Saturday, January 17, 2009
Written and Directed by: Shim Hyung-rae
It's about time. Every time I bring myself to watch a bad film, I do so under the pretense that it'll be so bad that eventually it will loop into comedy. Yet these films always end up so interminably boring that the bits of unintentional humor were buried under too much irredeemable badness. Not so with Dragon Wars. It's such a jumbled, faux-intellectual, poorly-acted cataclysm that, like a Scorsese character, I achieved a sort of perverse Zen amidst its waves of atrocity.
I knew I was in for a treat when the title credits came up on the screen. The original Korean title for this film was D-War, but for the North American release someone changed it to Dragon Wars. However, they kept the original title for the credits, so the card reads D-War: Dragon Wars. That means the name of this film (in North America at least) is actually Dragon War: Dragon Wars. I almost turned it off there and then, confident that my job had been done for me and that I knew everything I needed. But this bit of lost-in-translation humor only whetted my appetite to see what else could go wrong.
Quite a lot, it would seem. The first 20 minutes consist of Robert Forster, who plays Jack, packing exposition into an extended monologue after a lizard scale glows for a young boy. Turns out the two of them are the reincarnations of two warriors from 500 years ago who protected a young girl called the Yuh-Yi-Joo. Why? Because every 500 years a girl is born with the power to turn one reptilian super-snake Imoogi into a full-on dragon. An evil Imoogi named Buraki destroyed her village in order to find and force her to convert him into a dragon, but she killed herself before it could happen. And now we're rolling up on 500 years later and the cycle will begin anew.
Jesus, shoot me now. You find me one person who understands the basic plot of this film and I will bring along a fire extinguisher to put out his burning pants. I like to think of myself as a smart person; not a genius, certainly, but sharp enough to understand action movies at least. Yet I've watched David Lynch films simpler than this.
The story then flashes forward 15 years with the young lad, Ethan, all grown up and Robert Forster somehow not any older. Ethan never forgot Jack's story, and when he hears of a girl named Sarah who might be the next Yuh-Yi-Joo. Somehow, in Los Angeles, he indeed pinpointed the right young lady and tracks her down.
My personal favorite moment of the film comes when young Sarah begins to have visions of Buraki's minions and her role in all this. She wakes up from the terrible nightmare and calls the police, who then pick her up by ambulance and take her to the hospital. Because she had a bad dream. This is so outrageously funny I began to think this was planned as a comedy. Silly me.
Also a highlight are the slug-like creatures ridden by Buraki's minions in the opening flashback. In the middle of medieval Korea, the creatures somehow sport rocket launchers on their backs. It's indicative of the "hey, whatever looks cool" mentality of director Shim Hyung-rae and only confused me more.
When Buraki finally starts tearing up Los Angeles, things get a little interesting, but the CG never progresses beyond adequate and, combined with the impossibly complex plot, it just can't salvage the film. If you thought the prequels were a showcase of CG at the expense of plot and especially acting, you haven't seen anything until you've seen Dragon Wars. Yet the whole thing has an idiot charm to it. It's so OTT that you can't help but laugh at every line delivery, every dramatic moment, even every explosion. It wants so badly to be epic and fails so miserably that you pity it, only for that pity to turn into yet more derisive laughter when it somehow gets worse.
Despite the horrid trainwreck of sloppy editing, absurd plot, wooden acting, and second rate CG, the film was apparently successful enough to guarantee a sequel, proving that the inexplicable franchising of unloved films is a phenomenon not solely limited to Hollywood. I can only hope it's titled D-War: Dragon Wars 2- War of the Dragon.