Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (2012)
For the Chantry!
I'm not going to lie, the main reason I wanted to watch this movie was due to it's connection to Dragon Age. You see, I've been playing myself quite a bit of Dragon Age: Origins (about 80 game-hours worth), and enjoying the return to classic Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy - complete with monsters and wizards and full plate. This movie is more tied to DA 2 from what I'm told (which I haven't played or know much about), but thankfully for all of you suffering through this paragraph, you don't need to know much at all about the games to enjoy this movie - it tells you the specific tidbits you need right at the start. So grab your steel and prep that fireball, lets get this show on the road!
Troubled times are upon Orlais, where members of the holy Chantry aren't immune to basic human corruption - the greed for power and control. As trouble arises between the Templar (holy soldiers designed around the intent of dealing with out-of-control mages) and the increasing amount of un-sanctioned mages (Blood Mages, those grasping for power and control), tensions rise and corruption is found amongst the Templar. To combat this, her Holiness creates the Seekers - appointed by herself only, they seek out corruption outside and within the Chantry. Our story revolves around one such Seeker, if you couldn't tell from the title.
Cassandra Pentaghast (voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard) comes from a tribe of dragon slayers, unfortunately all but wiped out by Blood Mages when she was but a child. This event haunts her still as a Seeker, with the overwhelming desire of revenge focused towards mages of all kinds. We are introduced to how hot this rage boils quite frequently across this film, but amongst all her Seeker brethren she shows remarkable skill with the blade and according to her teacher is probably unmatched by her brothers of battle. When he tries to steal away a young girl they saved from the Blood Mages the night before, Cassandra follows and confronts him only to find out that in the search for corruption and truth, the rabbit hole can be far deeper than anyone anticipates.
Ambushed by Blood Mages, Cassandra loses herself to her rage and attacks opposed to retreating as Byron (her teacher) says, leading to his rather foreseeable tragic death and an increased amount of rage in Cassandra. With his dying breath, much like Yoda from Star Wars, Byron lays down the fundamental words of wisdom: "Hate leads only to more hate." From here, we are introduced to the mysterious member Byron was meeting to pass the young girl off to safety - a man named Regalyan D'Marcall (voiced by J. Michael Tatum) who happens to be a mage from the Circle. Tensions rise, but it's not long before Cassandra begrudgingly teams up with Galyan (as his friends call him) to climb into the rabbit hole and try to root out the corruption amongst the Chantry's ranks and why the Blood Mages are so bent on controlling this girl whose only ability seems to be control animals.
It's a lot of fantasy action wrapped in a political intrigue and subterfuge plot. This works relatively well - who's the bad guys may never come as a complete surprise, but it helps to add some depth to the otherwise standard-fare pen and paper nature of the movie. Cassandra is an excellent fighter, whereas Galyan is a Circle Mage who's battle magic isn't the most impressive but can still manage to handle his own. The Blood Mages, although usually slaughtered like cattle when they try and put up a fight, have that bit of menacing intent, and the head Blood Mage Frenic (voiced by Chuck Huber) is visibly more evil than his dark brothers when he wears a mask that looks as though it might be home in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Although it's animated in a strange blend that makes me think of Cel-shading mixed with normal forms of CG use, it still feels very much like a live-action movie in how the camera angles and events are portrayed.
Action can be a quick and hectic, and overly violent (heads being lopped off, appendages severed, gouts of animated blood). There's a bit of stiffness to some character movements during the heavy action scenes that leads one to believe the movie was more classically animated then fancy high-end motion capture that gets used quite a bit nowadays. Facial expressions work well to convey things, although some can be rather subtle and the mouth movements don't always line up with extreme precision (again, not bad considering there probably wasn't any use of motion capture here). The actors do a fine job delivering the lines, and even when the characters are being rather one dimensional (Cassandra and her hate issues) the lines still give off the emotional attachment you would expect. The only time audio will really become a problem is the incredibly heavy accent of her Holiness, which although it really helps add to the character and give her an extra flair to separate her from other characters can lead to her being a bit hard to understand.
Being a fantasy movie, costume designs are almost guaranteed to be my favorite part - particularly after witnessing the potential from playing a Dragon Age game with all its armor variety. Here, Dawn of the Seeker does not disappoint at all. Armor designs are exceptional while still looking to be rather functional. Although we have a female warrior as our main character, we don't end up dealing with chainmail bikinis or "boob-plate" contours on the chest armor and yet she still retains her animated sassiness that would make the character rather attractive as a live-action representation. Blood Mages parade about in their classical hooded robes one expects of wizards without beards and hats, and the group of any one person can usually be visibly ascertained according to their wardrobe.
Although I did enjoy it, I feel I should also point out that it isn't much more than a standard fantasy flick. The plot might be a little bit deeper thanks to the political subterfuge angle it spins, but at it's heart you will know how things are going to go while watching it and not find yourself too surprised when suddenly a romance develops, a character ends up a turncoat, or a plan is revealed. Aesthetically pleasing, and certainly enjoyable to anyone who hasn't gotten a fantasy movie fix in a while, it delivered exactly what I expected of it and leaves me with a decent amount of enjoyment. It can stumble from time to time, but much like the jamming song playing at the start of the credits, it's got the energy and thought that should let the majority of people who want to watch it enjoy it - just remember, it's a bit violent (TV-MA rating).