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Dragon Wars (D-War)

A few nifty special effects are no compensation for the nonsensical, nuts-and-bolts Dragon Wars, which combines mysticism, monsters and martial arts--and doesn't make a darned bit of sense with any of it.


This long-delayed fantasy film, touted as the most expensive film in South Korean history, is some kind of mess. As the title implies, dragons do go to war--but the real casualty of this endeavor is the patience of even the most undiscriminating viewer. Here is a movie absolutely overstuffed with exposition and backstory, but none of it adds up to anything remotely cohesive or comprehensible. An ancient prophecy, about Korean serpents becoming dragons and laying waste to the world, is about to come true--some 500 years after it first came to pass. Pressed into service to save the world (or a computer-generated facsimile thereof) are a young TV reporter (Jason Behr) and a girl named Sarah (Amanda Brooks), both of whom are destined to play a pivotal part in the ultimate salvation--or destruction--of mankind. It's only a matter of time before downtown Los Angeles becomes a war zone.


Both Behr and Brooks play their roles with absolute conviction. Unfortunately, in this unintentionally outrageous context, they come off as laughably stiff as a result. Their obligatory onscreen romance comes off as just that--obligatory. If they're humanity's last hope, then we're in big trouble. Chris Mulkey and Elizabeth Pena turn up as FBI agents. Nice to see them getting work, but it would be even nicer if they--being the talented actors they are--were given something, anything, to do. By default, Robert Forster comes off best as Jack, a wise antiques dealer who definitely has a vested interested in the fantastic goings-on. It's a stock role, and not a particularly good one, loaded with senseless dialogue. But Forster manages, unlike his co-stars, to inject just a little bit of humanity and humor into the proceedings.


Writer/director Hyung-rae Shim relies totally and wholly on CGI effects to tell the story, but because the story is so unabashedly stupid, that reliance comes off as seriously misguided. Dragon Wars is not remotely credible, even by fantasy-film standards, and it's not fun enough to encourage audiences to suspend disbelief. There's never a sense of wonderment or fun, and that's deadly in a film like this. As befits the filmmaker behind such a one-dimensional a film, Shim is basically a traffic cop. The actors go here. The effects go here. And despite the endless CGI effects, the rest of the cinematography is murky and dark. Dragon Wars (or D-War, as it was originally known) does qualify as a movie: It has a beginning, a middle, and an end--and all of them are useless.

Bottom Line rated this film 1/2 star.