(Release Date: August 01, 2007)
(USA Release Date: September 14, 2007)
(Premiere Date: February 08, 2007 [European Film Market - Germany])
(Cannes Premiere Date: May 20, 2007 [Cannes Film Market - France])
After all, what's in a name? How many people out there consider Starship Troopers to be a passable film, and how many people out there have turned the radio up just a little when a song by the Goo-Goo Dolls came on? I never have, but how many of you? Indeed, what's in a name?
Well, walking into Dragon Wars hoping it would be at least passable led to a vastly disappointing experience. I loathe saying this, but walking into Dragon Wars expecting a lame slice of stained celluloid would have still led to a vastly disappointing experience. Instead of leading to a pleasant surprise, my low expectations of Dragon Wars actually proved to be too high. Dragon Wars by any name is a terrible film.
Writer/ Director Shim Hyung-rae tells this story in a very Korean way, which (usually) is a good thing (you can see how highly most Korean films on this site have rated). Something is definitely missing in the translation here. From the very first scene D-War disappointed.
A major disaster in the Los Angeles area attracts the attention of Cable News Network CGNN and its star reporter (and fashion hip cat) Ethan (Jason Behr). Before he's ushered the hell off of the site of ground zero he sees a big, green Dragon Scale that gets him to thinking about those old times. Yep, within less than two minutes we're given our first flashback, heralded by Ethan's voice over that this has something to do with him. Rocket back 20 years to a dusty old antique shop where the shop owner named Jack (played by Robert Forster) tells him an ancient Korean tale about big ass snakes who long to become big ass dragons instead and the convoluted fairy tale that surrounds them and their sacrificial brides that carry the energy to ascend them. Within a very short time in that story we get another flashback (and another) to ancient Korea during the time that a young warrior named Haram who saved the damsel in distress named Narin (who holds the key to dragon ascension within her) by... jumping to his death into the ocean and taking her with him.
Ethan soon learns that he is the reincarnation of that very warrior and that he must find Narin's reincarnation before the evil Imugi (that's the big ass snake with delusions of Dragon-hood) named Buraki can use her magical energies to ascend to the heavens. He's also told of the nasty army of Buraki consisting of a bunch of stormtroopers called Atrox Soldiers and all manner of other terrible lizards (that also aren't actual Dragons) called Dawdlers, Bulcos and Shaconnes. Worst of all is the evil Dork Vader Evil General of the Atrox played by Michael Shamus Wiles, who appears to have spoken his lines in English only to have them overdubbed in another language and subtitled in English.
Luckily the reincarnation of Narin and Ethan's potential Lemming mate isn't so hard to find (apparently Robert Forster's character has been watching over her anyway). The big ass snake sure seems to be able to track her down too. Ethan... well, it's not so easy for his ass, even with the help of his wise crackin' sidekick Bruce (Craig Robinson). To be fair to Ethan and Bruce, it's not even that easy for the FBI, the US Military and the Secretary of Defense himself to track her ass down. This may have something to do with the fact that the FBI is represented here by the ANTI-Scully and Mulder in the form of John Ales' Agent Campbell and Chris Mulkey's Agent Pinsky who are so bumbling they make Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane look like The Untouchables. Dudes, they can't even find a 200 foot snake in broad daylight in the middle of Los Angeles.
Here, I'll make it easy for you idiots. Her name is Sarah (Amanda Brooks) and she's got a super hot (if quickly forgotten) friend named Brandy (Aimee Garcia, whose brief role is only noteworthy because... she's so hot). Once Ethan and Sarah finally hook up it's a Snake-And-Mouse chase throughout the streets of LA, on down to Me'ico and into some fantasy realm that could make just about anything in Masters of the Universe, Tron or Revenge of the Sith look like Cleveland.
Along the way, Robert Forster's Jack (whose last name may well be "Off") shows up just about any time he can do a tiny bit of good, but never when he can do a lot of good. Inexplicably Holmes Osborne actually pops in for a quick cameo and paycheck in a scene that makes even less sense than Elizabeth Pe˝a's quick photo op.
The chase seems to go a little something like this: Big Ass Snake shows up having sensed Sarah and shoves its head into the building she's in and looks around. Ethan and Sarah burst out the front door (he can't sense her do that, it seems) and they run while the easily distracted dragon plays ostritch, then the same big reptile that can seemingly squirm at hundreds of miles an hour and has a length of 200 feet can't catch them. Wow. At one point (of many, many, many) he actually catches up to them, but instead of doing jack shit he just makes faces at them and screams. What, are they part of some ancient prophecy or did they play their music too loud while he was sleeping? Is this monster in a desperate rage that could lead him to do anything, or is he merely peeved at them a little?
Then every once in a while the idiotic General pops up to get hit by a car or curse in gibberish. But hey, he's soon to bring his army of silver-clad swordsmen and Terrible Thunder Lizards on a rampage into LA, and when he does, it's going to be the shit storm of all time. When the US Military clashes in mortal battle against the gigantic reptiles of ancient prophecy, you'll see what I mean!
While scenes like that can be kind of cool, it's just not enough to save this monster mess. Much like Windows Vista has proven to me that Windows XP wasn't quite the slice of shit I thought it was, watching this giant Kaiju City Rampage made Transformers seem like a better movie. The special effects are pretty good, and the CGI is generally a thumbs up, it occasionally shows its seams and never stops looking like CGI. Still, there are some very lovely moments animated into this film, accounting for the three years it took to complete the animation.
This only serves to prove what a terrible movie Dragon Wars really is. Not even the quality CGI and animation can save this film. Hell, the Army of Buraki looks suspiciously like the Gungan Army in the Battle of Naboo. I truly mean this when I say that this is just about the only movie that could have been improved by the presence of Jar-Jar Binks! These guys serve as merely one of the many reasons that Dragon Wars feels like an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but without the intelligence or story telling prowess that show offered (and yes, in case you're new, I was being sarcastic). I kept trying to think of this as a Kids' Movie, but even that failed to redeem it. For one thing, assuming this is for kids would assume that children are idiots. For another, the violence and long drawn out scenes of destruction show that it's just a bit too extreme for the Saturday Morning crowd.
The story is incomprehensible, the acting is unrehearsed and unfinished and the directing as frail as an empty Easter Egg. Further, this is one of the poorest edited films I've seen in recent memory.
It's infantile and amateurish all the way, relying heavily on coincidence, convenience and happenstance and not at all on logic or pacing. With a fantastic legend like this one to prop it up and special effects that can compete with its stateside counterparts, this should have been a good film. I tried to like it. I tried to find something I could point at and give it just a little credit here and there. Sadly, the end result of D-War is much less a Dragon than a Dog! Man... Dragon Wars... what a movie. What a cold blooded and legendary waste. What a bore. Man, when the final battle between good and evil comes, I sure hope we, as a planet, can do better than the kid from Roswell, the old guy from Jackie Brown and the dock worker from The Office to protect us. Death by Dragon would have been preferable! So until we get a second shot at this that features an expanded role for Aimee Garcia in varied outfits, I'll see you in the next reel.
"G.I. Joe Vs. Cobra" joke
When the US Army attacked the big Snake???
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