- Hyung-rae Shim
- Jason Behr, Robert Forster, Amanda Brooks, Elizabeth Peña
- 100 min.
- Release Date
I’m at a loss to describe how I feel after viewing Dragon Wars (D-War), although I think “confusion” best illustrates it. So much happens onscreen that is incoherent and bad, and it’s more than shoddy direction or substandard acting, it’s beyond a contrived plot or cheap-looking computer effects. There’s something evil at work here, in addition to the film’s inane movie logic, which, doesn’t fit into any movie logic I have ever seen.
The story, if you can call it that, begins by telling us an age-old Korean legend through the ever-despised faux pas tool of flashback-within-a-flashback. Ethan (Jason Behr) is a reporter in California, covering a series of attacks by some unknown force that caused a whole lot of property damage. When Ethan was a child he was told a story by a mysterious antiques dealer Jack (Robert Forster), explaining that Jack and Ethan are reincarnated figures from Korean myth, and that Ethan is one day meant to protect the world from a giant Imoogi serpent named Buraki, which looks like a cobra that has fallen into an ocean of toxic waste. Ethan is destined to love Sarah (Amanda Brooks), whose fate is to die so that the evil Buraki doesn’t take over the world. Or is it Universe he’s trying to take over? The movie isn’t clear on this point. The important thing to know is that Buraki is bad. Most of the battle is fought in California, regardless, which if I was Korean, I would be offended about.
Buraki’s followers develop from ancient scrolls when summoned, coming about in the form of armored soldiers and winged lizards, otherwise known as dragons (but aren’t named as such). The flying lizards are easily killed off by the military as they cause mayhem throughout the West Coast, while the giant serpent spends its time eating plastic-looking elephants at the zoo and chasing after Sarah. The forces of evil also have large rhino-like reptiles on their side, dolled up in armor with blast cannons mounted on their backs. I’m not familiar with all Korean legends, but I’m pretty sure there were never dinosaurs with laser guns in ancient Far Eastern myth.
While trying to save the world or universe or whatever from disaster, Ethan is assisted by his friend Jack (Robert Forster), who disappears and reappears at random. You can assume that any Good Samaritan assisting Ethan and Sarah, as they escape being eaten by Buraki, is Jack. We see several scenes where someone gives Ethan a ride or tells him to get out of a building, and then as Ethan runs off, the Samaritan transforms into Jack. If Forster’s mysterious antiques dealer has all this power, why doesn’t he fight off the serpent himself? Moreover, Forster is criminally miscast as this figure, with his New York accent making his recitation of Korean lore laughable. One scene shows us Jack floating in meditation; it’s sort of like watching a late-life Marlon Brando playing polo: it just shouldn’t happen.
Imdb.com tells me that Dragon Wars (D-War) cost over $75 million to make, meaning starving children the world over went hungry to make this movie. Somewhere there’s a little girl living on the streets and crying from malnutrition, but at least the movie about big snakes got made. Speaking of homeless, there’s one scene in the film that made absolutely no sense to me, but since the filmmakers decided to include it, I feel compelled to describe it to you. A car is racing down a city street, its driver eager to avoid the threat of giant serpents; it passes a homeless man sleeping and splashes puddle water all over him. The camera takes us out of the chase moment and cuts to the homeless man. “You bums!” the bum shouts… You see, it is funny because he’s a bum, but he’s calling them bums. Comic Genius.
I’m not entirely sure what the redundant title Dragon Wars (D-War) means, or why it’s titled as such. I don’t even think the word “dragon” is said in the movie, despite the flying lizards. The massive snakes are appropriately called “serpents”. And, assuming the “D” in D-War is referring to dragon, I’m confused, since the primary threat to Sarah and Ethan throughout the picture is the serpent Buraki, who is not a dragon. What’s more, I’m unclear as to how many wars there are… The first part of the title suggests there are several, since Wars is pluralized. The parenthesized portion contrastingly suggests there is only one war, a “D-War” as it were. By the events depicted, I cannot say if there was one, many, or none.
The film’s attempts at humor are insufferably unfunny. Who knows what drives any of the characters, as they’re so badly written that I yearned to see Evan Almighty again. Its actors do nothing to improve on the script either, though I doubt even Lawrence Olivier could make this dialogue sound good. Dragon Wars (D-War) may also mark the first time I’ve seen bad dubbing of the Korean language over an American actor’s voice; usually, it’s the other way around. I’ve seen better Sci-Fi Channel Originals; Frankenfish is like Citizen Kane next to this crap.