Dragon Rider (2021) Review

Adapted from the children’s novel by Cornelia Funke, DRAGON RIDER marks yet another foray into animated territory for Sky Movies, who have clearly reached the ‘buy up anything and stick a label on it’ stage of their foray into original film making. It’s a stage I remember Netflix going through all too well. A German production, it’s been given an all-star makeover to sell it to the English speaking market.

When a young silver dragon named Firedrake grows tired of constantly hiding from humanity, he resolves seek out the fabled ‘Rim Of Heaven’, a mythical paradise where Dragons can live in peace. Setting off with his friend Sorrel, a forest brownie, they encounter Ben, an orphaned thief who claims to be a dragon rider. Their quest is complicated by the dogged pursuit of Nettlebrand, an mechanical dragon-eating monster created by an alchemist who aimed to destroy every dragon on Earth.

The animation is adequate but unremarkable and the film is constantly self-conscious about its similarities and inferiority to the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON series – something it obliquely references in an early scene. The character design is fine but there’s none of the attention to detail and subtely in the characters’ expressiveness or personalities – potentially the legacy of the intention to redub and market this in multiple languages around the world. The story and script have a lot of padding to get to a feature length runtime and there’s a nagging feeling that what takes ninety or so minutes could probably have been done – and done well – in a half hour TV special.

The starry voice cast, featuring the likes of Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Firedrake, Felicity Jones as Sorrell, Freddie Highmore as Ben and Patrick Stewart as Nettlebrand do fine but there’s really not much scope for them to do anything particularly special and Nonso Anozie, Meera Syal and Sanjeev Baskhar don’t even get enough screen time to make an impression.

DRAGON RIDER isn’t really going to hold the attention of anyone but the CBeebies crowd and anyone over the age of five who’s seen anything by Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks or Blue Sky isn’t going to sit still for this, an animated feature which wears its adequacy on its sleeve.

Score 4