Firebreather (2010)

51_duncankaiju2Sure, at the end of the day this computer animated movie about a fire breathing teenager is really solely geared to preteens of the male persuasion. With a male character who looks like an anime character who is geeky and has superpowers, this is a movie that will really grab a hold of the young crowds. And sure, like all cable movies, this is a potential series, but I am a complete sucker for superhero movies. And in the same vein I am a sucker for underdog tales. I vaguely remember seeing an ad for the original comic book online a few years ago, so it was surprising to see a movie pop up that was based on a comic series I’ve yet to read or even fully be aware of. Researching the series, it’s story where the villain is taken on by Firebreather and Image characters like Invincible, Shadowhawk, and many more respective properties.

Obviously, with trade marking being a big issue, there wouldn’t be any of these large guest spots (sorry Kirkman fans), but there is a definite appeal for action and comedy. “Firebreather” is set in a world where kaiju’s exist and run rampant. And for whatever reason Duncan is a young man whose mom is a secret agent who kills kaiju’s and whose dad is a giant fire breathing dragon. How does that work? I honestly have no idea. With a film called “Firebreather” it’s best not to over think the little things. In either case, Duncan is a mild mannered high schooler who is constantly bullied, has a love interest, and two spunky friends who support him. Obviously.

But when a party rolls around, Duncan’s kaiju father re-emerges from hiding to take Duncan back to his lair and try to convince him to become a kaiju heir to the throne instead of a stupid human being. For the small budget it works with, most of the computer animation here is pretty spectacular with action scenes that are rather exciting, and special effects that are rather dazzling. The premise is so off-beat and surreal that it can work without any boundaries so director Peter Chung, known for his work on “Aeon Flux” can become very vivid and dazzling whenever he wants to. This allows him to stage a moment where Duncan battles his bullies in a rapid fire dodge ball match, and outruns them when the group attempts to attack him, leading to a hefty foot chase involving acrobatics, parkor, and martial arts.

The characters are all fairly entertaining archetypes with Duncan being given a destiny he’s not ready to fulfill yet, a well meaning single mother only wanting the best for Duncan, and Belloc being about as horrifying a villain as you can imagine. Folks like Dana Delany, Kevin Michael Richardson and Dante Basco are at their usual tops in the way of performances, and Jesse Head is strong as main character Duncan. Of course when Duncan decides he’s had enough the monstrous Kaiju’s come out of hiding to rampage his home and only he can stop them from hurting his family and put his father down once and for all, and this makes for some wicked excitement where Duncan becomes an all out superhero, as Belloc uses these challenges as a form of testing his resolve a la Darth Vader.

Will Duncan embrace his kaiju birthright and become a menace to the world, or will he come back to his humanity and live as a defender for the people? We all know the answer. As the film boils down to Duncan coming to grips with both identities, Duncan inevitably goes head to head with daddio as mom struggles to keep her son at arm’s length and it makes an entertaining dichotomy all ending in an open door ending leaving room for a sequel of television series. It’s best not to over think how a giant dragon mated with a tiny human, but when you push away the nagging questions “Firebreather” ends up being a rather entertaining and exciting anime influenced action adventure with great animation, wicked visuals, and strong voice performances. I expect it to suck in as much young audiences it possibly can.