Thursday, March 03, 2011

Review - Age of the Dragons

On Friday, when Age of the Dragons is released in the UK, it will be one of 12 new films hitting the country's cinemas on the same day. These films range from Blockbusters to documentaries, arthouse dramas to niche curios, and all will be fighting for attention as the nation's cinemagoers consider their viewing options for the weekend. One has to ask the question – does every one of these pictures merit a big screen platform? I can't speak for all of them, but in the case of Age of the Dragons, the answer is a resounding no. This is straight-to-DVD junk if I ever saw it, and I am honestly bewildered by the idea that anyone considers it worthy of a cinematic release.

Age of the Dragons is a dirt-cheap adaptation of Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby Dick, but this time Captain Ahab (Danny Glover) is obsessed with a great white dragon rather than a whale. In the film's opening sequence, a young Ahab watches as his sister is killed by the beast, and he is left both horribly scarred and half blinded in his futile attempt to rescue her. Cut to ye olde pub, where hearty men drink from tankards served by ample-bosomed women, and a young man called Ishmael ("You can call me that," he says), played by the bland Corey Sevier, is looking to join a dragon-hunting party. In the parallel medieval universe of Age of the Dragons, the creatures are hunted for the precious "vitriol" they carry in their throats, and after displaying his harpoon skills, Ishmael finds himself on board the Pequod, although it's not the seafaring vessel of the novel in this instance. Instead, the Pequod is a clunky ship on wheels that slowly trundles forward in an aimless fashion, much like the movie.

All in all, this is a rather liberal adaptation of Moby Dick, with director Ryan Little and his writers plucking a few details from the book and refashioning them to suit their own hackneyed storyline. For example, instead of a having a ship called Rachel, there's a character called Rachel; she's an absurdly hot shipmate played by Sofia Pernas, who is improbably cast as Ahab's daughter and who exists solely to provide Ishmael with a love interest (and provide the ship's resident rapist with a lust interest. Nice) Both Pernas and Sevier have little to offer beyond some dull gazing and a limited range of expression, but I'd undoubtedly prefer their forgettable prettiness to Glover's excruciating turn as Ahab. Last year, I thought I'd witnessed Danny Glover's nadir when I watched him shit on Tracy Morgan's hand in Death at a Funeral. Sadly, this performance is even more embarrassing; Glover hoarsely bellows every line, rolls his eyes and chews every available piece of scenery, getting even worse when Ahab's obsession takes over completely in the final third.

In fact, the one man who comes out of Age of the Dragons with any credit at all is Vinnie Jones. While Vinnie's presence in a movie is rarely the hallmark of quality, his performance here is actually the best the film has to offer; there's a straighforward honesty about his hearty, cocky, humorous portrayal of Stubbs that effortlessly rises above the amateurish displays surrounding him. When he departed the film, I actively missed him, which may in itself be the most damning indictment of Age of the Dragons. There's nothing else in the film to enjoy, nothing to be interested in, nothing to care about. It is insufferably boring, the visual effects would embarrass a ten year-old video game, and the film's passing nods to Moby Dick – as if leaning on that source text gives it some credibility – are an insult to one of the greatest books ever written. Once again, I must ask the question – why is this film gracing our cinemas? There really is no reason for you to watch this crap, no matter what size of screen it's playing on.