Dragon Wars DVD review

Sarah expects a film about dragon wars to feature lots of dragons. Preferably warring. Sadly, Dragon Wars only really had one dragon, which doesn't make for much of a war...

Here be dragons...

For some reason, I thought this movie was going to be made of awesome. I spent most of the weekend subjecting my long-suffering boyfriend to bouts of shouting “DRAGON WARRRRRRRS!” in a vaguely Homestar Runner-esque way. Then I discovered that the release was known as D-Wars everywhere else, which was a bit of a let-down. But I still held out hope. After all, how could something called DRAGON WARRRRRRS be bad?

You can see where this is going, right? It really wasn’t very good. I mean, it wasn’t bad, it was just a really basic, standard story, made unnecessarily convoluted and somehow, in the process, really quite boring, too.

The film opens with Ethan, a young journalist dressed like a 1970s dentist, visiting what seems to be a crime scene and spotting something that looks horribly familiar. He spirals off into a flashback scene in which he visited an antique shop and was told by the owner that he was the reincarnation of a mystical warrior, sworn to protect something called the Yeo-Yi-Joo. See, the myth goes like this: once every 500 years, a girl is born who will possess the Yeo-Yi-Joo when she turns 20.

The Imoogi, who are a tribe of what seems to be giant snakes, want the Yeo-Yi-Joo, because whichever Imoogi possesses it becomes an all-powerful celestial dragon. If a good Imoogi gets it, the world will be safe for another 500 years. If an evil one gets it, the world will be destroyed. So far, so One Ring, right? The twist is, um, nothing. The 500 years is up, and the girl in the legend has been reincarnated in Los Angeles. Ethan, it seems, is the reincarnation of her protector – who also happened to have fallen madly and eternally in love with her last time around.

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According to one of the special features, Dragon Wars is the most expensive, most elaborate, and most anticipated film in Korean history. It is super-elaborate, I’ll give it that. The opening scenes, which flash back to Korea in the 1500s, are spectacular. But the money seems to have run out somewhere along the line, because the CGI strikes for Lord of the Rings and ends up looking more like Primeval. Squinting slightly at the screen let me blur the edges somewhat, which helped – but nothing could help the hackneyed plot.

See, the thing is, in Lord of the Rings, the battles ended up being between the armies of darkness and a makeshift troop of good guys. Evil had numbers on its side, and there seemed to be overwhelming odds, but at least in Lord of the Rings there were elves, and the Riders of Rohan, and the Ents, and, y’know, an army, pretty much.

In Dragon Wars, the side of evil has a gigantic snake-thing capable of polishing off five elephants in one sitting, hundreds of mini-dragons the size of maybe cows, an entire army marching the streets of Los Angeles in magic armour, and one super-hard bastard capable of shape-shifting and getting repeatedly run over without so much as a scratch. The goodies consist of a scared 20-year-old girl and a fop. Those are not believeable odds; you know they’re going to win, but they’re going to win purely by virtue of being the good guys, and not for any other reason. In the end, they win by… er, doing nothing, really.

I’d say a deus ex machina showed up to save the day, but it didn’t; the day was just randomly saved. It would have been one hell of an anticlimax, but for the fact that there wasn’t any tension leading up to it anyway.

I wanted to love this movie, but the script just wasn’t up to scratch. There are a couple of scenes with a comedy zookeeper that exemplify the laziness of the script – he gets checked into a mental hospital where a doctor tells him just to lie and pretend to be sane so that he can be let out again. It’s like a child’s view of the world, formed from a few snatched glimpses of the grown-up world, bearing only the most passing resemblence to reality. Because of that, I found it even harder to suspend my disbelief and ignore the shoddy CGI; I didn’t have any reason to want to believe.

Production design was pretty, though. I’ll give it that.

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Extras: Trailers, a documentary about the making and promotion of the movie, storyboard, and art galleries. The concept art for the Imoogi and celestial dragons is the best part – really, really beautiful pencil sketches – but it’s pretty standard stuff otherwise.

2 out of 5


2 out of 5