- Amy Acker as Princess Luisa
- Tom Wisdom as Gabriel
- John Rhys-Davies as Sangimel
- Arnold Vosloo as King Augustin
- Oana Pellea as Queen Remini
- Razvan Vasilescu as Paxian Ru
- Cabral Ibacka as Pontiero
- Ovidiu Niculescu as King Quilok
Directed by Pitof (Catwoman). Written by Michael Konyves (Storm Cell) and Angela Mancuso (Spartacus ). A Sci Fi Channel original movie. First air date: Oct. 18, 2008. For an image gallery, click here.
Princess Luisa (Amy Acker, Fred from Angel and next year's new Joss Whedon series Dollhouse) is the only child of the ruling king and queen of a small idyllic kingdom. She's a bit of a tomboy, and her indulgent father, King Augustin (Arnold Vosloo, The Mummy) gives her free reign despite the worried looks of Queen Remini (Oana Pellea) and the contemptuous scowls of the king's advisor, Paxian Ru (Razvan Vasilescu).
A string of attacks from a vicious fire dragon causes so much damage and loss of life that Augustin seriously considers the offer of a neighboring ruler, King Quilok (Ovidiu Niculescu), to take in Augustin's people (under Quilok's rule). The alternative is to find the only successful dragon-killer, but that knight was stripped of rank and ostracized by Quilok long ago.
Luisa, however, is sure the dragon-killer must be found. Slipping out of the castle to seek him, Luisa falls into the company of a knight errant named Gabriel (Tom Wisdom, 300, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) and his inventor friend Sangimel (John Rhys-Davies). Gabriel turns out to be the late dragon-killer's son, but he's none too keen to help Luisa -- at least, not until she promises a hefty reward.
Gabriel knows he cannot defeat a fire dragon; his plan, therefore, is to awaken its stronger nemesis, an ice dragon, and hope that old stories of how his father once destroyed an ice dragon can help him to protect Luisa's kingdom from the even greater threat he's just unleashed.
As dragon movies go, Fire & Ice falls somewhere in between Dragonheart (lyrical and fun) and Reign of Fire (grim and unpleasant). Fire & Ice hits all the marks of a dragon movie -- like all dragon movies it takes place in an unspecified medieval past, full of sun-drenched forests, thatched houses, and leather jerkins. (Dragon movies are for Western cinema what Chinese magic-sword movies are for the East -- an opportunity to idealize the otherwise squalid and brutal middle ages.) People know about dragons but have become complacent ("We haven't had a dragon attack in 20 years!"). There is a lone, asocial dragon-hunter who, since he functions as a Don Quixote, must also have a sagacious Sancho Panza. The hunter learns he's more compassionate than he thinks, and betrayals are revealed. Roll credits.
To be successful with such formula a dragon film must at least provide a scenic route to the foregone conclusion, and Fire & Ice is pleasant enough and even fun in places, despite workmanlike direction (from Pitof, who will forever be remembered for making one of the most laughable superhero movies ever), a rather dour male lead, and the "Cancel Christmas!" villains. Much of the redemption comes from a few intriguing performances and some slight novelties involving the dragons themselves.
This is not one of those dragon "buddy movies" like Dragonheart or (ugh) Eragon where the beast is provided with a personality and becomes the hero's trusted confidant. The dragons in Fire & Ice are ruthless killing machines, a natural enemy of man, and as such are handled effectively.
In fact it's not at all clear, given how destructive the fire dragon is, how anything at all is left of Augustin's kingdom for Gabriel to save. The effects used to produce the dragons are not terrible, and the idea of a dragon that not only breathes fire but is partly made up of fire is an interesting take on these venerable creatures.
The climax involving the two dragons fighting probably won't sate the blood-lust adrenaline junkies among us -- much of the fighting is in medium- to long-shot and looks mostly like the two dragons smashing violently into each other -- but for a made-in-Bucharest Saturday night TV movie on Sci Fi it's perfectly fine.
What doesn't work quite as well is how Luisa is treated in the first act: even though she's the heir apparent to the monarchy and is (cough) in her late teens (and yes, Amy Acker is petite and elfin but she's also 32 years old), and should therefore be training for the monarchy, her mother is constantly dressing her down for not being girlish enough. She even barks, "Go to your room!" when she catches Luisa eavesdropping on a debate that she, as heir, should be participating in directly. Acker, nonetheless, is winsome and fetching and is by now an expert in balancing her characters' smart tomboyness with their feminine damselness. Acker is good to be around -- up until the last climactic scenes, that is, which are intercut with several hundred reaction shots of Luisa exchanging fretful glances with Pontiero (Cabral Ibacka). (Lest the verdict be in doubt, let it be forever enshrined: Pitof is a terrible, terrible director.)
Gabriel, however, needed to have been more engaging -- my mind kept ranging back to the much more interesting guys in other Forthright Teen Girl Movies, like Hugh Dancy in Ella Enchanted or, leaving medieval fantasyland behind, Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. Tom Wisdom is one of those pretty guys with great hair, like Barry Watson in his Seventh Heaven phase, who the girl is excited to land a first date with, but by the second date she's checking her watch and yawning behind her hand.
Fortunately there are bigger and better performances further down the cast list, starting with John Rhys-Davies, who of course gets the best lines (when Luisa says she has a dagger to fight off bad guys with, he remarks, "That's not a weapon, that's cutlery"). Arnold Vosloo gives a strong and measured turn as the king, and Oana Pellea does a very nice job giving us a stately, dignified woman who's also a mother.
Fire & Ice won't win anyone any statues, but it passes the most basic test you can apply to a movie: if it turns up in a repeat showing on Sci Fi and there's nothing else on, I won't mind watching it again.