Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker

The feature length tie-in to BioWare’s video game franchise Dragon Age seems a bit late reaching the finish line. Dragon Age was released in 2009 and Dragon Age II is currently only a year old, but interest in the franchise seems to have waned as gamers – and BioWare – have moved onto bigger and better things. That said, perhaps the sole purpose of Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is to drum up renewed interest in the series, encouraging people to go back to the land of Ferelden and vanquish evil once again (or for the first time).

However, as someone who played Dragon Age: Origins (and stopped due to lack of interest), I did not feel the urge to hop back onto my PC after viewing the film. In that regard, Dawn of the Seeker is a bit of a marketing failure, at least from my perspective. As a film, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before.

The premise of Dawn of the Seeker involves the most despised group of magic users, the Blood Mages. While the citizens of Ferelden already have a wary relationship with mages despite the best diplomatic efforts of the Circle of Magi, those who have developed the ability to cast spells are under constant scrutiny by members of the Templar Order who operate as the sword arm for the Chantry, Ferelden’s largest religious order. Keeping the Templars in check are the Seekers of Truth who employ various secretive tactics in order to maintain the purity of the Order. Cassandra Pentaghast (who was a character in Dragon Age II) is the Seeker’s most skilled soldier and during a twilight raid on a Blood Mage ritual, she displays a level of ferocity that unnerves her fellow soldiers. After rescuing a young Elf from the Mages, Cassandra witnesses her master secretly removing the girl from a holding cell as a means to keep her safe, fearing she may be the target of a conspiracy within the holy order.

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is serviceable fantasy that lacks the spark needed to turn a rather mundane story into an epic adventure. The narrative beats in the film feel as if they were taken from a laundry list of genre cliches: Tough as nails Mary Sue-like heroine? Check. Forcing her to work with someone she despises? Check. Inevitable romance? Check. Traitors from within? Check. Everything that happens in Dawn of the Seeker has already been done before and in better ways. For a film based off a video game, some elements from the game feel hollow and shoehorned, as if the writers took a pre-existing fantasy film and threw in place names, races and a few monsters from each adventure. The film will clearly benefit those who have played through Dragon Age II, as Cassandra is a major player in the story. Those who haven’t, however, will be at a loss as to what connection the film has with the game outside of various nods and cues.

The film is animated primarily using CGI but the quality isn’t up to the standards of, say, Dreamworks or Pixar. What detracts from the design is the added layer of cel shading, a computer rendering trick that makes objects appear hand drawn, as it really doesn’t do the digital actors any favors. By the end of the movie, I experienced feelings associated with what is referred to as ‘Uncanny Valley’ — the robotics theory which postulates that the more lifelike a robot (or in this case, a digital actor) appears, there comes a point when the human interacting with the subject experiences feelings of revulsion and unease. I wouldn’t go as far to suggest that the film’s animation is repulsive, but I had a difficult time connecting with the characters on a visual level. Characters move stiffly from time to time (except for Cassandra, who appears to have earned the most attention from the animation staff), environmental detail tends to be poor ,and the amount of shadow that covers the character’s faces at any given time is a severe distraction. The film retains the game’s strong lean towards violence and for every creature Cassandra cuts down, if she isn’t covered in blood, her weapons and the ground beneath her are. The level of violence is what earns the film its mature rating but on the plus side, sex and foul language are nonexistent.

All in all, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is a passable attempt to expand the Dragon Age world but probably not enough to get people clamoring for more. I doubt it is enough for people to get excited to play the games, especially since most of the events depicted in the film are not necessarily connected to Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age II outside of a few small details. The animation isn’t particularly good looking, the plot is thin, the action dull and the acting is serviceable. In the end, it is a largely forgettable film.

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker
Funimation, 2012
directed by Fumihiko Sori
90 minutes, Number of Discs: 3, Box set
Company Age Rating: 17