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In 1996, a film about a medieval knight and a talking dragon becoming friends and battling an evil king who betrayed them was released to the masses. The CG dragon was created by ILM with tech that was cutting edge at the time, and it was voiced by none other than Sean Connery. That film was DragonHeart, but many people don't know that the released film is in fact far from what it was intended to be.
Patrick Read Johnson came up with the concept for DragonHeart. He co-wrote the story with Charles Edward Pogue, who also wrote the screenplay. Johnson was an initial choice for director before he was replaced with Rob Cohen, reportedly after being fired from the project for struggling to stay within budget constraints and his casting choices, like wanting Sean Connery as the voice of Draco the dragon, Liam Neeson as Bowen, Kenneth Branagh as Einon, and Elizabeth Hurley as Kara. Johnson wanted a cast of English actors and actress to portray the characters in his 10th century fantasy flick. Universal on the other hand felt that Liam Neeson wouldn’t be believable as an action star (I bet they're eating their words about it nowadays), so they looked at stars like Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger; they even suggested that Whoopi Goldberg voice Draco. As the result of interference from Universal Studios, Pogue’s lauded screenplay was diminished and the final film was deemed a disappointment by him and Johnson; a feeling shared by audiences and a fair amount of critics alike.
However, over 19 years since its theatrical release, DragonHeart has gained cult classic status thanks to a devoted fan base, which I am a proud member of. Charles Pogue wrote a novelization of the film based on his screenplay, which had been published to widespread acclaim. When I found out about it, I ordered a copy of from Amazon.com, and after reading it, I can definitively say it is a tragic shame that Universal Studios butchered Pogue’s work because whatever the film does wrong, the novel does it right. The book fleshes out the characters’ emotions and their motivations without resorting to classic clichés, has far more interaction between Draco and the human characters, and the film’s plot holes are thoroughly explained. The book also clearly has the poetic/Shakespearean feel that Johnson had wanted the film to have.
Meanwhile, Johnson has expressed a desire to remake DragonHeart in line with his original vision, and I am totally up for it. Ever since I first saw DragonHeart as a kid, I have had a fierce passion for it, looking in Blockbuster stores whenever I could until I finally found it on VHS. It was the film that cemented my love for dragons and I still love it despite its flaws, but if DragonHeart were to be remade with Johnson at the helm and today’s technology, I believe he could give the DragonHeart that audiences should have been given to begin with.
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