'Dragon Wars': So bad it's good

Reeling It In

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chris Jenness

"Dragon Wars: D-War"

Freestyle Releasing

1 hour, 47 minutes

After last week's viewing of "The Brave One," a weighty treatise on violence in society, I thought it would be appropriate to continue in this vein of self-important message films, but with just a dash of the epic. I wanted something with the heft of history, but also with a clash of culture. A story of forbidden love whose consequences could be as big as all mankind, or as small as one man's soul. Naturally, I picked "Dragon Wars: D-War," a movie about giant Korean snakes, dinosaurs and an army of extras from the old '70s "Battlestar Galactica," invading Los Angeles in order to find a girl with a tattoo. Wow.

Before I outline this film's incredibly complex plot, I should say I'm still confused by the title. Not the "Dragon Wars" part, that's pretty self-explanatory, but what's this "D-War?" Were there multiple wars? Maybe an A, B, and C-War before this one? Or is the "D", as I suspect, merely an abbreviation for "Dragon," making the title "Dragon Wars: Dragon-War."

That's certainly intriguing, implying that there might be other kinds of animals engaging in Dragon Wars, but you have to admit, it's a little redundant. The poster for this movie puts the title as I've described it, but on-screen it's listed in reverse, "D-War: Dragon Wars." When I first saw this, I thought maybe they'd cleared it all up for me, but no, upon further reflection, it still doesn't make any sense.

"Dragon Wars," (or DWDW, as I like to call it) should really be subtitled "GS-War" for Giant Snake, a description that fits the bill much closer than the current one. The film begins in modern-day L.A. as Ethan, a stringer for a CNN-esque news service reports on a bizarre scene of destruction. Catching a glimpse of a giant scale gets him to thinking about the past, giving the actor the chance to murmur the line, "Hmmm. This is like that legend that old man told me."

Cut to flashback of old man (a sad-looking Robert Forster whose hair plugs now do more acting than he does) relating said legend to a little kid. Five hundred years ago in Korea, a celestial-Imoogi lost its chance to swallow the princess with the Yoo Yi Joo because the evil Buraki chased her and her heroic boyfriend off a cliff.

Now, half-a-millenium later, the boyfriend has reincarnated into the kid and the princess has reincarnated into a random tattooed girl somewhere in the city. At this point the kid wisely asks, "What are you talking about?" a line uttered several other times by the characters and the audience alike.

Just try to stay with me.

The kid, now a young man with a reporter gig, must find his princess before her 20th birthday, and before Buraki, a giant serpent, and his evil army can get to her. The snake wants to eat the princess to get at the Yoo Yi Joo so he can become an evil celestial-dragon and destroy Earth. Of course, our hero is only saving her to give her to the Imoogi, so he can become a good celestial-dragon and save Earth, so she's screwed either way.

Suffice it to say that Buraki and his army, which seems to consist of cast-offs from other fantasy films, including some escapees from Jurassic Park and planet Naboo, do arrive and trash the city, battling the army and the FBI. If you stick it out you will, eventually, get to see some dragons fighting each other, but mostly it's Blackhawk helicopters and giant snakes, which is pretty cool, too.

"Dragon Wars," a Korean movie made by people who must assume Americans are more versed in Korean mythology than we are, is the kind of reverse-psychology guilty-pleasure that "Snakes on a Plane" wanted to be. You go into a movie like this with the full realization that it's not going to make any sense, but this it is just a measure of how much fun you'll have.

Unfortunately, this film has two problems. First, the special effects and monster fights are actually pretty cool, which makes it hard to mock them. Second, the filmmakers have tried to insert intentional humor, which, "in a so bad it's good" movie like this, is always less amusing than the unintentional kind. All this adds up to the fact that film is slightly better than I expected and therefore slightly less funny.

Still, it's got enough plot for three movies, and that's always fun in a flick like this, so I guess I can't complain. In the end, DWDW made me think about sacrifice, honor, destiny and giant dawdling iguanas with missile-launchers on their backs. You can't ask for more than that. Grade: B- (for good-badness)

"D-War" is rated PG-13 for creature-violence.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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