Dragon Rider, directed by Tomer Eshed, starts with typical exposition through narration and a series of illustrations. One’s first instinct might be to compare it to another CGI animation with a similar premise of riding mythical beasts. While it does try to recreate that same sort of spark that How to Train Your Dragon exhibits, it struggles in all its different facets: from the visuals and the characters, all the way down to the writing. The climax and action sequences also prove to be very underwhelming, to say the least.
The animation is inconsistent, fluctuating between static frames to jumpy rough cuts. The designs are plain, with the dragons suffering from a lack of creativity; most of them look almost identical to each other. There is, however, one well-composed scene that encapsulates the culmination of the various hues and colours seen throughout the production. This is displayed in one single shot. However, as visually stimulating as that is to see, the movie remains flat due to the lack of life and movement.
Ben exhibits the same kind of quirky, slightly sarcastic and awkward male protagonist archetype found in many modern animations, such as the likes of Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon, Alfredo from Ratatouille and even Walter from Spies in Disguise. The problem however is that Ben’s personality doesn’t capture the same charm as the leads in these aforementioned works. In fact, he is probably Dragon Rider’s least likeable character.
The actors do what they can to in the roles they’ve been given, but they struggle to keep the film afloat due to its extremely weak script. It’s tepid, dull and depicts very unrealistic dialogue which results in the comedy falling flat. Additionally, the tension is almost non-existent. Patrick Stewart and Thomas Brodie-Sangster present the most natural line delivery among the cast, which is greatly appreciated. The latter in particular has plenty of charisma that holds the rest of the story steady by a thread.
A saving grace for this picture is the score. While generic, it manages to inject a little life into the lacklustre animation and storytelling. It creates atmosphere in ways even its best exhibition of art and landscape can’t achieve. And although extremely rare, it does manage to elicit some chuckles every now and then. Overall, this flick is below average. The end credit illustrations surprisingly have more heart and life to them than any of the sequences seen within the actual movie.
Dragon Rider is released on Sky Cinema and NOW TV on 12th February 2021.
Watch the official trailer for Dragon Rider here: