RogerBW's Blog

P-51 Dragon Fighter 26 March 2022

2014 fantasy, dir. Mark Atkins, Scott Martin, Ross Brooks: IMDb / allmovie. In the Second World War, the Nazis have got dragons. That's about it really.

Please note that I don't say "during the North African Campaign", even though that's where this is nominally set; after all, they have P-51s, and our hero says he's previously attacked V-2 sites in Europe. So this is less of a historical film with fantasy elements, and much more a fantasy film where the historical trappings with which it's been loaded come from a sort of inchoate mess called "World War II". (I'm not the sort of person who spots errors in uniforms, but even I could see that these were pretty strange.) The guys just have to look macho and rugged, though of course their hair's too long; the Girl (there has to be a Girl) has her face heavily made up in a style that's very much more 2014 than 1940s.

So the Nazi smart guy has found a dragon egg, and they've raised dragons, and even had time to tattoo Iron Crosses onto their wings. (To prevent confusion with potential Allied dragons? But it's not, please note, either the Balkenkreuz or the swastika used by the actual Luftwaffe.) The Allies put together a special fighter squadron to work out how not to get slaughtered by them. Of course there's only one base where the dragons are being hatched; of course a small commando team has to open the impenetrable shield so that the bomber raid can destroy it with a single pin-point shot. (This story seems vaguely familiar for some reason.) If you genuinely believe that Our Hero might die, just because he flies his plane into a great big dragon and they both explode (spoiler), I have several bridges to sell you.

But it's saved by the effects, right? Well, there are CGI Mustangs and a B-17, fighting CGI dragons; that bit's not great, but it more or less works. Two of the three fight sequences are at night, which helps cover things up. The in-cockpit shots are against bluescreen with little or no actual background; you certainly never see anyone getting in or out of a plane, because that might have required the hire or construction of real planes.

So there's the acting…? Yeah. There's a scene where you learn each squadron member's personality trait. The dragons are effortlessly controlled by Nazi sorceresses called "the Vril", who wear low-cut black robes (in the desert); apparently they will have no other influence on the war, because nobody goes to any trouble to catch them.

It's all rubbish. You can get this on DVD for two quid; it's arguably overpriced. So why did I watch it, knowing going in that it would be rubbish? Because it's rubbish; someone put up money to get this made and released, and I think it's a fair target to laugh at (and I certainly did). Because it's a great example of the way bad storytelling doesn't integrate its pieces, so I can rip those pieces out and drop them into other settings where they may find a bit more nourishment. With a different script this could have been very much better, even with what was obviously a very limited budget, and I can enjoy the many films that this might have been while looking past what it actually is. I'd much rather watch honest incompetence like this than soulless corporate filmmaking with all the corners smoothed off and nothing to say.

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  1. Posted by dp at 02:46am on 28 March 2022

    Sounds mildly amusing, I suppose. Reminds me of the dragon scenario tucked in the back of SPI's old Air War game (I think because Greg Costikyan was the developer.)

    I guess P-38 or P-40 Dragon Fighter would have been a more appropriate option, though that doesn't explain the V2...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:35am on 28 March 2022

    Hornet Leader has the Cthulhu Conflict expansion, in which your 1980s-1990s US carrier air group flies against both cultists and Lovecraftian beasties.

    Being British I naturally find it obvious that a Spitfire would be a better choice ("Hurricane!" "Shut up.") but all things considered that might have confused the target audience.

  3. Posted by dp at 10:17pm on 28 March 2022

    Sounds like fun

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:01pm on 29 March 2022

    If two of the three fight sequences happen at night then they should be using night fighters, which the P-51 was not and nor were the Spitfire or Hurricane. As I'm sure Roger knows, in WW-II night fighters were entirely different aircraft to cope with the fact nobody could see a thing.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 02:09pm on 29 March 2022

    Personally I'd have liked to see some P-38s, gorgeous aircraft. But I suspect they only had the budget for two aircraft models and so went for the ones the audience might have heard of and/or recognise. (The bomber is a B-17, obviously.)

  6. Posted by Shim at 07:20pm on 31 March 2022

    Has anyone yet done a thing where the secret of the RAF really is carrots? Take your pick, either it's part of a magic potion, or it's a local variety with a rare mutation that the Brits somehow identify and keep under wraps.

  7. Posted by RogerBW at 07:23pm on 31 March 2022

    Carrot. Mandrake. Easy to confuse.

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