Dragon Rider (2021) Review
A heart-warming animation film that follows a young dragon on a quest to save his friends and family. Dragon Rider shows what happens when animals take matters into their own hands.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by author Cornelia Funke, Dragon Rider tells the story of a dragon named Firedrake (voiced by Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who wants to try and save the older generation of dragons by finding a mythical safe haven called the Rim of Heaven.
On his quest, Firedrake is joined by his friend Sorrel (Felicity Jones) and meets an orphan named Ben (Freddie Highmore) who is mistaken for a legendary dragon rider. Of course, their journey isn’t as easy as it seems as the unlikely trio are soon hunted by a dragon-eating monster named Nettlebrand (Patrick Stewart) who wants to destroy every dragon.
Dragon Rider draws similarities to Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko as it deals with surprisingly adult material that focuses on human greed and urban developments destroying innocent animals’ homes. Just like in Pom Poko, the creatures live peacefully in a forest away from humans and cause no harm to others.
The dragons are soon divided by differentiating opinions. One side believes that the humans mean to cause them harm, therefore it would be best to start violence first. The more peaceful creatures decide to hide and wait it out in the hopes that humans will leave their homes alone. Despite the focus on it being magical creatures, both Pom Poko and Dragon Rider open the debates of selfish human actions leading to the devastation of blameless creatures and their homes.
Dragon Rider is a charming little film that’ll entertain both adults and children
Dragon Rider only focuses on this topic at the start and in the background, but it’s enough to make an impact and fuel Firedrake’s mission. It makes the film seem more than just a fantasy film; it feels like it has a greater message and purpose. The acknowledgement of How To Train Your Dragon and the parody of it makes the film feel self-aware and it dispels any pre-existing comparison between the two films.
The clear star of this film is Stewart who is menacing while humorous at the same time. His character is a villain because he was conditioned to be one by his creator, which makes his actions understandable. Obviously he’s a bad guy but Stewart plays him so well that you can’t help but sympathise. There are many talented voice acting performances in this film, but Stewart steals every scene he’s in. He’s clearly the Scar of this movie.
Despite the animation of the creatures and environments being adorable and fitting, the human animations were pretty poor. Any of the creatures on screen have so much personality with the subtlest change displaying their emotions. This cannot be said for Ben or any of the other humans. His face, walk animation and whole demeanor felt similar to the first Toy Story film over 25 years ago. It’s not necessarily terrible, but feels lacking in comparison to the rest of the animation.
That being said, Dragon Rider is a charming little film that’ll entertain both adults and children. The whimsical and epic score combined with the characters and environment make Dragon Rider feel like a film worthy of your time. There is humour for children with the goofy scenes, and pure delight for adults with Stewart’s performance. The extra detail of traditional art style in the beginning and at the end add the finishing touches to make Dragon Rider a film to enjoy.
Dragon Rider is available to watch on Sky Cinema.