Probably one of the darkest things that Disney has been involved in. There’s little beauty in the world of Dragonslayer. There are no adventurous knights to save the people. No fairies or elves. The only magical creatures in the film are eating all the women in the surrounding area. And the ending is a bit of a downer, with a sort of “fuck the system” message to it.
Like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gremlins, it’s also somewhat violent for a PG rated film, due to the lack of a PG-13 rating at the time. Nothing explicit, until the scene where one dead woman’s foot is chewed off by a baby dragon.
The story involves a familiar problem. A dragon is tormenting a kingdom, so the villagers try to appease it by sacrificing virgin women to the creature. Because prostitutes taste terrible.
Valerian (who, for some reason, no one can tell is a woman until the main character sees her bathing), decides to request help from the last known sorcerer, in order to kill the dragon. When the sorcerer dies, his apprentice Galen decides to take up the quest. Then other stuff happens.
The dragon itself is an incredible product of 1980s special effects, and one of the highlights of the movie. Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin has described it as “the best dragon ever shown on film.” It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when you don’t rely on CGI.
Maybe I read too much into it, but it definitely feels like there’s an anti-religion message in this movie. Ian McDiarmid (Q from Star Trek) plays a priest, whose only purpose is to be roasted alive for what feels like half a minute. His replacement later takes credit for everything in the end, in what feels like sine sort of commentary on organized religion. I’m a little surprised there were no complaints about this at the time of its release, considering how much religious groups called Dungeons and Dragons stuff satanic in the ’80s.
Galen, played by Peter MacNicol (known for Ghost Busters 2) apparently hates this movie. Which seems strange, seeing how it’s perhaps his only starring (and first) role. In case that discourages you, Guillermo del Toro loves it, and I think his opinion on movies is more important.