HIFF Review: ‘Legend of the Millenium Dragon’

Oct. 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

Jun Tendo is a shy middle school kid from Kyoto who travels 1,200 years into the past and discovers that his history books were wrong. (Coutesy HIFF)

REVIEW BY JASON YADAO / jyadao@staradvertiser.com

There are certain ideals that the title “Legend of the Millennium Dragon” conveys as far as movie promotion goes. The words “legend” and “millennium” indicates that an epic story lies within, one that probably spans different eras and packed chock full of folklore. And people love dragons. It’s something that the studio expects will draw millions of dollars at the box office.

‘Legend of the Millenium Dragon’

Anime

Hawaii Premiere

Screens at 8:45 p.m. Saturday

But “Dragon” falls short of being the must-watch epic that it aspires to be. It’s hamstrung by the story, which is your standard “average teen gets pulled out of modern-day Japan, becomes The Chosen One who ends up being the pivotal figure in saving the world of the past” fare. In this case, it’s passive-to-the-point-of-being-an-apologetic-doormat Jun Tendo who’s tapped as the Savior by a powerful monk, Gen’un, and pulled into a struggle between nobles and a group of pesky oni, or supernatural demons.

About a third of the way through the film, though, comes this tale’s way of trying to distinguish itself: The roles of the “good” and “bad” factions are switched, leaving a very confused Jun to sort through his feelings. It’s at that point that a second set of cliches introduces itself: the inevitable showdown between Jun and someone he befriends in the first part of the film, the desperate struggle of the good guys to survive, and the showdown between Jun and the Ultimate Evil Made Manifest and Powered Up to Insanely High Levels. Oh, yes, and Jun is also the only person who can control the legendary all-powerful dragon Orochi … and that’s the only thing whose power can match that of the Ultimate Evil Etc.

It’s a simple video game logic that’s at work here. If this was a video game, in fact, Jun would be the type of player-character who’d shuffle through a stage and get beaten up by the enemies a lot, then activate a cheat code and RAAAAAWR RAAAAAAAAGE JUN SMASH through everything. It does seem a bit grating after a while.

What makes “Dragon” so disappointing is that there seems to be such a rich mythology bubbling beneath the surface that is never adequately explained. Gen’un and the oni possess supernatural powers, but we never learn how they got them, or why they have them. If anyone can explain to me how the Four Heavenly Kings are relevant other than “easily dispensed with plot mechanism that Jun must plow through to get to the Ultimate Evil Etc.,” I’d love to hear it. Aside from Jun, Gen’un and two or three other characters, people just pop up and disappear before we even have a chance to care about them.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s how this film will be remembered, really: something that popped up for a little over an hour and a half and disappeared before we really had a chance to care.
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Click here for more coverage of the 2011 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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