On her 7th birthday, Princess Barbara discovers a magical book that transports her to Wonderland – an enchanted place filled with dragons and fantastic creatures.– Anonymous, IMDB
The Princess and the Dragon is a 2018 CGI animated film brought to us in part by the Cinema Fund Russia, which according to Wikipedia “is the Russian Governments key funding body for the Russian screen production industry”.
Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below…)
Whooo-boy, what a ride this film is. To start off with some compliments, this is a pretty good looking film! The character designs are nice, the animation is not perfect but it’s fairly solid, the environments are all pretty well crafted… This is one of those films that gets added to my catalogue exclusively because the story is so bafflingly told.
It’s hard to encapsulate just how confusing the story can be sometime without doing a step-by-step recap of the film. This film frequently sets-up plot points only to forget about them. As you’re watching you may start to think “Ah, I see where this is going” and with a normal film you’d probably be correct, but with this film you’re most likely completely wrong.
The best example of this is also a spoiler for the ending of the film, so here’s a second spoiler warning for everyone who wants to experience this themselves.
So Princess Barbara’s mother, the Queen, goes missing at the beginning of the film. She’s rumoured to be a sorceress, but that never amounts to anything in the movie and I’m not sure why they bothered to mention it.
Barbara has a very large cat, highly intelligent cat that follows her around and helps save the day at multiple points. “Oh, I bet it’ll be revealed the Queen was turned into the cat!”. Nope, it’s just a very large, smart cat.
Barbara finds a magic book in the castle library, one that leads her to a magical world… you might think “Oh, I bet her Mom got trapped in this magic book right?” Nope.
The villain has a magic mirror that talks to him… “Oh, the Queen is trapped in the mirror right?”. Nope, magic mirrors are just a thing in this world, and although the villains is unique in that it’s the only one that talks, that doesn’t amount to anything.
In general you might think that the film revolves around the solving the mystery of what happened to the Queen, and it kinda does in that Barbara would like to find her mom, but she’s also not above getting sidetracked with magical shenanigans with her new dragon friend Drakosha.
About 2/3rds of the way through the movie things start find it’s focus, with Barbara learning that the villain owns a magic mirror that she can use to contact her mom, so the rest of the film follows Barbara attempting to locate the magic mirror. She does so at the very end of the film, and she indeed makes contact with her Mother who says she can’t tell Barbara what happened to her, just that she’ll be back someday soon. Barbara then deals with the villain of the film and the film begins drawing to a close.
So you might start to think “Ah, they must be leaving the question of what happened to the Queen for a sequel”… except no, they didn’t. With a minute left in the film the Queen reappears. Barbara asks her where she’s been, and the Queen tells her never mind that now, she’ll tell Barbara what happened when she’s older. So the film ends with no explanation of why the Queen disappeared in the first place, where she went, and why she chose to come back now. Was it somehow connected to the film’s villain? Was it connected to her Mother being a sorceress? Who knows. The Queen returns, reunites with her family, and then the film ends.
And THEN the theme song to The NeverEnding Story begins to play. Yes, for some reason they licensed the very recognizable theme song for a much better film for this movie. It even shows up in the trailer, which I’ll link to below.
Admittedly this film can be a bit hard to get through sometimes because of all the meandering Barbara does through the majority of the film, but I feel like that would be helped out by watching this film with a group of friends (Where you can all riff on the movie over the duller parts). It’s almost worth making friends watch this just so you can see them get completely sideswiped by the ending.