Einon's castle on Draco's back as his scales change color to match the night sky and enable them to fly around undetected; during which Aislinn presents the dragonslayers to Einon, and Bowen allows Draco to destroy his trophy shield (trophy talon necklace in one early version of the script).
- The features removed from Draco due to budget, lack of time, and software issues such as the iridescent scales, nictitating membrane, glowing eyes, and maimed right hand.
- A developed romance between Bowen and Kara, where the film only hints at romantic interest between them.
- A cut scene in the cistern of Einon's castle, where Kara gives Bowen her father's headband as her 'lady's favor', and they kiss before going to save Draco.
- A deleted scene with Gilbert and Bowen where they discuss their goals, a pilgrimage to find Avalon and killing dragons, respectively.
- A scene where Einon returns to Draco's cave after the encounter at the waterfall, finds Aislinn there, and gets suspicious that she's hiding something from him.
- Insight into the mindsets of several characters such as Draco, Bowen, Kara, Einon, and Brok.
- Moments of sexual nature and graphic violence such as amputation and many instances of bloodletting.
- As they perform their scams, Draco and Bowen alternate between who would win or lose. Sometimes Draco would pretend to eat Bowen, and sometimes Bowen pretends to kill Draco.
- When Draco ascends to heaven, celestial colors fill the sky and his spirit becomes a shooting star that soars to the Draco constellation to become its brightest star.
Based on reviews from 30 critics compiled retrospectively, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 50% with an average rating of 5.7 out of 10. Critics praised the premise, visual effects, and character development but panned the script as confusing and clichéd.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, saying "While no reasonable person over the age of 12 would presumably be able to take it seriously, it nevertheless has a lighthearted joy, a cheerfulness, an insouciance, that recalls the days when movies were content to be fun. Add that to the impressive technical achievement that went into creating the dragon, and you have something to acknowledge here. It isn't great cinema, but I'm glad I saw it." Jami Bernard of The New York Daily News described the film as "a movie for people young enough to keep dragons in the menageries of their imaginations", and went on to say that "the dragon is the most believable part of the whole movie." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a positive review, but criticized the fact that Sean Connery provided the voice for Draco, saying that "If only Sean Connery didn't have such a wonderfully distinctive voice, Draco might live and breathe as his own creature."
Awards and nominations
|Academy Awards||Best Effects, Visual Effects||Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Film||Universal Pictures||Won|
|Best Costumes||Thomas Casterline and Anna B. Sheppard||Nominated|
|Best Music||Randy Edelman||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West||Nominated|
|Hollywood Film Festival||Hollywood Digital Award||Scott Squires||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Outstanding Visual Effects||Scott Squires||Nominated|
|Sitges Film Festival||Best Film||Rob Cohen||Nominated|
|Online Film & Television Association||Best Voice-Over Performance||Sean Connery||Won|
|Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Picture||Raffaella De Laurentiis||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, Kit West||Nominated|
|Annie Awards||Best Individual Achievement: Voice Acting||Sean Connery||Nominated|
|Best Individual Achievement: Animation||Rob Coleman||Nominated|
In the years following its release and strong home media sales, Dragonheart gained a following and is now considered a cult classic. The character of Draco also gained popularity, often being ranked as one of cinema's most memorable dragons, with fans noting him as ILM's best work on the heels of Jurassic Park and praising Sean Connery's vocal performance. In 2006, Draco was ranked no. 6 on a Top 10 list of movie dragons by Karl Heitmueller for MTV Movie News. In 2013, WatchMojo.com ranked Draco no. 8 on their list of "Top 10 Dragons from Movies and TV" and, in 2015, listed him as an Honorable Mention on their list of "Another Top 10 Movie Characters We Didn't Want to Die." In 2019, the film ranked #10 on Ms. Mojo's list of "Top 10 '90s Movies that Haven't Aged Well".
On various days throughout the year in Toronto, a fully restored "20th anniversary edition" of Dragonheart with never-before-seen footage, enhanced visual effects, and a digitally remastered soundtrack is screened at the AMC Yonge & Dundas 24 theatre. On May 31, 2016, in celebration of the film's 20th anniversary, a retrospective article was published on the making of DragonHeart featuring Scott Squires and Phil Tippett among others who worked on the film.
Sequel and prequels
A direct-to-video sequel to the film called Dragonheart: A New Beginning was released in 2000. A prequel called Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse was released in 2015, and a second DTV prequel, Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire, was released in 2017. A third prequel, Dragonheart: Vengeance, is scheduled to be released in 2020.
In a 2013 MTV interview about his then-upcoming film 5-25-77, DragonHeart creator Patrick Read Johnson expressed a desire to remake the film with Sean Connery and Liam Neeson, who was the original choice for the role of Bowen before Johnson was fired from the project. In April 2016, Matthew Feitshans, screenwriter of Dragonheart 3 and Dragonheart 4, stated that Universal wants to use the prequels to keep up the film series' momentum, mentioning the possibility and the hopes of them leading to a big-budget remake of the original film. In 2017, Dragonheart was listed as no. 8 on WatchMojo.com's list of "Top 10 Movie Remakes We Actually WANT To See." In 2018, Patrick Read Johnson reiterated that he was still interested in the project, "I would love to give that a go."
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