A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragonslayer is a 1981 fantasy film and is one of the best swords and sorcery movies out there. The movie really builds up the tension, and viewers see bursts of smoke and fire, falling rocks, a shaking ground and other indications that something big is lurking for the first half of the film. When we finally see the dragon, it's quite terrifying and realistic as it looms over our hero, blasts him with fire, and flies menacingly over him in the sky. There's one moment of horrifying violence: A princess who nobly offered herself up as a sacrifice isn't saved by the hero as the viewer expects but is instead dispatched by the dragon's young, who hideously gnaw on her legs, exposing bone. All that said, Dragonslayer is still fresh and believable, by turns charming and scary, and a wonderful whole-family viewing choice for parents and older kids who enjoy medieval settings, magic, and dragons.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
DRAGONSLAYER follows the quest of sorcerer's apprentice, Galen (Peter MacNichol), who sets out to kill a dragon and stop a cycle in which virginal girls are sacrificed in order to keep the beast from destroying an entire kingdom. Galen makes a valiant attempt at killing the dragon, but when the beast returns, Princess Elspeth discovers that her father, the King, has kept his daughter's name off of the list of girls to be sacrificed. As another sacrifice day draws near, Elspeth puts her name on the list and Galen decides to battle the dragon again, unaware the creature is guarding a nest filled with eggs that are on the verge of hatching.
Is it any good?
This medieval fantasy-adventure is filled with moral dilemmas, giving kids a lot to think about. For example, the king negotiated a terrible deal with the dragon, but it was better for his people than the uncertainty they had before. This poses the question, when the community is at risk, how do you decide what to do? And, Galen doesn't know what he doesn't know. He thinks because he knows a few tricks, he has enough magic to defeat the dragon. He's wrong, of course, and the princess dies because of his mistake. But when the time comes, and he has to know the right moment to destroy the amulet, he is able to trust himself, and he gets it right. Dragonslayer also reveals a world in which religion eventually replaces magic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to decide whether to fight, compromise, or run. How have you seen those questions presented?
Do you think this movie seems dated, or does it stand the test of time? Is it a classic?
If the movie was remade, who would you cast in the various roles?
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