Both Dragonslayer and DragonHeart are decent films and comparison between the two is interesting. Both are films about the last dragon and its relationship with its slayer. Dragonslayer comes with the full primal majesty of the myth. It is a sorcerers apprentice story about the novice finding the heroism necessary to take on almost impossible odds. On the other hand, DragonHeart lets its dragon talk, gives it a personality and trades the sorcerers apprentice in for an opportunistic fallen knight. In an inspired reversal of expectation, DragonHeart has the knight and dragon team up to form a Butch and Sundance relationship of sorts, conning their way across Mediaeval England, fooling nobles and peasantry alike into paying for the privilege of killing the dragon. The film gets its best mileage out of this odd couple relationship, which becomes a sparring duel of taunts more St George and Mildred than St George and the Dragon. Although in the end it is very much a Hollywood dragon film this seems more a dragon film born more of Lethal Weapon (1987) (where the jokey friendship comes from) than of epic legend.
The dragon effects are impressive although try as Industrial Light and Magic might, they cannot help but make the dragon look like a big cartoon figure. Nevertheless, Sean Connery is an inspired voice casting choice and gives life to the dragon. Director Rob Cohen [whose last draconian outing involved Eastern rather than Western dragons namely Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993), a film that was almost as much fantasy as DragonHeart in its mythologizing of Bruce Lees life] has a nice eye for effects shots the dragon going down in the lake, one gorgeous shot of it rising up from behind a hill silhouetted against the sun.
The script is better than one might think. It conducts some nice, if predictable, story arcs the relationship between the knight and his pupil gone bad; the relationship between the dragon and king, neither of whom can die without the other doing so; and of course the relationship between knight and dragon. DragonHeart doesnt always get it right Dina Meyer has no purpose other than to be the love interest but that never happens; and Bowens reasons for deciding to become a dragonslayer to kill all dragons because the dragon healed Einon who then became a tyrant does not ring as believable motivation.
Director Rob Cohen would go onto make the likes of the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Daylight (1996), the thriller The Skulls (2000), the car-racing film The Fast and the Furious (2001), the amazingly awful adventure sports spy film xXx (2002), Stealth (2005) about an artificially intelligent fighter plane, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), the serial killer thriller Alex Cross (2012) and the psycho-thriller The Boy Next Door (2015). Throughout these, Cohen has developed a reputation for flashy effects and action sequences but little sense of drama or character.
Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue has also ventured into genre material on a number of occasions with the scripts for works like The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983), David Cronenbergs The Fly (1986), Psycho III (1986), Kull the Conqueror (1997) and Hercules (tv mini-series, 2005). Co-writer Patrick Read Johnson has directed several films including Spaced Invaders (1990), Babys Day Out (1994), the childrens Halloween tv movie When Good Ghouls Go Bad (tv movie, 2001) and 77 (2007) about Star Wars fandom.
(Nominee for Best Special Effects at this sites Best of 1996 Awards).