aka Dragon Wars: D-War
Directed and written by Shim Hyung-rae
D-Wars aka Dragons Wars is the film that was announced years ago and everyone though it was crazy. Writer/director Shim Hyung-rae sounded pretty insane with his talk of an epic Korean movie set in LA with dragons blasting everything, and rumor was this was a giant money pit. But investors were hooked, film was created, and soon a trailer emerged that showed dragons and lizard armies marching around LA while a giant snake thing slithers around. This created instant buzz, but it would be another year before D-War hit theaters. Internet weirdos like myself were salivating at the thought of a big-budgeted extravaganza that would either be incredibly awesome or incredibly terrible. Little did we know that we would be getting both in the same movie! For fifteen glorious minutes D-Wars becomes the best movie ever made. However, those fifteen minutes are stuck in the dead center of some of the crappiest writing, acting, logic, and cinematic efforts of the decade. But that’s a good thing, as it makes this review more interesting.
We got Korean dragons. We got subtitles. We got American second rate actors. Shim Hyung-rae is the man responsible for the remake of the Korean daikaiju film Yonggary which became known as Reptillian. The love for this man of giant lizards trashing cities would seem weird were it not for Japan. Still, the concept for D-Wars sounded pretty far out. It depends heavily on Korean myth as well as some random new things. Yuh Yi Joo, Imoogi, Bochun, Atrox, Buraki, Dawdler, the vocabulary you need to learn for this movie reads like some second rate Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh crap! The amount of plot-related alphabet soup words is above and beyond the norm for a giant monster movie. It is distracting, and leaves the audience confused and angry. I don’t want to be angry when watching a monster movie, I want to see giant lizards f-ing things up!
And boy do things get f-ed up! The level of utter chaos here during the money sequence is beautiful. Shim Hyung-rae manages to take to school a squad of previous genre failures. Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla only wishes it had this kind of great monster sequences. For those of you upset over the lack of helicopters vs. dragons the posters for Reign of Fire promised us, despair not, for your cup runneth over in D-Wars! Did you wish that the Gungan army in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was really an army of metal-clad badasses who blow the crap out of innocent villagers? You better start believing in the Blue Fairy because we got there here as well!
The credits begin as a female voiceover informs us dragons are still around. That’s good to know. Every 500 years a woman is born with the power to turn a serpent into a dragon. Good serpents will use such powers to protect the universe. Bad ones will destroy the world. So you can see that bad serpents are small minded and just want to destroy the Earth instead of the entire universe. Such short-sightedness will be their downfall. The credits are rendered in ancient parchment style, which is pretty neat. So score one for D-War.
After the credits we open with a big crater in downtown LA. Looks like a jet crashed, except no jet. A crazy ranting guy dressed up to look like a crazy Indian is hauled away for claiming that “the beast has risen!” Haven’t people learned by now that no matter what horrible monster is created, there is always some Indian guy who knows everything about it? Well, this guy is never seen again so we’ll never know! Reporter Ethan Kendrick arrives to get the story, only to get the cold shoulder from the FBI agents on scenes (Agents Pinsky and Campbell.) Ethan notices the local CSI dusting off a giant scale, which freaks him out enough he instantly becomes a brooding narrator. After a few seconds we are suddenly dumped into a FLASHBACK fifteen years earlier. Ethan is but a wee lad at Jack’s Antiques store with his father, who is trying to hawk an old knife off on Jack. Jack is offering pocket change for it, but all of this is unimportant as Ethan walks past a trunk that unlocks itself, opens up by itself, reveals glowing things by itself, and zaps Ethan with the power of ancient trunk funk (by itself.) One of the scales from earlier is in the trunk, as well as Korean writing, the official language of weird things in trunks. Jack fakes a heart attack to get rid of dad so he can talk to young Ethan. Instead of molesting the crap out of young Ethan like I thought he would do, Jack instead tells him a story:
Jack says “You’ve seen the scale of the Imoogi itself.” That’s great, what’s an Imoogi? Before telling the kid that, Jack says the light in the trunk was the light from Heaven. Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Now Heaven is a place on Earth. In a box. In an antiques store. Then Jack explains that an Imoogi is a creature of Korean legend with the power to become a dragon. Every 500 years a chance happens (this is a repeat of the story for those of you who were getting popcorn when the film started) because of the gift of Yuh Yi Joo. Evil Buraki wants the Yuh Yi Joo (because he wants to collect ’em all!) and told his followers to get it. That’s how easy it is to shop for Buraki. FLASHBACK WITHIN A FLASHBACK! Subtitled flashback because it’s in Korea, 1507. The Gods hide the Yuh Yi Joo on Earth (as a meteor) and send Heaven’s best warriors, Haram and his master Bochun, to protect it. Haram but a small lad, while the girl with the Yuh Yi Joo is born, but the Yuh Yi Joo fully formed at age 20 years. Bochun goes to talk to her dad, telling him his daughter Narin will be sacrificed. That’s just what you want to hear right after your wife dies giving birth to said daughter, so dad is thrilled! Or mad, but since she was born with the Red Dragon tattoo they all know it’s true. Bochun raises Narin (for some reason) and Haram, which of course mean the two fall in love.
