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"A knight is sworn to valor. His heart knows only virtue. His blade defends the helpless. His word speaks only truth. His wrath undoes the wicked." Such is the code of Bowen, last of the dragonslayers. Good words to live by. If only all of Dragonheart were as noble and praiseworthy as its knight's moral canon. Unfortunately, this visually arresting and often fun adventure falls prey to overblown medieval violence and metaphysical fantasy.
When young king Einon is gravely wounded in battle, his desperate mother calls upon the healing power of a magical dragon. It restores life to the boy by giving him half of its heart under the condition that he rule with justice and mercy. But the king grows into a tyrant. Evil incarnate. The ultimate prodigal. His lifelong protector, Bowen (Dennis Quaid), mistakenly blames the dragon with poisoning the youth's spirit, and vows to drive the entire species into extinction.
During his quest, Bowen encounters the world's last ferocious, flying, fire-breathing dragon which, coincidentally, has only half a heart. They battle to a cleverly devised stalemate and decide to join forces. The unlikely pals proceed to scam villagers until they are humorously burned by their own scheme. All the while, impressive Jurassic Park-style effects give Draco the dragon as much personality as his flesh and blood co-stars.
Eventually, Bowan and Draco lead the peasants on a revolt against the villainous Einon. But complications arise. A shared organ means shared suffering—indeed, a shared lifeforce. It seems Draco has the cosmic dilemma of experiencing the evil king's physical pain at every turn. This, combined with a lesson in cosmology, puts a mystical spin on Draco's attempt to achieve the equivalent of dragon nirvana.
Parents with children clamoring to see Dragonheart's stunning visual effects should also beware of considerable violence. The mass slaughter of peasants. Men skewered by swords, daggers, arrows and spears. An axe in the back (and one in the groin). Soldiers set ablaze. Bodies cascading from atop castle walls. While not extremely gory, the film's brutality detracts from the noble passions that inspire the commoners to revolt in the first place.
There's no nudity, sex or profanity. In fact, if not for this movie's savagery and strange mysticism, Dragonheart would be a charming romp with lessons about honor, friendship, sacrifice, freedom, loyalty and servant leadership.