Dragon Wars (film, 2008)

From Death Ray 14.



Director: Hyung-rae Shim

Writer: Hyung-rae Shim

Snakes alive! Dragons of various stripes enliven this indigestible nugget of exposition.

Korean mythology seems a fascinating destination for the enquiring fantasy lover: like Chinese, but with a twist. This Korean funded, but American cast, flick fairly heaves with peninsular legend, with modern, high-fantasy knobs on. Unfortunately, there’s not much more to it than that.

Ethan (Behr) is a reborn celestial warrior who was supposed to deliver his lover to a Good ‘Imoogi’ (mythical snake thing). His chick was created purely to house some heavenly doodad that allows Imoogis to become dragons. But once it is given up, she will die. An evil Imoogi covets this essence and attempts to take it by force, but the lovers top themselves, only to be reborn 500 years later in the US, where the conflict starts anew.

It’s a confused and confusing collision between east and west, this convoluted story of rebirth and timeless love tying early modern and present day segments together. If the film had stuck with the successful 16th century Korean part, it might have been an interesting watch, but a move to LA means loads of exposition and not a lot of sense, before the two wooden leads (he more wooden than she) spend forty minutes running away from the bad, giant CGI snake, while its wicked minions do battle with an unconvincingly depicted National Guard.

In the bits where we aren’t been spoon fed story, okay-ish lizards kick some ass, but then we’re whisked off to a big Barad-dûr style castle with no explanation, where our brave young lass must choose between love and giving her magic essence to the good CG giant snake so it can turn into a dragon instead of the bad CG giant snake (if you want to read something into this, you could…).

The dialogue is hokey, the plot bordering on nonsensical, the CG well-designed and profuse but of the Playstation variety. Although there is an epic amount of plenty happening on-screen to keep monster action fans happy, poor structure makes the running time feel a lot longer than its 86 minutes. Generous souls may attribute this to cultural misunderstanding, I choose the more accurate reading of poor writing.

Did you know…?

Dragon Wars, at $35million, is the most expensive Korean film ever made.


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