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Dragon Wars: D-War (2007)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Director:
Hyung-rae Shim Hyung-rae Shim
Starring:
Jason Behr Jason Behr
Amanda Brooks Amanda Brooks
Robert Forster Robert Forster
Craig Robinson Craig Robinson
Aimee Garcia Aimee Garcia

3.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Creature Film, Sci-Fi Action, Science Fiction, Dragons, Kaiju
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Review by Chad
Added: January 22, 2008
When I picked up my copy of D-War, I had hopes of rooting for the underdog in my review; I mean, here's a film that deals with dragons battling it out in a major city, and given the budget of $76 million dollars, one would think that it would look phenomenal, right? Throw in some dinosaurs(!) with rocket launchers strapped to their backs(!!), pepper with a battalion of demonic warriors straight out of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and really, how could anyone not enjoy the festivities presented by this Korean film? Sadly, I have to go with the masses on this one and proclaim D-War to be a failure... but not to the degree that most did.

Some have claimed that the storyline backing this one is confusing and nonsensical, but honestly, it's fairly straightforward if you pay attention. Granted, certain things could have been explained better, but it isn't exactly rocket science either. An old Korean legend serves as the inspiration here, and said legend deals with dueling dragons who - once every five-hundred years - battle it out on Earth. Why? Well, the Imoogi (the "good dragon") has a chance at becoming a constellation and being remembered forever, but to do so, he must consume a force known as the Yuh Yi Joo. However, just to make things tricky, this Yuh Yi Joo forms inside the body of a human female who is born with a dragon birthmark, and the dragon must consume it on her twentieth birthday.

As if that wasn't enough of a challenge for our huge friend, there's another dragon known as the Baraki (the "evil dragon") who also wants to consume this force for entirely different reasons. You see, if he consumes it, he will become all-powerful and proceed to rule the world. Aiding this dragon in his quest to find the woman bearing the birthmark is the Atrox army, a group of soldiers with supernatural powers who enlist the help of dinosaurs (with rocket launchers strapped to their backs!) and mini-dragons. Confusing yet? I didn't think so.

Of course, this battle takes place in modern day California, and it just so happens that a young lady named Sarah (Amanda Brooks) is the chosen one. It should go without saying that both the Atrox army and the Baraki are hot on her heels, but luckily for her, she has a bit of a guardian angel in the form of news-reporter Ethan (Jason Behr), a man who happens to be the reincarnation of Sarah's lover from a past life. From there, it's your standard "monster terrorizes a city" flick: the duo must avoid the evildoers while also contemplating Sarah's fate, that being that she either has to sacrifice herself to save the day, or survive and let the dragons destroy the world. Heavy, man.

Alright, so there's a lot going on in this storyline, but it's far from confusing for anyone with half a brain to put it all together. The real problem here is... well, I wouldn't go so far as to say everything else, but there's a lot that went wrong with this one. Now, before I proceed to my first gripe about the film, let me preface it by saying that I realize that every monster movie has to have a human side to the storyline; after all, ninety minutes of nothing but monster action would tend to get a little boring after a while regardless of how well it's done. I had no problems with this, but my word, the way it was done here was atrocious.

You see, neither of the lead actors had any talent as actors whatsoever, and watching them go through the motions here was painful at best. You think Uwe Boll made some bad casting decisions in his films? Take a look at this one and you'll be singing the praises of Dr. Boll for the rest of your movie-watching days. I can't stress enough how bad these two were, but to be fair, the script wasn't exactly forgiving either as viewers will be treated to some of the most wince-inducing dialogue this side of From Justin to Kelly.

There were also way too many bad movie clichés on display here that any director worth his salt would have avoided like the plague. Take, for example, the obligatory flashback sequence. Yes, we've got one to kick off the film, and it comes when our leading man remembers back to when he was a kid and learned about the world of dragons and epic battles from an old man in an antique shop. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, in this flashback, he has another flashback as the old man explains the story to him, and for this one, we head back in time to Korea circa 1500 to learn about the history of this legend. That's a little silly, but understandable... right? Well, in this flashback, we get another goddamned flashback courtesy of the hero of this timeline, and trust me when I say that getting out of this madness is sort of like escaping from a time-bending wormhole. There's also the "move the plot along" clichés that the director assumed we would overlook, such as the leader of the Atrox army being able to walk through walls but being unable to avoid being hit by a car (twice in a row, no less), numerous "it was all a dream" sequences, and of course, the token comedic relief black guy.

Now, most people won't pick up a title like this for the human side of things; no, they just want to see some monster action, and that is completely understandable. With this aspect of the film, D-War is a bit of a success. Granted, there were moments when the CGI work was horrendous, but I have to give the filmmakers credit for delivering everything that they promised. Yes, we get two dragons battling it out in the city, yes, we get mass destruction, and oh, did I mention that we also get dinosaurs with freaking rocket launchers strapped to their backs? Hell, even the DVD cover was truthful, as we also get a scene with the dragon wrapped around a skyscraper - a minor thing, yes, but in a time when damned near every DVD cover is deceptive, some of us will appreciate this. The final battle will please anyone who picked this up for dragon versus dragon goodness, and even though there were moments I personally would have rewritten (the Atrox army's downfall, for example), I have to admit that I was pleased as punch throughout most of the action sequences.

That's the good side of the film, but sadly, the negatives killed any chance of me making this one a solid recommendation. It'll make a good purchase when it inevitably finds its way into the bargain bin or premieres on the Sci-Fi Channel, but other than that, pass on this one. 5/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 01/22/2008, 05:08 PM
I have absolutely no desire to see this film. Why would anyone? Had I watched it, there is no doubt in my mind it would have made my end of the year list as one of the worst films from 2007.
Chad #2: Chad - added 01/22/2008, 05:10 PM
It wasn't quite that bad, especially considering some of the bombs that 2007 gave us. Hell, that final scene alone ensures that it won't wind up on any of those lists, but a great - or even good - film? Nah.
Crispy #3: Crispy - added 01/23/2008, 08:45 AM
I will forever love the phrase "avoid clichés like the plague." Almost as much as I like the ideas of dinosaurs with rocket launchers on their back. In fact, the only thing that tops that is penguins with rocket launchers on their backs. Anyway, I admit I was actually excited about this when it was announced. I still plan on seeing it, but thanks for the fair warning. At least now I'm not going in with high hopes.
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 01/23/2008, 12:19 PM
Oh, but in fact -- it made several of those lists.
Chad #5: Chad - added 01/23/2008, 03:11 PM
In a year where every release was stellar, I could see this one winding up on one of those lists, but after some of the horrible releases of 2007... there's just no way that any sensible person could plop this down on one of them.
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