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A Few More Reviews Of D-WAR, The Korean Dragon Movie!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This one sounds like delirious trash, and when I published that review last night, several of you piped in with your own take on the picture that’s already open and doing big business in Korea. Check out this first one:

That was your best D-WAR review so far? I'm surprised more geeks from the East have not emailed you yet. DWAR opens with a giant, slithery-shaped trail of wreckage mysteriously appearing in LA one day. Police and FBI are on-hand, looking vaguely bored. Jason Behr shows up, flashes his press ID and gets to see it all. From there, he starts to remember an old antique shop he went to when he was a boy. Robert Forester sees the boy and tells him all about this 500-year-old Korean legend. Yes, Jason's flashback has a flashback. We see a village get its ass kicked by an army of evil (no word on where they come from... 500 years ago, so maybe it was the Imjin War?). Big, big snake tries to devour a young maiden, all Freudian-like, but the girl kills herself rather than face the snake. Words like "Imoogi", "Baruki" and "Yowijoo" get mentioned a lot without anyone laughing. Return to the first flashback. Then return to the present. Jason figures out he needs to find some girl names Sarah... only knows she is 19, lives in LA and has a dragon birthmark (at least the movie recognized this is kind of ridiculous). Eventually he finds he at a hospital, but the snake is there, too, leading to a chase. They outrun the giant snake. Jason and Sarah go to a dream therapist... big snake finds them again. Now the snake gets a big army, like from the 500-year-old story. Army is dorky, but I liked the giant monsters with rocket launchers attacked to them. Snake and army ravage LA, while Jason and Sarah just drive off. Then the bad guys catch Jason and Sarah in the countryside. Jason wakes up tied to a snake in Mordor. Then, at the last minute... well, something happens to save the day. A few random notes about D-WAR: Totally through-the-glass-darkly stuff. It looks like an American action/fantasy film, you can recognize all the bits and pieces... but it feels constantly unreal from start to finish. As if the whole film was out of focus (mentally/metaphorically, that is). Feels like Lord of the Rings meets Chinese Ghost Story... with a little Star Wars (and a lot of stupid) thrown in on the side. It is barely 90 minutes long now. Down from the 107 minute version Variety reviewed last November. Craig Robinson (Darryl in THE OFFICE) is awesome. He must have re-written all his lines, because they are the only natural-sounding, believable lines in the whole film. Actually funny in parts. Robert Forster... not so much. He is still better than most people, given his endless exposition... Really bad job on his hairline by the makeup folks. Looks like a big hit in Korea. Over $17 million in its first five days (which makes it the biggest film since THE HOST, I think)... But I would be shocked if it holds out more than a week or two. Ends with a funny bit of Korean nationalism... a little on-screen essay about the director and how hard he worked, while Arirang plays in the background.\ Will be called DRAGON WARS in the US when it opens September 14. - Haisan

September 14th? That’s right around the corner. I haven’t really seen any ads for an American release, so that date kind of shocks me. You would think they’d be working harder to create any sort of impression of the film if it’s coming out that soon. Here’s another review from the Korean run:

