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DRAGON WARS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Craig Robinson, Elizabeth Pena, Robert Forster
Director: Hyung Rae Shim
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2008

“What the hell was that?”

“I told you it was gonna be big.”

“You said it was big, you didn’t say it was something that could maybe swallow a bus!”

Film ½*

Rarely have I felt that a rating of half a star was way too kind for any movie. Dragon Wars is quite simply one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s very deserving of a Zero Star rating, but something keeps it from earning it. More on that later.

Dragon Wars is reportedly one of the biggest box office hits in Hong Kong history. It took an incredibly long time to make, and yet its arrival in U.S. theaters is quite peculiar. It makes sense to see how a box office smash from another country will perform in the States, but at the same time I wonder if the people behind it felt that the millions who saw Transformers would throw down hard earned money to see a movie, released a couple of months later, with a crucial extended action sequence that resembles the climatic battle on the streets of L.A. between the Autobots and the Decepticons.

But I’m getting way too ahead of myself. The bottom line with this movie is this; I can’t even believe this movie was allowed to be put in a wide theatrical release. When I saw the TV ads for the movie, I thought I was seeing a preview for the next movie turd of the week to air on the Sci Fi Channel. Nope, this was actually hitting the multiplexes. To quote John Travolta in Get Shorty, “I couldn’t believe my fu**in’ ears.”

A movie this gratingly awful even gives the likes of Uwe Boll credibility, although his movie Alone in the Dark is even worse and more appalling than this movie. And to those who despised Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla, which for me was a solid guilty pleasure, take a look at this movie. I’m sure once you have, you’ll find Godzilla to be more like Citizen Kane by comparison.

Dragon Wars, or D-War for those with smaller attention spans, does achieve one thing rarely seen in cinema; combining a needlessly confusing storyline with some of the worst visual effects to ever be seen in any movie. Seriously, I’ve seen video games on the first Playstation system with more enthralling visuals. And as an added bonus, the acting is monumentally awful across the boards, with nobody in the cast attempting to try to give a credible performance. Even when this movie attempts to be funny, it becomes even more painfully awful.

Let’s start with the banal screenplay, and boy explaining this story is going to be more than a challenge. The back-story has to do with a legend involving serpents known as Imoogis. We are introduced to a reporter named Ethan (Jason Behr, in the blandest performance of the century) who remembers a story told to him when he was a young boy, which we see in a flashback. An antique shopkeeper named Jack (Robert Forster, who I’m guessing was in serious need of money), happens to know all about Imoogis, tells young Ethan the legend of the Imoogi. Then we see the Imoogi back-story in 1507, Korea. So you see what we get is a flashback within a flashback. Fantastic narrative, huh?

Anyway, the heart of the legend has something to do with a birthmark on the left shoulder of a girl, which is then passed on 500 years down the road. Whoever possesses this birthmark has the power to make an Imoogi turn into a powerful dragon. And now old Jack has instructed young Ethan to find the girl who will next possess the birthmark, and get her to a secret cave on the day she turns 20 so that she can prevent the bad Imoogi from destroying our world. Yep, that’s the plot of the movie, and I’m pretty sure by now you, dear reader, are laughing uncontrollably as a result.

After the flashback within a flashback concludes, thank god, Ethan the Super Reporter, along with this camerman/black stereotype sidekick Bruce (Craig Robinson), attempt to track down the girl with the birthmark. Her name is Sarah (Amanda Brooks), and once we meet her…that’s right…we see the infamous birthmark on her left shoulder. And sure enough, once Ethan locates Sarah…the scary CGI dragons start wrecking havoc on city streets.

Rather than go through anymore plot description, I’m going to pull a first on this movie review. I’m going to list some things I learned watching this movie. These details should indicate how excruciatingly bad this movie experience was. If I’m able to focus on such details on my first viewing, then you know something was indeed wrong with this movie. Here we go…

1.When you're a news reporter who has his own cameraman, it's always a great idea to have your own digital camcorder, not to mention it shows just how respectful you are to your cameraman.

2.Faking a heart attack by way of an overdone expression of indigestion is the absolute best way to create a diversion.

3.A ten year old boy has no problem whatsoever in comprehending the long epic Imoogi legend, which takes his wise old friend close to twenty minutes to explain.

4.If you happen to see an evil warlord walk right through a gate, you should always try it for yourself.

5.Bars in LA, or wherever the city was, don't have a problem with 19-year-old girls drinking beer.

6.If you ever find yourself about to be beat up by three guys outside a bar, there's always a chance a man might sneak up behind them, knock them out, then walk away without saying a word to you.

7.If a dragon has landed in your backyard and you get frightened, and you then run in the other direction where a not-so-scary human warlord stops you, always turn around and run straight into the dragon's mouth.

8.Always take the elevator instead of the stairs when a giant dragon is causing a hospital to crumble.

9.If you aim a gun at a warlord with a shield, point your gun right at the shield, fire slow and carefully, so that all your rounds can successfully be deflected.

10.If your best friend/cameraman has just been zapped on the forehead by a warlord, who is then hit by a car, make sure you leave him unconscious lying next to the unconscious warlord. If his name and whereabouts are brought up minutes later, just respond, "I'm sure he's fine."

11.If you've been zapped on the forehead, the best way to heal it is a small band aid on the right side of your head.

12.Apparently news reporters aren't harmed a bit after they've been shot.

Man, oh man, I’m not sure I can go on any longer reflecting on this movie. But I should reveal why I’m not giving this movie a Zero Star review like I mentioned earlier. Truth be told, I haven’t laughed so frequently and so unintentionally during any movie in so long. I don’t know if the intention was to make it a so-bad-it’s-good kind of movie, but I was laughing more at the fact that the movie became more embarrassingly awful with each progressing scene. And again, each bad attempt to be purposefully funny made me laugh even harder. That’s why this candidate for the worst movie of 2007 gets a kind rating of half a star.

When so many better dragon movies have been made, like Dragonheart, Dragonslayer and the absolute best of the lot, Reign of Fire, you shouldn’t waste your time or money on something as cheap and banal as Dragon Wars. With it’s cast of no-names and good actors in need of a paycheck, incredibly bad effects and all around awfulness, this crapfest should exist on one place and one place only…The Sci-Fi Channel where it should’ve premiered and stayed, far away from the clutches of the movie-going public.

You’ve been warned.

Video ***1/2

This release from Sony is actually a most decent looking disc. Both anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen versions are included. The picture is clear and crisp in its entirety. The only setback of the quality is basically the bad effects of the movie, which couldn’t look good in any light.

Audio ****

I can’t lie…the 5.1 mix delivers even for a cheap movie like this. Then again, you’d probably expect a lot of loud and furious sound from a movie with the word “Dragon” in the title. When the dragons do attack, the surround sound effect is quite astounding, and music playback also sounds pretty incredible. Hopefully, the terrific sound quality will help you forget you’re watching the movie Dragon Wars.

Features **

Very little to go around, not that I was wanting to know how this film was made scene-for-scene. But the featurette “5,000 Years in the Making” is indeed a hoot, since it has the filmmakers and production team to be so proud of the final product, as if they just made The Departed or something. The disc also features a Storyboard to Screen analysis, a conceptual art gallery and trailers for additional Sony releases.

Summary:

Unless you’re in the mood to laugh hard at so many unintentionally funny moments, you’ll be doing humanity a huge favor by not watching Dragon Wars, or D-War (man, what a corny damn abbreviation!) Think of a Michael Bay movie, with the action scenes stripped of any effect or imagination, and you should have an idea of what this adds up to, which is very much a dragon turd.

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