I tend to be very selective when it comes to watching anime films. At many times I enjoy the art style and storytelling that makes it differ from other animation genres and styles, but sometimes it can get to a point that I find to be too “out there” for me to handle. Generally, if I can at least approach the type of subject matter that I enjoy and start from the beginning, I have no real problem getting into anime feature films. Anime TV series are another story, but I digress. I was fairly intrigued by Legend of the Millennium Dragon upon learning what it was about, but now having seen it, it is not a problem with my tolerance for anime that made me dislike this feature; it was the detachment from the characters due to poor storytelling and an overwhelming sense of blah for the film as a whole.
Legend of the Millennium Dragon is the story of a young, middle-school boy named Jun taken out of his modern times and thrust back in time to a mythical world filled with creatures, demons, and magic. Upon his arrival, Jun is seen by the others as the chosen one, intended to rid the world of all that is evil for the good of mankind. As Jun soon discovers, he actually has special abilities that he was not aware of, making the supposed legend of his hero status actually plausible. Along with a few friends he meets in his journey, Jun will have to do what he can to vanquish evil and find a way to journey back to his modern-day Japan.
There is a certain level of scope and intrigue to this sort of story, but it is not exactly an original one. There have been many other films that tackle this sort of subject, going all the way from Army of Darkness to A Kid In King Arthur’s Court (Yeah, I went there), but the difference revolves around how effective the film is at depicting this sort of “worlds collide” type situation. Unfortunately, Legend of the Millennium Dragon is apparently not very interested in making any of this very compelling. The story does a poor job of properly establishing all of what the plot entails, which actually makes things confusing to watch at points. Furthermore, the characters are all very uninteresting and pretty one-note.
Regardless of how familiar the story may have actually been, ideas early on in the film were presented, which could have at least lead to some better developments, but were instead left fairly dormant or only expanded on in the simplest or least interesting of ways. Not helping any of this is the poor pacing of the film, which made the whole experience that much more bothersome to endure.
As far as the animation goes, I did appreciate some of the action sequences presented. The mix of hand drawn and CG elements was not too jarring and at times looked quite impressive. The main problem did come from the character designs, which tended to have a problem of presenting distinct individuals. Mixed with a plot that was not the simplest to understand, having a confused idea of which character was which did not do the film any favors.
Along with the other films I put as examples that have done similar stories, the most notable example would be another anime film – Spirited Away. That’s a film that handles the same basic plot elements in a much more inspired manner. The characters are all unique and interesting. The artistry and animation is fantastic throughout. And the story manages to deliver on its ideas and remain fairly poignant. ‘Millennium Dragon’ does little to accomplish this. It is a shame, because I hardly want to be so negative about this type of film, but there is little to work with in the way of praise. Some nice scenery aside, I really did not enjoy much about this film.
Regardless of how much I did not enjoy the movie, there is a lot of positive credit that goes to Sony Pictures work on making this film at least look great on Blu-ray. 1080p HD transfer goes a long way to make this film shine in its video presentation. The colors all pop, are bright, and always bring out the best in what the animation has done in an overall sort of way. Darker scenes benefit from sufficient black levels as well. The image presentation in this film would certainly make for a lot of good desktop wallpapers.
Similarly, the audio presentation in this film is great as well. Aside from the 8 different audio language tracks and 17 different subtitle language tracks that are available to watch this film in, the primary Japanese track is a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track, which goes a long way for sufficiently providing a solid audio mix. The music comes in loud and clear, as does the dialogue, and various sound effects throughout the big battle sequences. Again, I only wish the film’s quality matched the quality of the audio and video presentations available for its blu-ray.
Along with a DVD copy of this film, the only actual special feature available is a concept art gallery. Again, at least this would make for good desktop wallpaper; I only wish that was an option.
While the actual score may round out to an average recommendation, it is purely because the Blu-ray presentation of this film is quite good. The film is not a good one. It is fairly bland, forgettable, and at times somewhat confusing. There is a good idea within the film; I just wish it stuck to keeping things interesting.