Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dragons in Film and Television: 2000 and Beyond

In my last post I discussed dragons in film and television in the 1900’s. That post can be seen here. Today we will take a look at the years 2000 and beyond.

In 2001 we saw the dragon from Spirited Away. The dragon we see in this animated Japanese film. Haku is a river spirit that transforms into a flying dragon. An interesting feature of Haku is the dragon is covered in fur, instead of scales. The story focuses on mysticism and the supernatural, and the dragon  is friendlier and trustworthy.

We also see the introduction of dragons from popular book series’ including Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, both the book and the movie feature Norbert, whose name is changed to Norberta when it is discovered that the dragon is a female. This dragon is similar to a pet. Other dragons found in the series are less of pets and more of wild animals. They really don’t communicate with humans or serve as any form of guidance. They are seen as neither good or evil.

In Lord of the Rings the first dragons we encounter are the Fell Beasts, although some don’t consider them dragons. These dragons primarily serve evil forces as a mode of transportation. We also encounter Balrog, again an evil dragon and finally, although he is around earlier in the canon, we meet Smaug. J.R.R Tolkein said that all his dragons were evil. In spite of the fact that Smaug and Balrog are intelligent beasts, they do not interact with humans except to destroy them.

Another dragon encountered in 2001 was the dragon from Shrek. Although she starts out as an evil dragon, she is quickly and easily won over to the side of good and helps to defeat the evil.

In 2002 we meet the dragons of Reign of Fire. Again we are in the purview of evil dragons bent on destroying the earth by eating the people. These dragons are to be feared not befriended.

Jump ahead to 2006 and we meet Saphira from The Inheritance Cycle (although only one of the books was made into a movie). She is a wise, caring dragon that helps the hero conquer the bad guys. She along with the few other dragons in the series communicate by thought and specifically bonded to their riders. There are a few other dragons in the books, but they aren’t seen in the one movie.

Remember in the post on Dragons in Books I mentioned that one of the first books to include dragons was Beowulf. There are several film adaptations of the book and I am not here to critique the films, so watch and make your own judgement. I am looking at the dragon in the 2007 movie. The dragon is evil and is there to harass the hero.

In 2008 the television show Merlin introduces two dragons, Aithusa and Kilgharrah, in this reimagining of the story of King Arthur and Merlin. Kilgharrah is also known as the Great Dragon and has been imprisoned in a cave beneath Camelot. He is a mix of a wise, guiding dragon and a revenging, evil dragon. Aithusa is a young dragon who is allied with Morgana and attacks Merlin and Arthur. So despite the fact that his name translates into Light of the Sun he proves to be an enemy to Merlin instead of being a good omen. These dragons are able to speak and interact with the humans and advise them although they are not always reliable.

I can’t leave this topic without talking about the dragons from Game of Thrones. Throughout the seven seasons of GOT we have seen these dragons grow from eggs to powerful, fire breathing beasts. They are intelligent even if they don’t talk. These three dragons have presented some challenges for the CGI people. Many animal sounds were used to create the dragon screams. Fire breathing crane with the dragons body was imposed over it was used to animate the dragons.

There are many more dragons in film and television, too many to cover in this post. With this post we have seen the progression of dragons in film. Creating dragons on small and large screen is a challenging endeavor and I am anxious to see what books, film and television does with these magnificent creatures.

Bensvelk Thurkear (good night in dragon).

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