Hi M. here's my D-WAR review. The Korean financed and directed, yet American acted fantasy Sci-Fi movie ‘D-War’ opened here in Korea this past Friday, a month before the US release, so I checked it out with some of my Korean friends this evening. Sometimes if you go into a movie with low expectations you can be pleasantly surprised. Being very weary of wise cracking pop culture referencing animation flicks, I sauntered into my local movie theater here in Seoul one evening last week when I had nothing to do and saw ‘Ratatouille’ which I wasn’t even that interested in. I found myself in total awe at Brad Birds artistry and craftsmanship and totally won over by the charm and beauty of the film. Nnnnnnnot so much D-War. D-War is the second outing for Korean director ‘Hyung-Rae Shim’ who seems to have switched careers as he was a comedian in the past. Maybe he hopes to follow Beat Takeshi’s course but according to my Korean friends his first outing, a monster flick made in 1996 was laughed out of cinemas. He’s back with a vengeance this time though and somehow managed to secure 30 million dollars in funding for his Sophomore project which isn’t that impressive for an American movie but is a huge budget for a Korean film. His passion to do his nation proud showed through at the end of the film with a cringe inducing montage of photos of the director himself along with a text scroll extolling his philosophy of how he intends to take the movie world by storm. The previous 90 minutes fare begged to differ though. The movie its self is loosely based on a slightly obscure Korean legend. Something about a Giant serpent needing to devour a pure maiden, born with a birthmark of tattoo parlor quality of a Dragon on her shoulder, in order to become an all powerful deity. Augmented by Shim to include a goody serpent for the final battle the film started with a flash back within a flashback. Jason Behr a Dimitri Martin look-alike plays Ethan, A CGNN news reporter (Who walks around his TV station building with a big id card on his lapel that actually reads ‘PRESS PASS’) who as a child was zapped by some magic plasma in an antique shop and imbued with the reincarnated spirit of a mythic Korean Romeo like hero from five hundred years ago. Robert Forster plays the levitating, shape shifting, wise old shop owner who is himself the reincarnation of the half a millennia past master who taught version one of our Romeo. The idea is for the intrepid hero to locate total stranger Sarah who is the reincarnation of the love of his past life and... er not to be too blunt, feed her to the Dragon in order to stop it and its hoards messing up the world. So basically it’s a human sacrifice legend. As with his previous self, Ethan tells his master to go screw himself and tries to save Sarah. Even though he’s never laid eyes on her before they end up necking within an hour of meeting each other. Most of the remaining story is them on the run in a stolen pizza delivery Chevette while being chased by half mile long snake. The GC work is passable although now and again its rivaled (and inspired) by some video game cut scenes. There is one awful moment though when the giant serpent chases a SWAT team out of a tunnel in the side of a mountain. The soldiers hoof it then upon exiting the tunnel veer left, turn and start shooting into the air at the exit of the tunnel. The Problem being that the serpent hadn’t appeared yet so they are shooting into empty space. Eeek! I’m sure the actors were doing as they were told as some production assistant stood in front of them with a green picture of a Dragons head on a long pole but the CG artists really should work on their timing. In downtown LA, dragons, trolls, minions and serpent battle with the military they might as well have just airbrushed the Transformers out of their own scene and substituted the monsters as it’s basically the same battle on the same streets... only lame. If you could re master some seventies fantasy Sci-Fi movies such as ‘Krull’ with decent CG then it would look no worse than this movie. The end scene with the inevitable good serpent, bad serpent battle takes place in front of the evil snake general dudes lair which is basically faux Mordor, so identical is the architecture. I expect the producers will be getting a call from Peter Jacksons’ Lawyers. As tepid as the GC and battles are, the scripting and acting is worse. I didn’t stay for the final credits but I wouldn’t be surprised if a ‘Dirk Diggler Productions’ credit rolled up at the end. The script was obviously written in Korean then translated for language but not screen. This means that even if the script ‘was’ any good in Korean then the translator, whether Korean or Western, did a fairly accurate job in language translation but that doesn’t guarantee there will be any artistry of dialogue. In one scene a scientist describes the monster as not being of any Xeno type known to Earth and therefore concludes that it must be ‘foreign’. I’m guessing that the Korean term for alien and foreign are interchangeable as are our own and so the translation suffered from literalism. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a movie with an English speaking cast that feels like it was dubbed, so bad and stilted is the acting and dialogue. I really wanted this movie to be great as I love Korea but as with the great food critic ‘Ego’, I have to give a true report of what I saw. The best that I can say for D-War is that it was a brave effort, had a pretty nice looking GC battle between the two snakes at the end and most of the clunkers throughout the film will go right over the heads of most viewers under the age of 12. Seen as a children’s film it is a nice romp. D-WAR, with a little less effort could have been so bad that it was good but it failed even to reach that depth. You will be wincing and laughing at all the wrong moments but perhaps at least Shims’ sincerity will impress. This isn’t the best that Korea has to offer to don’t be put of checking out movies from the land of morning calm by this monstrosity of a monster flick. Korea still has a quota system so a certain percentage of movies in Korean cinemas ‘must’ be Korean made which, along with government subsidy for production costs can remove some of the market forces drive for excellence in film making but then again it also allows for some experimentation. As you know, some gems do come out of the Korean film industry. Most of you are familiar with the work of Chang Wook Park with such films as ‘Oldboy’ and ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’. There are less well known ones though and I recommend that you search out two great films in order to balance out the negative of D-WAR’. The first is ‘Oasis’, the transcendent friendship and love story of a quadriplegic woman and a mentally impaired man. It’s not the Oscar bait that many Hollywood movies create and is in fact inspiring and touching rather than depressing and ‘encouraging’. The other is ‘Bad Guy’, a sleazy gangster flick that is so well acted that I didn’t even realize the main character was a mute until halfway through the film (that shows how observant I am as he has a massive scar on his throat). His brooding, simmeringly violent performance is so great that I at first watched the movie all the way through on cable with no subtitles before renting it to re watch it. Ok, sadly D-WAR sucks but you might want to give it a shot when it comes to DVD if you can at least get some enjoyment from the now obligatory big CG battles. FilmRage
Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 6, 2007, 7:45 a.m. CST

