Iraq and Vietnam have got nothing on this quagmire

Dragon Wars

on September 14, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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If a film's distribution strategy serves as a gauge for the quality of its content—say, a theatrical release versus straight-to-video—then this debacle screams for the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as an additional category. Although it has already grossed more than $50 million in South Korea—who knows, maybe the 17 minutes shaved off for its U.S. release filled in the plot's gaps in logic to the point where it was actually comprehensible— Dragon Wars ' reception stateside is guaranteed to be even cooler than the similarly kitschy Snakes on a Plane . At least with that movie you got the feeling that the filmmakers were in on the joke.

Without going into too much detail—seriously, it's not worth it—Los Angeles TV reporter Ethan (Jason Behr) discovers that he is the reincarnation of a 16th-century Korean warrior. His destiny is intertwined with Sarah (Amanda Brooks), a woman born with a shoulder tattoo of a red dragon who, on her 20th birthday, will produce a magical orb of light called Yuh Yi Joo. Two giant snakes called Imoogi—one good, one bad—want the Yuh Yi Joo in order to become celestial dragons. The fate of the world depends on the good serpent—is there such a thing?—prevailing. Or something.  Oh, and this exact same thing happened half a millennium ago, but, when the girl's protector refused to sacrifice their love to “save the world,” nothing really happened, so the stakes here aren't exactly high.

Like in porn, this overwrought setup serves merely as the connective tissue between action set pieces, here paying homage to Godzilla (obviously) and lifting army and creature design directly from Star Wars . Which might have been okay, if the special effects were good and one cared enough to pay attention. But the live-action and computer-generated elements seem unrelated, even when they appear in the same frame.

Moreover, the structure is clumsy (there are not one, but two, flashbacks, one of which is 15 minutes long). The storytelling devices are cliché (“This has something to do with me,” Ethan intones in an on-the-nose voiceover). The suspense is contrived (the snake poises to strike for an interminably long time during a foot chase when it could clearly snap up its prey from blocks away). The chance occurrences are bizarre (a complete stranger happens upon an accident scene and yells, “Get in!” as if there to rescue the victims), yet no one bats an eye. And the stabs at humor (a homeless man shouting “You dirty bum!” after a speeding ambulance splashes him) are random and not funny.

Where are Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot when you need them? Distributor: Freestyle
Cast: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Aimee Garcia and Craig Robinson
Director/Screenwriter: Shim Hyung-rae
Producer: James B. Kang
Genre: Fantasy action
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and creature action
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: September 14, 2007
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