Dragons are popular these days. With the success of HBO's 'Game of Thrones' and Daenerys Targaryen's three dragons being a prominent feature in the series, the masses seem to have a new love for all things dragons. The first joint project between China and Australia, 'The Dragon Pearl' might not be a good action movie involving dragons, but it should play well for kids under 12.
This film, made strictly for kids, follows a young boy named Josh (Louis Corbett), as he arrives in China to visit his father Chris (Sam Neill), who basically reprises his character from 'Jurassic Park.' Chris is an archaeologist who is knee deep in a giant project, digging up artifacts. His son, Josh meets his boss's daughter Ling (Li Lin Jin), and the two form a friendship.
The two kids meet an odd guy who was at their parents archaeological dig by the name of Wu Dong (Jordan Chan). Josh and Ling learn he is protecting a temple that has been kept secret for hundreds of years that houses a real-life dragon. In the meantime, Ling has been hearing a fluttering flute music, which nobody else can hear. She soon discovers she is the chosen one to recover an ancient artifact dubbed the Dragon Pearl and return the item to its rightful owner.
Ling and Josh try to enlist the help of their parents, but obviously they're met with disbelief and have to go on this adventure on their own. It seems that nobody believes them, except for another archaeologist named Philip Dukas (Robert Mammone), who has a sinister plan for the Dragon Pearl. The young duo have no choice but to take on the evil bad guys on their own in order to save a dragon.
As I said above, this is strictly a kid's film, and I would imagine most adults will be bored with this fantasy film. While there are some adventurous scenes in the movie, nothing ever seems dire or too scary, even for smaller children. I cannot figure out why Sam Neill decided to do this little film. Maybe he had a kid of his own who was into dragons, but his performance is completely phoned in. The kid actors do an okay job at best, but the dialogue is fairly rough and doesn't provide much direction for any actor to perform to their full potential.
The dragon effects would only impress the very young crowd and look silly and cheesy most of the time. There is a side story that showcases the divorce proceedings of Josh's parents and tries to provide a father-son aspect to the movie, but it feels very forced and doesn't seem to go along with any point in the movie. This is a sub-par family-friendly movie that should only entertain the young ones.
'The Dragon Pearl' comes with a passable 1080p HD transfer presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The detail here is pretty sharp, particularly in the brighter exterior scenes. The landscapes provide a good amount of crisp colors that always seem to pop off screen. Closeups provide good detail with facial blemishes and wrinkles. However, in the darker lit scenes, detail goes a bit soft and colors seem more pale with some image blur popping up.
The skin tones are natural and smooth with black levels running deep and inky in the well lit scenes. There is an overall polished look to the movie with no sense of filmic quality to the print. There was no evidence of banding here, but there are some hints of motion blur from time to time, especially during the heavier action scenes.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix which sounds decent. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand with no evidence of hissing or cracks. The heavier action scenes provide a decent dynamic range with a little punch of bass rumble. The sound effects sound good here too, but seem to be tossed around without any rhyme or reason.
The dragon sound effects do sound impressive though and pack the best punch. The ambient noises and sound effects are used occasionally through the rears and sound acceptable. This is no audio track to write home about, but it should satisfy the younger viewers.
'The Dragon Pearl' was a huge let-down, but it should put a smile on kid's faces. With routine video and audio presentations, and no extras, I'd rent this one before purchasing to see if your kid enjoys it. The acting isn't great, the dialogue is petty, and the special effects should only impress our younger audience. Rent it for the kiddos.