    First

    by Nerv31

    neh

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 7:50 a.m. CST

    sounds like a made for sci-fi channel movie

    by choptop

    and sounds like retarded fun.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Kids love it.

    by Filmrage

    I asked bunch of 12yo Korean kids today if they saw the movie. About 5 had except one girl who had chosen to see Die hard 4 with here friend haha. They all said that they liked it alot. I guess that means that as a kids movie it's excellent.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 9:23 a.m. CST

    "Nnnnnnnot so much D-War."

    by jfp2007

    I fucking hate that Nnnnnn shit. We don't need you to type it like you'd say it and esp. snarky horseshit like Nnnnnnnnnnnot.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 9:24 a.m. CST

    the trailer loooked silly

    by Bishop6

    I'll watch this as a youtube video, the pixelation will only help it

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 9:46 a.m. CST

    Shove it jfp2007

    by Filmrage

    How dare you impune my review. If that's all you can come up with though then either my review was great or your imagination sucks.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Krull

    by red_weed

    Krull is the greates fantasy movie of july 1983. I love it! Anything with dragons is worth a watch, unfortunately most of the time they are only worth one watch. still if this gets any sort of release in Australia i think i'll check it out for fun.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 11:46 a.m. CST

    hmph

    by darwinwins

    at least i knew i was going into a bad film. these dorks sounded like they were looking for serious cinema.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 2:48 p.m. CST

    "Wah wah, a movie about dragons had lame dialog!"

    by oceanic86

    This is the first time I've ever seen a giant monster movie compared to a Pixar movie. Hopefully the last, too. God damn, the reviews you guys post are such bullshit. I'm sure there had to have been better-written reviews for this movie. Or the very least, ones written by people who knew what to expect from a movie about fucking DRAGONS TRASHING A CITY.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 2:50 p.m. CST

    What the fuck is this supposed to mean?

    by oceanic86

    "This isn’t the best that Korea has to offer to don’t be put of checking out movies from the land of morning calm by this monstrosity of a monster flick." <p>What?!

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 3:58 p.m. CST

    Korea's not really known for their sci fi . . .

    by WX1

    <p>. . . or monster flicks -- Japan is God (pardon the pun) in this respect.</p> <p>Korea had this REALLy neat film called "Natural City" a few years back . . . was the closest thing, I thought at least, to them getting to some kind of sci-fi greatness on the other hand. REALLY had the feel/look of being in the "Blade Runner" universe, quite actually, and to go on a slight tangent here, ergo, more of an "indirect connection" to "Blade Runner" way the hell more than the, um, er, provacative "I.K.U." labeled itself.</p> <p>Anyone who's got access to KBS America knows this film was being QUITE hyped at one time (saw it referenced on a damn COOKING show on the network for Pete's sake, w/footage and all. To me, nothing we've seen before -- large scaly angry creatures, flying and otherwise, permanently destroying land values for the next thousand years. The footage, actually, with the ancient armies marching into a contemporary city . . . now, THAT's something I've not seen before, I'll admit.</p> <p>But, I can wait for it air on Sundance or IFC or . . . heck wait 'til I earn enough points for the free rental at the store down the road. Free tickets would also suffice.</p> <p>I don't "D-War" action figures'll be flying off the shelves.</p>

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 4:43 p.m. CST

    This sounds just crazy and cheesy enough...

    by TheHolyDeuce

    ...to really get my interest. I mean, come on, devoting part of the conclusion to the director? That's classic right there!

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 5:36 p.m. CST

    Hahahaha. What?!

    by WX1

    <p>Director saying "give it up for me, please!" Shakespeare sorta' did this same thing at the end of "The Tempest," but, in this vein? Yeah, tha's kind of hilarious. Should chuck in loops of the chorus to Jackos' "Bad" while he at it. Too funny. Take group picture with the D-War creatures at the end, too, be all pal-like. Cripes, now I GOTTA see this motha'.</P>

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 7:20 p.m. CST

    Korea's not known for monster flicks...

    by Gozu

    Other than that brilliant one that came out earlier this year in the states called "The Host." Give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, this one is directed by the guy who did "Reptillian," which is a really awful, tedious movie. Still, looks like it'll be more fun than "Transformers," although prison rape is arguably more fun than "Transformers," so I don't know...

