by Mel Valentin
"D-War" (a.k.a. "Dragon Wars") is South Korea's "answer" to a Hollywood big-budget, effects-driven fantasy/adventure epic. To be more accurate, "D-War" is writer/director Hyung-rae Shim's ("Yonggary") attempt to make South Korea the new center for effects-heavy Asian filmmaking. Working with a $30 million dollar budget, an American cast, and a script cobbled together from every fantasy or science fiction epic he could pilfer, Shim has made a film so woefully misconceived and ineptly executed that will make the reigning king of crappy filmmaking, Uwe Boll ("Postal," "Alone in the Dark," "House of the Dead") envious of the stumbling, bumbling incompetence on display in every frame.Unsurprisingly, D-War is a mess in just about any and every way you can imagine. D-War begins in the near past. Ethan Kendrick (Cody Arens) walks into an antiques shop owed by the sage-like Jack (Robert Forster). Jack sends Ethanís father on an errand, sits Ethan on his lap (metaphorically speaking, of course), and then spins out a fanciful tale about feudal Korea, star-crossed lovers, Haram and Narin, dueling dragons called Imoogis, and spirit goo that will make the possessor all-powerful. Trouble is the goo doesnít exist on its own, but inside the heart of a young woman (one of the lovers). Before Buraki, an evil dragon-spirit, can nab the spirit goo, the lovers jump off a cliff, foiling his plans for world domination, at least for 500 years. Jack reveals that Ethan is Haramís reincarnation and that somewhere, Narinís reincarnation is also alive.
"Whatever you do, don't give in to your curiosity. It's really that awful."
Skip ahead five hundred years. An adult Ethan (Jason Behr), now a reporter for a cable news network, still wears the powerful pendant Jack gave him fifteen years ago. Through a series of circumstances that arenít particularly plausible or interesting, Ethan meets Sarah Daniels (Amanda Brooks), Narinís reincarnation. But Ethan isnít alone in wanting to find Sarah. A giant serpent is also looking for Sarah, wreaking havoc wherever it goes (mostly downtown Los Angeles). Not content to let a giant serpent capture Sarah, Buraki sends an army of monsters, led by a general in black armor, after Sarah as well. With the help of Ethanís cameraman, Bruce (Craig Robinson), Ethan and Sarah try to evade Burakiís army.
Where to begin? Should we begin with the shoddy, sub-par special effects that were state-of-the-art fifteen years ago (i.e., pre-Jurassic Park)? Apparently, Shim took all of three years to complete the visual effects after principal production ended in 2004. Shim should have taken another three or four years to get the visual effects up to par. To be fair, the giant serpents arenít exactly eyesores, but once the serpents interact with ďliveĒ or actual objects (i.e., buildings), then Shimís lack of resources, talent, and experience become all too apparent. Everything else, effects wise, is either videogame cut scene level or below. Which begs the question: why bother seeing D-War when you can play a fantasy/epic videogame? Your guess is as good as mine.
So what about the nonsensical, unnecessarily convoluted storyline? Well, itís nonsensical and unnecessarily convoluted. Worse, itís dull and derivative, padded with ridiculous, ham-handed dialogue no serious or struggling actor would or should be caught uttering onscreen. And letís not even get into the stereotypical sidekick character (heís African-American, of course). Worse still, Shim has no clue how to tell a story without relying on long stretches of badly executed flashbacks or lengthy clumps of exposition clumsily delivered by an obviously slumming Robert Forster. Seriously, you have to feel bad for Forster. Sure, Forster has appeared in more than his share of B-level dreck (the man has to eat and put a roof over his head, after all), but heís also proven himself an actor of some ability. Here, he shows up, reads his lines, then walks off, presumably to pick up a cashierís check on his way off the set.Likewise with the rest of the cast who must have been grateful they werenít waiting tables to pay the rent. Itís hard to imagine any of them, however, adding "D-War" to their curriculum vitas, unless, of course, they were hoping to get a gig on a Sci-Fi Original Picture about giant, out-of-control monsters or, more accurately, ďactingĒ in front of green screens while short-on-resources visual effects units added computer generated monsters in post-production. At least theyíd have relevant experience. For everyone else who had the misfortune of seeing "D-War" on or off screen (presumably via a bootleg copy), itíll be a long, long time before theyíll be able to forget the bad memories Shim has saddled them (and us) with, thanks to one of the worst excuses for a fantasy/epic ever put on screen. Defying all logic, "D-War" is already a hit in Shimís native South Korea.
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originally posted: 10/07/07 23:23:23