Fire & Ice (2008)


Romania. 2008.


Director – Jean C. Comar [Pitof], Screenplay – Michael Konyves & Angela Mancuso, Producers – Michele Greco, Angela Mancusco & Gabi Popescu, Photography – Emanuel Kadosh, Music – Frankie Blue, Visual Effects Supervisor – Evan Jacobs, Digital Visual Effects – Mediapro Magic (Supervisor – Tony Willis, Animation Director – Sebastian Cosor, Digital Effects Supervisor – Felician Lepadatu), Special Effects Supervisor – Adrian Popescu, Production Design – Christian Niculescu. Production Company – Mediapro Pictures


Amy Acker (Princess Luisa), Tom Wisdom (Gabriel), John Rhys Davies (Sangimel), Arnold Vosloo (King Augustin), Razvan Vasilescu (Paxian Ru), Oana Pellea (Queen Remini), Cabral Ibaka (Knight Pontiero), Ovidiu Nicolescu (King Quilok)


The kingdom of Carpia is suddenly ravaged by a Fire Dragon. The dragon continues to return, laying ruin to the kingdom. The only help that King Augustin can think of is to find Knight Alidor who once slew a dragon but this idea is dismissed because Alidor fell into disgrace. With the only other choice being for Augustin to abdicate and surrender Carpia to the neighbouring King Quilok in return for his help, Augustin’s daughter Princess Luisa takes it upon herself to set out on a mission to find Alidor. In the Izmar Woods, she encounters Gabriel and the wily Sangimel and discovers that Gabriel is the late Alidor’s son. She persuades Gabriel to return with her and take up the challenge of killing the dragon. Sangimel comes up with the idea of raising an Ice Dragon, the natural enemy of the Fire Dragon. He does so and the two dragons combat each other over the skies of Carpia. Meanwhile, the others must deal with the treachery of King Quilok and his determination to overthrow Carpia.

Fire & Ice – no relation to the Ralph Bakshi-Frank Frazetta animated film Fire and Ice (1983) – is another entry in the new spate of sword and sorcery fantasy films that have emerged following the massive success of The Lord of the Rings movies. Fire & Ice was a Romanian-made production – apparently the most expensive film ever mounted in Romania. As can be seen from the importation of several international faces, it was made with a clear desire to be sold to English-language audiences. Alas for such ambition, Fire & Ice ended up only being released directly to tv in the US.

The Romanians have imported French director Pitof. Pitof started out specialising in visual effects and then made his directorial debut with the amazing dark historical fantasy Vidocq (2001). This was enough to have Pitof imported to the US to make Catwoman (2004) but this was universally ridiculed and killed off Pitof’s career. Pitof next took up Fire & Ice. For reasons unknown, he has declined credit as Pitof on screen and hides behind his given name Jean C(hristopher) Comar – which means either that he was unhappy with production interference on the film or that he is trying to salvage a directorial career after the public embarrassment of Catwoman, hoping that people will think that this is a different director. He has yet to direct another film.

Fire & Ice is slim on the story side and predictable as these epic fantasies go. The plot travels through its elements in a linear way and without any surprises that go beyond the cliches of the genre. That said, Pitof (or Jean C. Comar) fleshes it out nicely. Even though the budget looks modest, he gives the film a wonderful scope and propels the drama along well. He fills the landscape with depth, texture and conviction. In particular, he gets magnificent pictorial use out of the wide-open Romanian countryside.

Especially good are the dragon effects. The first appearance of the fire dragon is something magnificently original – its whole body afire as though it is not merely breathing fire but belching it from every pore – and it hovers over the film with a wonderfully evil and malevolent presence. The show’s dramatic capper is the fight in the skies between the fire and ice dragons, which is superbly staged by Pitof and the Romanian effects department. You do end up with the feeling that all the effects budget went into the dragon effects, leaving some of the other effects work slightly spotty – the 360-degree pan around the kingdom where Arnold Vosloo sees the devastation wrought is on the shoddy side optically.

Amid the imported cast, Amy Acker, who looks for all the world like a younger and slightly leaner Mia Sara, projects intelligence and an innocent loveliness, just as she is required to. John Rhys-Davies, who has clearly been imported to give the film Lord of the Rings touchstone credibility, opens up with typically gregarious regard. Tom Wisdom is slightly quieter up against Rhys-Davies but eventually emerges with a wry likeability and handsomeness.

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