Dragon Wars: D-War

I love a good dragon movie and if there were even one positive thing that I could say about the latest dragon flick, believe me, I would say it. Actually, I’m not sure D-War even qualifies as a dragon movie since an actual dragon doesn’t show up until the last five minutes. The story here involves creatures called Imoogi, legendary beasts that look like giant cobras, that battle it out for the right to become a dragon and gain cool things like legs. Even if you want to call it a dragon movie, when you roll in the ripped off special-effects concepts, unbelievably bad acting and plot holes big enough for an Imoogi to slither through, you end up with a final product so dreadful you’ll be begging to watch anything by Uwe Boll just to cleanse your mental palette.

Every five hundred years these Imoogi have the chance to ascend to dragonhood, but only if they can get a hold of a certain human who bears a power called the Yuh-Yi-Joo. This time around the Yuh-Yi-Joo has surfaced in Los Angeles and the Imoogi make the trek from their native Korea to find it. Their presence in urban California gets the attention of everyone from the local news broadcasters to the FBI, but despite the fact that these creatures are the size of a large downtown building, no one seems to be able to keep up with them.

Fortunately the bearer of the Yuh-Yi-Joo has a special guardian who has an even more special talisman that makes him invincible against everything (except bad haircuts). All the guardian has to do is protect the bearer from the bad legendary monster until the good legendary monster can show up, use the Yuh-Yi-Joo to grow some wings, and carry the bearer off to the safety of eternity in heaven. Yeah, it sounds kind of like the story from Lady In The Water and unfortunately the names aren’t an improvement. It’s hard to say which sounds goofier: Imoogi or Narf.

Jason Behr plays Ethan, a news reporter who has known he was the guardian since a creepy old man in an antique store told him so when he was a kid. Behr’s lethargic performance turns Ethan into one of the least inspiring heroes of all time, making the silly dialogue he has to deliver seem even more pathetic. Amanda Brooks’ turn as Sarah, the Yuh-Yi-Joo bearer, isn’t much to watch either. If I didn’t know better I would guess that director Hyung-rae Shim actually told his actors to give the sleepiest, cheesiest possible performance. If the script is going to suck, the acting might as well match, right?

The human characters have their places, but the real spotlight is on the giant snakes. There is a bad Imoogi named Buraki and a good Imoogi (who isn’t cool enough to get a name). Buraki is so evil that he has his own henchmen and army of evil creatures to help him nab the Yuh-Yi-Joo. These henchmen and creatures bear a striking resemblance to Sauron’s army from The Lord of the Rings. Every time they showed up I couldn’t shake the feeling that Hyung-rae Shim pretty much copy/pasted the final battle scenes from The Return of the King, substituting in Los Angeles for Minas Tirith.

Of course, to say that the special effects in D-War are of the same caliber as Lord of the Rings would be an insult. The visuals in the movie aren’t awful, but a lot of the time they look little better than the kinds of stuff Hollywood was cranking out in the 80’s. We don’t even get any cool Imoogi vs. Imoogi battle action (I still can’t say that without laughing) until the very end and even then it looks more like a snake mating ritual than a fight to the death. It doesn’t even happen in downtown Los Angeles. Unfortunately, with Shim’s script a bust and his actors turning in C-level work, all he has to offer are his special effects battle scenes, but they’re just too mediocre to carry the day.

Shim also tries to insert some comedy into the story, but the effort doesn’t fit. We should be afraid of Buraki’s armor clad, flame-sword-wielding head-henchman, but it’s hard to fear a guy that keeps getting his fire sword stolen out of his hands by mere mortals and getting hit by passing traffic. You can try and make the argument that Shim is trying to recreate the B-movie days of Godzilla, but it just doesn’t fly. It seems pretty clear that he was trying to carve out a solid modern day fantasy monster film. He just didn’t really know how to go about doing it.

D-War is another big step backward for the dragon movie, and that’s from the already abysmal place that the last dragon flick Eragon left off. It’s time to get out a DVD copy of Dragonheart and remember better days for the genre.