When your movie is advertised showcasing giant dragons shredding Los Angeles, it would be proper to make this the centerpiece of your film. Dragon War’s trailer lets you view everything worth watching in a disastrous, unexplainable mess that can’t even be considered entertainment. Laughably bad, appalling, grotesque, and unexplainable are only some of the adjectives available to toss out in the general direction of this unbearable Korean-filmed effort.
To get the important stuff out of the way, yes there are dragons in LA. Yes, their fight against military forces is spectacular. Yes, there are plenty of explosions, lots of implied deaths, and surprisingly well-rendered special effects.
That’s about 10 minutes of this supposed epic. The rest is a meandering, pitiful excuse for, well, anything resembling a film. The explanation for the dragons takes nearly 20 minutes and multiple flashbacks to explain. Instead of giving the audience the basics (good dragon, bad dragon, every 500 years they awaken to find an object), the audience is forced to endure immeasurable agony as this is all spelled out to the point that it somehow becomes confusing.
What audiences will likely expect to be a basic dragon story turns corners that are never explained. Flashbacks have legendary warriors flying through the air and flinging fireballs from their hands. Reincarnated versions of these ancient people seem to have lost these powers, but gained the ability to morph into others.
A major plot point concerns the great cave, which two young reincarnates must reach to fulfill their destiny. You’ll never know where or even what this is. The film at one point stops dead with its main characters knocked out cold. The screen fades to black, and suddenly the actors are in the middle of who-knows-where, complete with giant stone structures that the military must have missed in their fight. This was the last chance to see the great cave. The wait continues.
Plot holes are gaping, and it’s impossible to track them all. Somehow, the largest dragon is lost in the middle of the LA melee. No one seems to care even though it’s the most crucial element in the plot. Then there’s the good dragon who will save all of mankind, yet takes his sweet time in arriving. Why not try and stop the evil before is reaches a major metropolis and kills thousands? What kind of a savior is this exactly?
As for the two leads, Jason Behr and Amanda Brooks, they couldn’t have reached any further to find the bottom. When you’re forced to recite lines (with a straight face no less) such as, “I’m getting real sick of this destiny crap, Jack,” call it quits immediately. Better yet, have the common sense/courtesy for yourself and to the people paying to see you to ask for a rewrite.
If you’ve never asked for a refund on a movie before, prepare to ask for one if you pay for this. Dragon Wars is a travesty, something that the Sci-Fi Channel would love to have for a short Saturday night run before retiring the print forever to a locked vault where no one else should ever be subjected to it. And no, it’s not worth $20 to see dragons munch on LA at home.
For the ten minutes you’ll be watching this, you’ll be treated to some high-end Blu-ray effects. Color pops off the screen, contrasting wonderfully with the rich black levels. Detail is high (exposing a few special effects gone wrong), and the overall tone is sharp and clean. A few distance shots appear slightly muddy, especially a money shot involving the actors and the giant dragon. Colors appear somewhat flat as well, likely intentional. The transfer is free of imperfections, and the print itself is flawless.
Dialogue occasionally carries a scratchy tone with it, and there’s a tinny sound to some of the explosions. These issues detract but do not destroy the work done via the surround channels. Bullets, cannon fire, tanks, debris, and the dragons themselves fan out into every available channel with remarkable effect. The bass coming from explosions and footsteps of the giant creatures is room-shaking material. Gunfire also packs quite punch from the LFE channel.
Extras are brief, beginning with 5,000 Years in the Making. This 18-minute featurette provides plenty of Korean premiere footage and behind-the-scenes material. It’s also unintentional comedy as director Hyun-rae Shim tells the story of how he cried during the filming. Seriously. Storyboard comparisons with the film and conceptual art mark the end of the small features menu.
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