Picofarad #11 Movie review

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Dragon Wars (2007)

Review by Chris French

Directed by Hyung-rae Shim
Running time: 90 minutes

In case you didn't notice -- and judging by this flick's returns, you didn't -- South Korea is developing quite the little film industry. Its output is almost indistinguishable from what Hollywood churns out -- almost.

Dragon Wars is the garden-variety fantasy flick -- beautiful princess, check; noble hero, check; old guy who could answer everyone's questions but can't be bothered, check; villain who chews scenery like the mechanical shark in the final battle in Jaws, check; sodding-huge final battle between Good Dragon and Evil Dragon, check; CGI which is completely indistinguishable from real objects, check. The only part of this which says .Yo, Foreign-made Film Here. is the dialogue; if you thought the characters in the Star Wars prequels spoke in a manner better suited to d-grade softcore porno, well, Dragon Wars will make Lucas's turgid pronouncements read like Shakespeare. It's worth noting that one of the credits at the end lists a .Military Dialogue Coach. (and the guy has an actual rank!); perhaps a .Non-Military Dialogue Coach. might have been a worthwhile investment.

There is also an example what seems to be the newest trope for Roger Ebert's Little Movie Glossary: Modern Military Machines Slugging It Out In Urban Environments. That's right -- this flick takes place in modern times. Apparently, every few hundred years, two dragons, one Good, one Evil, battle it out to see which will be superior. There's a Maiden involved (not like that, you degenerates -- she contains whatever MacGuffin Power is needed for the winner to actually win); however, during the last Big Battle, the Maiden did something unexpected -- she and the Hero protecting her jumped off a cliff. Like any programmed adventure, when the players do something unexpected, it screws everything up; in this case, it causes a 500-or-so-year interregnum while the reincarnated souls of the Hero and Maiden cycle back around. Being the sort of people who jump off a cliff together rather than do what is expected of them -- you know, Morons -- they reincarnate in modern-day Los Angeles, as Caucasians. (Uh. huh.) There then follows the necessary steps required to get them back together, while meanwhile a dragon the size of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser sneaks around the suburbs destroying property and snuffing passers-by (surprisingly, the LAPD actually does take some notice of all this -- of course, a mucking-great dragon slithering up one of L.A.'s major skyscrapers will do that), and the Evil Dragon's armed forces -- including a slug-like dragon equipped with cannons on its back; yes, the Koreans remember that Far Easterners had gunpowder weapons back then -- marching across the landscape of the Valley of Smoke, culminating in the Obligatory Battle of Eastern Dragons versus American Apaches (the helicopters, not the autochthones). Eventually, there is the Final Battle between Good and Evil Dragons, and if you have to ask who wins, well, you've been living in Amish country your whole life.

The effects are, as expected these days, excellent; the major letdown is the dialogue. My verdict: With audio -- Avoid. Without audio -- Watch. So I recommend renting the movie, and watching it with the sound off. That's what closed-captioning is for, right?

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