D-WAR: DRAGON WARS
Director: Hyung-rae Shim
Cast: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Aimee Garcia, Craig Robinson, Chris Mulkey, John Ales, Elizabeth Peña
MPAA Rating: (for intense sequences of violence and creature action)
Running Time: 1:47
Release Date: 9/14/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
I've seen some pretty terrible direct-to-video movies, but D-War: Dragon Wars is the first I've seen on the big screen. This one really should have been immediately relegated to the discount bin, but nope, here it is with a fairly decent-sized theatrical release. Its title implies a big battle between dragons, but it's actually about stupid people who kind of wander around until the big battle between dragons occurs in the last reel. In that aspect, it's a lot like Transformers, which promised big robots fighting but only managed, well, stupid people doing stupid things until the last reel. Actually, D-War is a lot like Transformers in many respects. Their plots are silly but taken with the utmost, foolish sincerity. The special effects are wanting, although here South Korean director Hyung-rae Shim has the guts to let us see how cheap the effects are, as opposed to Michael Bay, who just had his editors cut, cut, cut, cut until people were absolutely convinced the effects were solid. Why am I harping on Bay, though? He had nothing to do with this, and Shim's project is a mess on levels Bay couldn't imagine.
A narrator tells us of a Korean legend about a woman born every 500 years who can turn a serpent into a dragon, called an Imoogi, which will be the good dragon that will fight the evil dragon. I don't typically connect concepts like good and evil to giant snakes, but for the sake of argument, we'll let it ride. This would seem enough goofy backstory, and for a bit, it is. Enter Ethan (Jason Behr), a television journalist for a major cable news network who carries around his own camcorder to cover a big pile of rubble, which much later we learn was a resort, and spots a strange, scaly mass amidst the debris. Sitting in his office, he connects the weird thing at the wreckage with his medallion—a medallion that has the power to start a flashback to his childhood. He was at an antique store and mystically opened a box that emanated a light from heaven, or at least that's what the store's owner Jack (Robert Forster) tells him. Then Jack decides to tell the kid the whole, long, boring, will-this-ever-end story of the Imoogi (a flashback within a flashback—thanks). It's something about star-crossed lovers, sieges on cities, and dragons but quickly begins to sound like this: "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
History is repeating itself, and Ethan, dull dope that he is, is the protector of the dragon-creating woman of today. She's the 19-going-on-30 Sarah (Amanda Brooks), who has a birthmark resembling a red dragon on her shoulder and is hence the giant-serpent generator. Ethan has to hunt her down but the evil general (Michael Shamus Wiles) of the army of evil with an evil-sounding voice is hunting her down for evil purposes, namely to kill her… evilly. If this sounds too exciting for you to handle, you might want to prepare yourself for the thrills of the scene where Sarah and her friend Brandy (Aimee Garcia) go out for a drink (even though she's 19). Then there's the electrifying scene where a receptionist refuses to let Brandy visit Sarah in the hospital. Wonder at the scene where a zookeeper sits in therapy after he witnesses a dragon killing an elephant (He tells the doctor he saw the dragon eat five elephants, but hey, we're on a budget here). And don't forget a hypno-therapist (Holmes Osborne) walks Sarah through the process of sleeping (He talks… like this… so we know… he's serious… serious… about sleep).
If that's not enough for you, become perplexed by the way Ethan manages to do pretty much anything, from visiting a patient in quarantine to gaining access to a helicopter, simply by being a member of the press. Sarah keeps warning everyone that something bad, something terrible, something terribly bad beyond all imagination is going to happen, and yes, the movie is getting to that even though the audience has been sitting through it for some time now. The evil dragon is alive and well, eating friends and destroying buildings and helicopters, and it's got an army, too. There are armored soldiers and flying lizards and walking slug-like things called "dawdlers" (Oh my?), and the military has to fight them all in downtown L.A. The action sequences play like an accounts payable sheet; you can see where all the money was spent, like in a shot of the dragon tearing up traffic, and corners were cut, like everywhere else. The sequences are repetitive, and it's more fun to notice that Shim doesn't believe in continuity. Ethan is shot and walks around the rest of the movie as if he wasn't. Soldiers shoot at nothing. Ethan and Sarah casually walk out of a building that's just been penetrated by a dragon.Yes, this movie is a bona fide disaster, painfully incompetent and boring to boot. Thankfully, the mockability level of D-War: Dragon Wars, or whatever the hell you want to call it, is high, so have at it. Or, better, don't.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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