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 7:53 p.m. CST

    Ghidorah

    by veritasses

    is the best dragon to come out of Eastern cinema.

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 7:59 p.m. CST

    Heh. Actually, I'd opt to watch Transformers . . .

    by WX1

    <p>Yep, how could I forget "The Host." Monster flicks, sure, Korea has more than a few (Joon-ho Bong's "Memories of Murder"'s more of a "monster flick" to I; with less anti-U.S. sentim' to boot). They need to do a competent, no-holds-barred, off-the parental ratings chart film 'bout the Kwangju Massacre (they have a few, including one in the chute, which . . . I honestly haven't heard too much about) in the '80s. That's Seoul's REAL monster.</P> <p>North Korea's [!]got their own monster flick in "Pulgasari." Yeah, kidnapped a South Korean film director and all to make the film. The "creature" helps the populace fight off royalty, somefin like that, yeah, see? North Korean flick.</P> <p>I gotta say, though, I liked watching "Transformers." The changings, etc., all there . . . done in a time of cinema history where, heck, yes, the tech's there, DO IT. I think Bay shoulda' gone the Pete Jackson route and released 1 each summer for three years or whatever. even if I didn't like it. Very casual fan of robots in disguise here, but, man, I gotta say, I kinda' liked it.</p>

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 8:34 p.m. CST

    Dammit

    by kilik777

    I was hoping it would end up being another hidden gem like "The Host"! http://tinyurl.com/pv8do

  • Aug. 6, 2007, 10:40 p.m. CST

    OMFG The Trailer is AMAZING!

    by topaz4206

    This is the latest trailer for the movie, with no less than 20 stunning moments/iconic shots.<br><br>http://youtube.com/watch?v=XfRb8LagLuQ<br><br>This looks like SO MUCH FUN

  • Aug. 7, 2007, 12:45 a.m. CST

    Nice Trailer

    by proper

    Cheers Topaz4206.I saw the Host,I liked the effects though some of the acting threw me off(though some scenes were moving in their own way).I enjoyed as a one time blast and I'd watch it through again if it was on TV,I'm surprised more people around these parts haven't seen it.I'd watch D-War,the effects looked alright.

  • Aug. 7, 2007, 9:01 a.m. CST

    Real dragons...

    by Osmosis Jones

    ...should be intelligent and talk.

  • Aug. 7, 2007, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Ocianic is a queer

    by Filmrage

    Dude you must have an IQ of about 70. The movie was not compared to a Pixar film. The point was that high or low expectations when going into film can influence the appreciation of it. Damn dude, you really show yourself to be a total retad to try to score some lame point in bitching when you can't even comprehend the point being made. It doesn't matter if a film is high brow or a total fantasy. A great film is a great film. Look at Robocop. Back in the day i went to see that we very low expectations cause i'd just seen a B movie on video called 'Eliminator' or 'Exterminator' that was a totally trashy cyborg film but as it turned out Robocop 1 was made with such crafmanship and art that it turned out to be an amazing movie even if the theme was cyborgs and robots wrecking Detroit. It's fucktards like you dude that convince so many low grade directors that they can get away with making shit just cause they put some special effects in it.

  • Aug. 8, 2007, 3:38 a.m. CST

    CGI

    by Filmrage

    Well dude, the individual monsters etc in the film are ok. But it's more about how you use CGI than what it looks like. I personally thought Godzilla sucked but the CGI in it was good enough. In this movie the unimaginative choriography of the CGI makes it look cheap.

  • Sept. 14, 2007, 5:17 p.m. CST

    No matter how low you set your expectations...

    by Johnny California

    They won't be low enough. I saw it at the premiere in Hollywood (at the Egyptian Theatre) and it was indescribably bad. The dialogue was hilarious and the choices the characters make are well below even the worst adaptation of a videogame you could imagine. I think Godzilla and Gamera movies from the 70's had more thought behind the plot. The CGI is poor, but I still liked some of it and the big snake-dragon battle at the end wasn't bad. Everything else about this movie was stupid. That's the best way to describe it; I actually felt kinda insulted the filmmakers (who were in the audience) would expect me to buy even a third of this dumb story. As far as mythology goes, LADY IN THE WATER was Joseph Campbell personified compared to this garbage.