D-WAR: DRAGON WARS
*** (out of 5)
September 14, 2007
Jason Behr as ETHAN
Amanda Brooks as SARAH
Robert Forster as JACK
Aimee Garcia as BRANDY
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Directed by: Hyung-rae Shim
BY KEVIN CARR
Before paying my theater admission and checking out “D-War: Dragon Wars” on the big screen, I had heard some unsettling rumors. The one that rattled me the most was that writer/director Hyung-rae Shim has been called the Uwe Boll of South Korea.
That bothered me because I have to admit the trailer to “D-War: Dragon Wars” looked pretty doggoned cool. After enjoying a resurgence of traditional monster movies like “The Host,” I was afraid that the slick looking action sequences from the Internet trailer were going to be humdrum on the silver screen.
I’m happy to say that after finally seeing the film in the theater that Hyung-rae Shim is far from a South Korean Uwe Boll. Boll’s films always have pretty decent production value – and are populated with surprisingly respectable actors (have you seen the cast for his upcoming “In the Name of the King,” which includes Claire Forlani, Ray Liotta and Leelee Sobieski). However, Boll’s movies also have some of the most incoherent scripts and worst pay-the-rent acting I’ve ever seen.
“D-War” isn’t a great feat in writing – or acting for that matter. The story is actually somewhat convoluted. It begins with a brief narration about how dragons come to be. Then we shift to modern-day Los Angeles where some giant creature caused untold destruction (although no one has reported what did it). Then we flash back to Korea in 1507 for a history lesson about ancient warriors trying to make a giant evil serpent a magical dragon.
All of this exposition is really unnecessary and clogs up the beginning of the film. All you really need to know is that this cult has a chance to make their giant evil serpent a dragon by having him ingest a special “chosen one” woman that is born every 500 years. Her guardian has been reincarnated as a reporter who helps this woman evade the serpent as they search for the good serpent who is meant to be the dragon.
The bottom line is that once you sweep the story out of the way, this film is filled with a nice dosage of pretty cool dragon battles.
Like this summer’s “Transformers,” this isn’t a film to watch for the plot, acting or character development. Where “Transformers” delivered on giant robots blowing crap up, “D-War” delivers on dragon battles. The visual effects aren’t nearly as impressive as they were in “Transformers,” but then again, “D-War” was made on a fraction of the budget.
With a relatively long running time (around 110 minutes), “D-War” drags a bit – especially when there are no dragons. The dialogue is excruciating. I’ve heard better lines in crummy middle school plays. And the plot is convoluted and messy, with ridiculous scenes and very little realism to support the wretched character development.
But the dragons are pretty cool. And there’s plenty of them. Fortunately for the film, at least half of its running time features dragons battle other dragons, dragons battling a woefully inept military in downtown Los Angeles or dragons chasing our protagonists. These are the highlights, strictly for the “gee whiz” value.
And while the effects aren’t perfect, they’re not bad for the big screen on such a low budget. In the end, “D-War” is one of those films that I would swerve into on the SciFi Channel late one night and stay up until the wee hours of the morning to watch without feeling guilty at all.