Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Outside of the CEO of the company and close friends and family of members of those associated with the company I don’t know if anybody has seen more movies coming out of the film studio The Asylum than I have. I’ve probably seen more Asylum movies than even Leigh Scott has, and if you don’t know who Leigh Scott is then I easily have you beat. I can’t even tell you why I watch them, I mean I know part of the reason in that I’m always looking for movies to stick on my Straight to DVD television Totally Twisted Flix – yet another shameless plug – but it’s not like they’re the only company making Straight to DVD movies. It’s not like their movies are all that good either with some of the ones I’ve seen being among the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and we’re staring directly at YOU ‘Alien Vs. Hunter’ and ‘Supercroc’, but yet if I have a stack of movies and say in the middle of the pile is something like ‘The Day the Earth Stopped’ – which The Asylum is being sued over – then that one is going in the DVD player. I obviously need help. Today we’re taking a look at a relatively large production from The Asylum and one that’s not based on some current blockbuster which should keep them from getting sued since King Arthur and them are like Public Domain by now in ‘Merlin and the War of the Dragons’.

If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the great mythical Merlin the sorcerer, well here you are. But before we get into that we get an intro with some Alastair Cooke sounding cat narrating over the turning pages of a book giving us vital info on what we’re about to be witnessing. The funny thing about this scene is after he says his last words and the book closes, we’re sitting there waiting for the title of the movie to pop up… wait for it… wait for it… wait for it…. BAM! After what seemed like forty five minutes later we see the medieval font broadcasting ‘Merlin and the War of the Dragons’!

So if you’re still with us after waiting for the title to pop up, we are introduced to The Mage played by Jurgen Prochnow who is trying to convince King Vortigen (Hefin Wyn) not to kill his daughters baby, sired by a demon, with Mage saying he will take responsibility for the child. The king apparently agrees and many years later we see Mage holding class with Merlin (Simon Lloyd Robert) who is a young man now and his friend and classmate Hengest (Iago McGuire). Hengest seems to be a little further along with whole magic thing than Merlin though Hengest feels that Mage holds favor over Merlin. Eventually Hengest’ anger gets the best of him as lashes out against Mage and strikes out on his own. It at first seems that perhaps Hengest may be a benevolent wizard once he slays a dragon that was intending to do some serious damage to some villagers, but no so fast my friend as Hengest only needed the blood of the dragon to make more dragons and now he commands a fleet of dragons and he’s up to no damn good with this fleet of dragons of his.

Merlin on the other hand really is a benevolent wizard and has joined forces with King Vortigen to hopefully defeat the evil Saxon marauders who have aligned themselves with Hengest and his dragons, but to defeat Hengest, Merlin has quite a few obstacles to over come. There are other jealous wizards out there showing him no love, the Ladies of the Lake are quite troublesome and he needs them to give him Excalibur, Mage is nowhere to be seen to help a brother out and Hengest Kung Fu is better than his anyway. What’s a fledgling wizard to do?

Even though I can’t rightfully say that ‘Merlin and War of the Dragons’ is a good movie because it was for too plodding and paced far too slowly by director Mark Atkins to be completely entertaining, it did have some good stuff in it. The dragons for instance looked real good, at least from a distance, and there were a lot of dragon fights in the movie to witness which was also a good thing. Occasionally we’d have to get a close up of one of the dragons and the luster would wear off a bit as it looked every bit like the CGI dragons that they were, but from afar they were very impressive to look at. Also some of the wizardry effects appeared to be a bit cartoonish and didn’t blend that well with the actual actors in the various scenes. The film was also fairly grand in scope with all of the horses and medieval battles and what not, though you could tell that certain camera tricks were used from a distance to make the twenty or thirty people that the filmmakers had available looked like swarming battalions, but then again up close these battles were a little lackluster, the weapons looked liked the props that they really were and the fight scenes were less than impressive.

The acting in the movie wasn’t so bad, with veteran Prochnow leading the way and young Simon Lloyd Roberts doing a commendable job as a young Merlin, though Iago MacGuire was a tad too sniveling for my taste. But the biggest problem with this film is that it’s probably far to talky with its overreaching plot and as such it gets way to tedious to watch at times. It almost saves itself in the last ten minutes or so with all of the dragon battles and sword fights it tosses at us, but to get to that point with the characters really not being all that interesting to watch, it takes some effort to make to this point.

We don’t want to be too hard on ‘Merlin and the War of the Dragons’ because the effort was certainly there and it did have some good stuff in worth recommending, but in the final analysis it just didn’t have enough kick to be the swashbuckling entertainment piece that I believed it wanted to be.

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