Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dragon Wars: D-War

Here's a bit of wisdom I learned from the beginning of this movie: "Every 500 years, a young woman is born."  End of sentence.  Thank you for the insightful information, Dragon Wars.

Dragon Wars is a South Korean movie that actually received a theatrical release in the United States, which is pretty rare.  It was called D-War in most other countries, but I guess Americans associate "D" with "douche" when the rest of the world apparently thinks "dragon."  I wonder why that is?  And no, I do not know why the "war" is pluralized in the American title.

This movie gave me a rash inside my brain, so I'm going to try and blow through the plot pretty quickly.  In modern times, a reporter, Ethan (Jason Behr), manages to get in close to a disaster scene.  This leads to Ethan remembering something, and we flash back twenty-five years, to a day when Ethan's dad left him alone in a curiosity shop with an unsmiling man (Robert Forster) named Jack.  Don't worry, this isn't the molestation episode of Diff'rent Strokes.  Jack wants Ethan alone so he can tell him a special story.  You see, around the year 1500 AD, the Yuh-Yi-Joo --- the woman who is born with the ability to change an Imoogi dragon into a different kind of dragon, obviously --- was faced with a problem.  There are two Imoogis that want to transform, one good and one evil.  And apparently, she either didn't know which one to pick, or had stage fright, or something dumb like that.  Anyway, her guardian/boyfriend decided that the best option was for them to jump off a cliff to their deaths.  And Ethan is that guardian reincarnated.  Obviously.  It is up to Ethan to find the reincarnated Yuh-Yi-Joo and help her, I don't know, not transform the mean Imoogi?  It's not that I don't understand the plot of this movie, but he's never really given very good instructions, so I'm not sure what his master plan is supposed to be aside from not letting the bad guys win.  Back in modern times, Ethan manages to track down the new Yuh-Yi-Joo, Sarah (Amanda Brooks), just in time for a dragon-worshiping army to invade their city looking for her.  Good luck protecting Sarah from bad guys who look kind of like Uruk-hai riding giant lizards.
Promotional still from the CBS Fall replacement comedy, I Will Rape the Corpses of Your Family.

Here's first sign that this is an awful movie: any character that hears the back story to this film asks, "What are you talking about?"  It's not like they were genuinely reacting to the nonsensical story; that is what the screenwriters wanted them to say.  Another bad sign: the police in this movie refer to a giant dragon attacking a skyscraper as a "Code 3."  Really?  Three?  It's that common?  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the police are prepared for any eventuality, but that just seems unlikely.  Another clue that this isn't the great fantasy/action movie the filmmakers probably (but not definitely) had in mind?  It has this guy playing a dramatic supporting role:
Personally, I like Craig Robinson.  His presence in a comedic movie or television show doesn't guarantee quality, but I generally enjoy him when I see him.  He hasn't done much in the realm of dramatic acting, though, so his casting here is kind of puzzling.  And this isn't one of those comedian-trying-to-earn-an-Oscar roles, either; he's just Ethan's co-worker.  Robinson isn't bad in this movie, it's just that he is obviously not being used for comic relief, and yet he is not being used for dramatic effect, either.  Well, as far as comedic actors in fantasy/action movies go, it could have been a lot worse.
'Nuff said.

But enough about how weird it is for Craig Robinson to be in a Korean dragon movie.  What about the rest of the cast?  Uniformly awful.  Jason Behr does his very best Dimitri Martin impression,
Pop quiz: is he from a cancelled Comedy Central or WB show?
but his expression-free acting and ridiculous dialogue made me wonder if the part was written for Keanu Reeves.  His Yuh-Yi-Joo was played by Amanda Brooks, who adds adds a much-needed strong female role her own specialty to this film: a look of confusion that mirrors that of the audience.  I would say that Robert Forster looked embarrassed as the creepy old man that explains the back story, but that would require him to show any emotion at all, something he has never excelled at in his forty-plus years of acting.  Of course, more than a little of the blame should be given to director Hyung-rae Shim, who spent years on this movie and still ended up with final takes from his actors that other directors wouldn't include in their blooper reels.

But is anyone really interested in the acting found in Dragon Wars?  Of course not!  Dragons are the name of the game here, and this movie delivers with antlers?
Okay, I get it.  Just because I think of fire-breathing dinosaurs with wings when I think of "dragons" doesn't mean that's how they are seen in Korea.  This movie opts for the more snake-like charm of traditional Chinese dragons.  They don't breathe fire and they don't fly.  Except when they do, which appears to be arbitrary.  And none of them look like European dragons.  Except for some of them.
How did it not get hit by the propeller?
If you think this is going to be a dumb action movie, you're only half right.  The action isn't worth tuning in for.  The CGI effects would have been astonishing, if this film had come out before the first Jurassic Park.  For a movie that was released (in theaters!) in 2007, this isn't what you would expect.  Even if you enjoy foreign movies (and I do) that are more than a little ridiculous (that's me again) this movie still disappoints because it's just life-suckingly bad at what it wants to do.

Now, if you're in the mood for a bad movie, Dragon Wars is certainly worth a thought.  Do you enjoy laughing at repeated acts of poor filmmaking?  Then keep an eye out for the single car that spins out whenever a CGI snake dragon is supposed to be tearing down a street; it's easy to spot, since it is the only car driving on the roads --- of Los Angeles, mind you --- in any of these scenes.  Do you like seeing huge armies that are seemingly intimately familiar with a variety of dragon-like creatures, despite having 500 years in between the last time these secret armies last rode to war?  Then you will love the lumbering, rocket launcher-carrying monsters that are equipped with old-timey football helmets for their safety.
Who forgot to fix the dinosaurs' chin straps?
It's interesting that the movie never addresses who this evil army is, or how they became such a military precision machine.  I can suspend my disbelief for a cult army of a few hundred creepy guys, but this is an organized military group, complete with uniforms, armor, and weapons --- not to mention dragons and dinosaurs, equipped with goddamned rocket launchers.  Who are these people, and where do they practice?  Of course, it's even more interesting that the movie never asks the question "Why didn't the good dragon fight the bad one 500 years ago?" 

Perhaps the greatest question comes at the end.  Ethan and Sarah are kidnapped and brought to the evil base, which is an enormous castle complex located in what appears to be Mordor.  Why they brought Ethan with is beyond me, but it's probably the same reasoning they used to attack Sarah with dragons and rockets, when they needed her alive.  Anyways, the whole climax thing happens and suddenly Ethan is left all alone, with no bad or good guys left.  He's just alone in Mordor, with fire-cracked plains stretching out in all directions, as far as the eye can see.  How is he supposed to get home?  Is he supposed to walk?  Is that supposed to be a happy ending?  The hero is going to die of dehydration and exposure.  Actually, that does make me feel a little better about watching this. 
 Of course, I love asking questions about dumb movies.  It gives me pleasure.  So, I grant Dragon Wars Lefty Gold status as entertainment despite awfulness.

1 comment:

  1. It's a good movie. It's not good... It's entertaining, and that makes it better than what it is. :]
    I suppose I like it because Korea + Dragons.