I am not entirely surprised that it was terrible, but I decided a while ago that I was going to watch it anyway. You see, I really liked the original Dragonlance novels.
The art style and cel animation in Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight were both awful. They must have been channeling the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, because this full-length, direct-to-DVD animated film was hardly better than bad 1980s Saturday morning cartoon fare. Furthermore, they thought that mixing choppy cel animation with poorly-rendered CGI would be a great idea, possibly to distract people from just how bad the art design is. Guess what? It didn’t work! The dragons and Draconians (reptilian humanoid creatures) were all animated with computer graphics, but they looked very awkward next to the cel animation. The character designs were fairly true to the novels and artwork inspired by the novels over the years. The art team had no skills, however, so all of the characters looked bad. There was also some really cringe-worthy fan service.
The voice acting and music were mediocre on the whole. Kiefer Sutherland did a passable job as mage Raistlin Majere (my favourite character in the series), but his voice wasn’t at all raspy or whispery as the books described. I was disappointed. The other voice actors were good enough, though there was some over-the-top acting, particularly on the part of Dragon Highlord Verminaard’s voice actor. The music was uninspiring — standard ‘epic’ fantasy type music.
The plot of the film covered all of the main plot points of the first novel of the same name, with irritating inaccuracies, especially at the end. Obviously, any film adaptation would be unable to detail every event of the novel, but the Dragonlance film was an especially shallow adaptation. The plot felt very rushed. I’ve long had the opinion that Dragonlance should be an episodic animated series rather than a series of films. The events in the film lacked impact and did not inspire any sort of excitement. It was unable to elicit one bit of concern for any of the tragic and world-changing events in the story.
Dragonlance is known for sticking very closely to standard Dungeons & Dragons conventions: epic quests, good versus evil, dungeons, dragons, magic, etc. In other words, the early Dragonlance novels are not the most non-stereotypical pictures of a fantasy world, however the complex and memorable characters shine through the familiar fantasy conventions. The characters in the film, however, were portrayed very shallowly, by bludgeoning the viewer in the face with their most obvious and visible personality traits. It was painful to see the characters treated so badly.
If I watched this film and had never read the novels, I would avoid reading the Dragonlance books. I don’t know what Wizards of the Coast were thinking when they approved this project. Dragonlance is one of the most loved Dungeons & Dragons related fantasy series, and this film was an insult to the fans, an insult to the authors of the novels, and an insult to the Dragonlance fantasy world. Only watch if you’re a true fan and are prepared to either mock it at every poorly-paced turn or wallow amongst your dice and miniatures (to comfort you), shedding geeky tears of sorrow and rage.