Monday, September 17, 2007


This newest sci-fi monster movies- also called Dragon Wars- follows on the heels of another recent Korean hit, "The Host". The difference is that The Host was good, and D-War was anything but. It took the revitalization of the monster movie, and turned it into a terrible CG fest. The visual effects don't make cover the fact that this is nothing more than a Sci-Fi Channel movie with an inflated budget. (I've heard figures anywhere from $30-$70 million, and I'd place it towards the upper number).

D-War is based on old Korean folklore. Every 500 years a girl is born with something inside her called Yuh Yi Joo. The Yuh Yo Joo has the power to turn an Imoogi (gigantic serpents) into a dragon. The dragon then ascends to heaven. A good Imoogi will use that power to keep the universe in balance, but a bad Imoogi will use it to destroy the world. 500 years ago, a student name Haram was enlisted to defend the Yuh Yi Joo, but a bad Imoogi named Buraki gathered a dark army and attacked their town. Haram managed to get the Yuh Yi Joo to the good Imoogi, but had fallen in love with her. Instead of sacrificing her, the two killed themselves to be together. Great story, huh?

Flash forward to present day Los Angeles where we meet Ethan (Jason Behr), a reporter who is the reincarnation of Haram. The first 20-30 minutes are spent during Ethan's childhood as he learns about the legend. Despite the visuals of uncountable explosions in ancient Korea, the story is just about as thrilling as the paragraph I dedicated to writing about it. It sounded like biblical texts of: so-and-so beget this person, and this person beget so-and-so, etc. Needless to say, it just wasn't very interesting.

We also meet Sarah (Amanda Brooks), the reincarnation of the Yuh Yi Joo. She's nineteen, completely unaware that on her 20th birthday, the Yuh Yi Joo will be fully formed, and she will have to sacrifice herself to an Imoogi. Unfortunately, Buraki is also back, and this time he is not going to let her get away. Somehow her an Ethan both begin to realize what is going on, and somehow find each other, just in time for the legion of darkness to begin destroying the city.

This is clearly a movie structured around the monster visual effects. What do you expect from a director who's previous movie was called Reptilian. With all the emphasis on the effects, the acting, and general plot development took a back seat. Both of which were just terrible. Who needs developed characters, or logical plot lines when you can have pint sized dragons flying through Los Angeles dogfighting helicopters. The only exception was the always enjoyable Craig Robinson who played Bruce, Ethan's cameraman.

Most of the effects looked a bit more like video game cinematics than an actual movie. This resulted in mediocre compositing with the live action footage. I'm never truly convinced that the people are really interacting with the monsters. It may be in part due to things like dinosaur-esque creatures with rocket launchers on their backs. For some reason that just doesn't mesh well with the concept of a Korean legend. Like I said earlier, just turn on Sci-Fi Channel and anything you'll see will be as good as this.


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