Sunday, January 13, 2008

DVD Review: Dragon Wars

Rich Knight
90 Minutes
Starring: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Craig Robinson, Elizabeth Pena, and Robert Forster
Directed by: Hyung Rae Shim
Produced By: Sungho Choi, James B. Kang
Written by: Hyung Rae Shim
Freestyle Releasing
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean
The concept of two giant monsters battling it out doesn’t seem like all that revolutionary an idea in this day and age. Heck, Godzilla’s been doing it for the past 50 years. So how then did the recent Dragon Wars ever possibly make it onto the silver screen instead of jumping straight to video? By being the most expansive and elaborate film in Korean history, that’s how.

The Movie, 1 ½ stars

When walking through the video store or cruising Netflix and stumbling upon Dragon Wars, the first reaction is of course to plop out that wallet and pick it up. I have one word for you, though: “Don’t” as Dragon Wars (or, as it’s strangely sometimes referred to as, “D-Wars”), is as insipid and childish as you would expect from two giant beasts wrestling it out for the sake of all humanity.

The story starts out with a silly premise as a young child named Ethan (Cody Erans), who somehow wanders into a store that his dad so recklessly left him in, chats with an antique dealer named Jack (played by Oscar-nominated actor, Robert Forster), about a magical, ancient dragon scale he’s been keeping away for safe keeping. Luckily for Jack and unlucky for us, the viewers, Ethan is the reincarnated spirit of a 500 year old warrior named Haram, and just the chap Jack has been looking for to give his magical pendant to to unleash the power of a great Imoogi dragon when the time eventually calls for it.

Oh, and did I mention that Harem also has a love interest named Narin? Narin also has a reincarnated spirit named Sarah who’s on the run from an evil Imoogi named Buraki since she has the power of a good Imoogi living inside of her. Oh, you mean I didn’t mention that? Oh, well, it’s probably all for the better.

Anyway, flash-forward about 15 years and Roswell’s Jason Behr, is rubbing a pendant on his neck (the very same pendant we saw in the very beginning of the movie! Plot progression!), signaling that he’s older, wiser, and now more suspicious when a news report tells that a mysterious dragon scale has been found in a strange location.

What follows is a whole lot of serpent screaming and slithering as Buraki (are you keeping track of all these stupid names?) tries to kill Sarah before she gets a chance to let her soul transform into the great, Hevenly beast she has locked away inside of her. And I won’t ruin the ending for you if you’re actually interested in seeing this film after that straight-faced description I gave of this ludicrous piece of garbage.

And if you’re thinking that maybe this is the kind of film that’s so bad it’s good, then you’re right—To an extent. You see, Dragon Wars actually tries really hard to be an awesome experience to nerds and 8 year olds, alike, and on that scale, it actually succeeds as the visuals aren’t half bad for an import. But the storyline is so incredibly bad that it’s actually sometimes hard to laugh at all the effort that went into making this such a visual work of art—Especially for a low budgeted, Korean film. So when one of the characters drives away from a monstrous snake with an expression on his face as if he were simply worried about making it past a yellow light before it turns red, you feel both hilarity and pathos knowing that a lot of work went into this monstrosity of a film.

Add one point for Korea for making this a huge hit on their shores, and minus one point for America for hoping for another Asian epic in the vein of Godzilla.

The Disc: 1 Star

For a movie that’s so utterly horrible, you’d think the special features would be extra awesome to make up for the travesty that is the rest of the package, but you’d be horribly wrong if you thought that with D-Wars. Featured in this meager DVD is a featurette titled, “5,000 Years in the Making,” which feels like 5000 years while watching it as former comic actor and current director, Hyung Rae Shim thanks almost everybody and his mother for all the support they’ve given him in Korea over the years. Apparently, this film’s had a long gestation period and has been languishing on the cutting room floor since 2002, when it was first brought up from the director.

Also featured are animatics, conceptual art stills, previews for lesser (Jackie Chan’s, The Myth) and greater (The Godzilla collection) films, and…well, that’s about it.

Personally, I would have loved to have had some translated commentary from the director about the reviled reaction it got here in the States and around the world, but that’s not here, of course. Neither are deleted scenes of Robert Forester sadly dropping his head in shame while reading the script he must have signed on for just because he was low on rent money.

Quite frankly, if you’ve already seen the movie in theatres, you’re not going to be missing much here if you don’t see these extremely vapid special features.

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