Saturday, September 15, 2007

Movie Review: Dragon Wars (alias D-War)

A Sci Fi Channel Original Movie mysteriously sneaks into theaters!

Dragon Wars: D-War, written and directed by Hyung Rae Shim. Produced by James Kang. Starring Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, and Craig Robinson. Runtime 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.

See other reviews here. See humorously translated movie website here.

D.G.D.: Hi, everybody. Snuffles the Dragon and I saw Dragon Wars last night. I took him because this movie has dragons in it and because, um, I sort of thought it came from Japan when it actually came from South Korea. On that note, Snuffles would like to start out with a personal comment--

Snuffles: Curse you, Deej! That's an hour and a half of my life I will never have back! I could have been watching Ranma 1/2 episodes and instead you force me to watch this...this...this insult to my entire species! And you know how I hate to go to the theater! I have to get three seats to sit in and an extra three for my tail, which means I need movable armrests, but the theater with the movable armrests doesn't sell pickles or have ketchup for their popcorn! And of course, the usher always comes down to where I'm sitting halfway through the movie and demands to know why I'm smoking. I tell him, "It's called 'breathing,' you moron," but that doesn't help: he always orders me to leave, and then he learns the hard way the truth of the proverb that says when a dragon comes to visit he sits anywhere he wants. Going to the theater just isn't worth the hassle!

D.G.D.: Ahem. Yes. Well, one of the reasons we're writing this review with two reviewers is because, quite frankly, this movie has schizophrenia. Snuffles?

Snuffles: It's the biggest-budget South Korean film of all time, but it's trying to imitate brainless American big-budget summer flicks. It's got Korean mythology, but the setting is contemporary L.A. It has two languages, so the unbelievably confusing infodump at the movie's beginning is mostly in subtitles even though the rest of the film is in English. It even has two titles: is it Dragon Wars or D-War? I don't even know what to call it!

D.G.D.: I thought Dragon Wars was a sequel to The Bard's Tale.

Snuffles: I neither know nor understand what you're talking about, Deej.

D.G.D.: Anyway, when you boil it down, it looks like a made-for-TV movie that somehow got into theaters. Snuffles, why don't you give the summary?

Snuffles: Gladly, if I can possibly remember it. Let's see: I knew we were in for trouble when the movie began by announcing, "Every five hundred years, a young woman is born." I clapped my hand to my snout and muttered, "Babies are born, man. Young women grow. Who wrote this?" Things go downhill from there as the movie, without introducing characters or giving us any reason to care, throws a steaming pile of infodump in our laps. Apparently, the young woman born every five hundred years is a Yu-Gi-Oh! or maybe a Juh Yi Joo or something, and she's got something inside her, indicated by a birthmark on her shoulder, that enables her to turn a giant snake called a Jujyfruit or maybe an Imoogi into a dragon and send it to Heaven. Well, there's a good Jujyfruit and a bad Jujyfruit who both want to eat the Yu-Gi-Oh! The bad Jujyfruit is named Barack Obama.

D.G.D.: Buraki.

Snuffles: What?

D.G.D.: His name is Buraki.

Snuffles: Whatever! Are you giving this summary or me?

D.G.D.: Sorry. Continue.

Snuffles: For no discernible reason, Buraki has a giant army wearing left-over armor from The Lord of the Rings and a lot of bad CGI dinosaurs carrying rocket launchers.

D.G.D.: The only discernible reason is that they want to blow up L.A. in a bunch of big-budget action sequences while the National Guard tries unsuccessfully to fight them off.

Snuffles: Because you know how machine guns and tanks are no match for medieval armor.

D.G.D.: You might call this Transformers Lite. Come to think of it, the tagline for this movie, "They have chosen our world for their battlefield," sounds like the tagline for Transformers translated into Korean and then back into English.

Snuffles: What's really great is how you've got a bad-acting reporter (Jason Behr) who's supposed to be protecting the girl (Amanda Brooks) but never actually does anything except stare vacantly as a snake the size of a skyscraper crawls all over L.A.

D.G.D.: Better still is how nobody notices the snake the size of a sky-scraper crawling all over L.A. until halfway through the movie.

Snuffles: No, no! Better than that is how the vacant-eyed reporter defeats the bad guys at the movie's end by getting tied to a stake and standing there all vacant-eyed while the magic amulet he's wearing does magic for him!

D.G.D.: No, no! Better than that are the lame attempts at humor such as the homeless person who shouts, "You lousy bum!"

Snuffles: Okay, okay. That's enough about the movie's lack of plot. I did the summary, so would you like to do the rant?

D.G.D.: Thanks, Snuffs, that's very kind of you. I know how you like to rant.

Snuffles: Get on with it.

D.G.D.: Okay, here goes-- This is the worst movie I have seen since The Covenant. No, no, it's worse than that: this is the worst movie I have seen since The Adventures of Pluto Nash. The script is terrible: it heaves out convoluted information at the very beginning, spews hackneyed lines, and never even attempts to develop the characters. The actors look like they're not even trying. The editing is hideous. The special effects are third-rate. Even the moderately entertaining action sequences with helicopters fighting dragons in Los Angeles is lackluster. This movie makes every possible bad move from villains roaring, "You incompetent fools!" to a girl going to a hypno-therapist to uncover repressed memories to a couple having dinner together when they're supposed to be running from a giant snake to a romance based on absolutely zip. It's so...so....

Snuffles: American?

D.G.D.: Uh, yeah. Can't South Korea do better than this?

Snuffles: And I've got another question. Why are dragon movies so consistently lousy?

D.G.D.: Who knows? I ranted. Do you want to do the moral?

Snuffles: Huh? Oh yeah. The moral of the story is, "Don't get born with a dragon-shaped tattoo on your shoulder."

D.G.D.: What? No, that's not what I meant!

Snuffles: Okay, okay. Morally, what have we got? Plenty of explosions, some stage fighting with no blood, and some really bad kung fu. Action is loud, but it's not gruesome or graphic. About Star Wars-level in intensity if not quality. Was there any language?

D.G.D.: Well, this reviewer says so. I don't remember it, but I think my brain is in the process of suppressing this movie.

Snuffles: Okay, so there might be some language. Nothing else is objectionable.

D.G.D.: Wait, wait, you forgot the really objectionable part: the good guys in this movie do nothing. The "hero" stands around or runs away. And the good Imoogi doesn't show up until the very end--he's let everyone else do his fighting for him!

Snuffles: What are you saying?

D.G.D.: You know the proverb: if good people do nothing, evil wins.

Snuffles: I see. So you're saying this movie is so artistically bad it becomes morally objectionable.

D.G.D.: Well, not really. But this film suffers from seriously passive heroes, among other things.

Snuffles: Okay. Well, there you have it, folks. Deej, next time you want to go to the theater, I'm staying home.

D.G.D.: Right. So you can watch your nudie cartoons.

Snuffles: Hey! Ranma 1/2 is not a "nudie cartoon!" Its, um, intentional boundary transgressions actually transmit conservative themes!

D.G.D.: I'm not letting you read any more feminist anime scholarship.

Snuffles: You are such a moron.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for Dragon Wars: D-War:

Myth Level: Medium (it really tried!)

Quality: Low (almost but not quite so bad it's good)

Ethics/Religion: Medium-High (little is objectionable)
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