Movie Review: Will “Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker” Soar or Go Down In Flames?

[Update: in the original version of this story, I stated that voice actress Brina Palencia’s character was the Divine Cleric, when in fact she was the Grand Cleric. The former was played by Pam Dougherty and this has been reflected in the review. In spite of the negative review, Ms. Palencia was a class act and kind enough to provide a clarification regarding my error.]

When it comes to talking about fan’s attachment to BioWare’s extended universes, it’s tough to talk about Dragon Age without at least thinking about the RPG developer’s other major IP, Mass Effect. It’s clear that the latter has a dedicated and often vocal fanbase with a great deal of attachment to Shepard’s journey aboard the Normandy these past few years. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine (or find) the same kind of obsessive clamor for the studio’s dark fantasy RPG series.

Nevertheless, here we are talking about an animated expansion of the Dragon Age universe in Dawn of the Seeker. And while there’s some nice technical gloss on this CG feature from director Vexille director Fumihiko Sori, this 90-minute film fails to make a convincing case for why one should care about BioWare’s fantasy IP.

The film follows Cassandra, a Seeker (essentially a knight), who accidentally sniffs out a conspiracy in the land in Orlais bringing together a group of hooded blood mages led by the villainous Frenic and reaching into the upper echelons of power in the land of Orlais. To get to the bottom of who’s trying to keep and control an elf girl with the ability to control dragons, she’s accompanied by wisecracking mage Regalyan, and both are on the run from conspirators and allies alike, accused of murder and treason, and wanted for knowing too much.

First, the good news: Dawn of the Seeker has some fairly strong action scenes by animation studio Oxybot (although they do tend to lean a little heavily on the slow-mo). If one would have to classify Cassandra’s fighting style, it would be “beserker,” and the many sword and magic fights which provide the connective glue for the plot see Cassandra spinning in a whirl of blades and kicks. The overall animation is more of an acquired taste, using high levels of detail for monsters and locations, but going for the “flat” 2D style animation for characters’ faces. The style has been around for five or six years now, but it still has trouble mapping the intricacies of eye and upper face movement in the virtual actors.

Story-wise, while I can’t tell you how well it clings to Dragon Age canon (or even at what point in the series’ continuity it takes place), I can say that it’s pretty rough. A rush of names and characters set up what seem to be an intricate web of intrigues and political background in the 2D animated opening, but from there Dawn of the Seeker is a protracted chase scene with the uncharismatic two leads stumbling after a clue or two (for a mystery, the leads don’t do a lot of foot work to figure things out), strung together by fights and the villains monologuing their motivations.

The English voice track doesn’t do the movie any favors either, with several of the cast members either going for the vaguely British thing or worse, the thickest, most awkward French accents you’ll see outside of a broad comedy. Pam Dougherty’s Divine Cleric is possibly the worst, sounding like nothing so much as a medieval female take on Pepe Lepew.

Beyond that, there’s really nothing more to say for it. It’s hard to imagine die-hard Dragon Age fans flocking to this pretty generic fantasy action film for any reason and it’s likewise tough to envision general fantasy fans gravitating towards this.

Still, if you’re one of the faithful few, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is screening as part of a one night only engagement on May 24th at select locations. You can still preorder tickets here. Or if you want to watch it in your home, it hits DVD and Blu-ray on May 29th from FUNimation.

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