Queue random martial arts, as Haram and Bochun show off. Then Bochun shows Haram the Good Imoogi who was chosen by Heaven to become a dragon. Also he gives Haram a pendant that belongs to guardian of the Good Imoogi. That’s nice, but Buraki has figured out Heavan’s plan and sends his army to go get the Yuh Yi Joo. So Buraki has an army, but Heaven sends one guy and a child to protect the most important thing they got going for them at the moment. We are dealing with masterminds to rival Sherlock Holmes here.
So Buraki’s men attack the local village. The guards look over and suddenly see a giant freaking army marching on the city. Filled with giant lizards with things on their backs. It looks like the Gungan army from The Phantom Menace except actually frightening because it isn’t filled with Jar Jars. The army also has lizard Tauntaun things. The few guards for the city actually decide to defend the city instead of peeing their pants and running for their lives. That’s some real men right there. Real dead men as the lizards in the army fire a barrage of rockets into the village. Things explode like it’s a Michael Bay movie. People scream, creatures charge, flying dragon things attack, villagers are squashed, eaten, and slaughtered. It’s glorious! The Atrox army (suddenly Jack gives the army a name, one that makes no sense but whatever) grabs women and checks them for shoulder tattoos. Considering they need the girl alive, blowing up 90% of a village probably wasn’t the smartest plan of action. Luckily some village woman turns turncoat and rats her out, the Atrox army kills Narim’s dad and takes her away (wait, I thought Bochum was raising her…Jack, learn to tell a story right, you putz!) A significantly smaller group of the army takes Narim through the woods because once you have the very valuable thing you came to collect you send all your forces home and then go wandering around Korea for a few days. If this is the Atrox army I’d hate to see the Botox army!
Bochun and Haram rescue Narim all by themselves. Actually, Bochun does all the work and all the killing, Haram just grabs the girl and runs away. Bochun gets injured on the arm and flies off as well, while the General of the Atrox Army arrives to beat up his own troops for being failures. Where were you, General? And let’s talk about this guy. General Atrox looks like a porcupine mated with a suit of armor, and then the offspring became a Sith Lord. I was upset no one told me the Force was with me. General Atrox also reminded me of the evil leader from Turkish Star Wars(I think it was the ridiculous armor.)
Haram and Narim decide they aren’t going to let her get sacrificed, so they run and jump off a cliff while Buraki himself chases after them. So now they are dead anyway and Buraki is ticked off. Also, Good Imooki doesn’t get to go to Heaven, either. Sucks for everyone. FLASHBACK WITHIN A FLASHBACK OVER.
Jack tells Ethan that Jack is Bochun while Ethan is Haram. The proof is Jack has a scar where Bochun was injured. Obviously proof. No one could ever get a scar unless they fought a magical lizard-worshipping army lead by a dragon. Jack gives Ethan the pendant that marks him the guardian of the Good Imoogi. The new girl’s name is Sarah, and when she is 20 Ethan must take her to the Grand Cave (which wasn’t mentioned at all by Jack or by the Narrator Woman from the beginning, but whatever) FLASHBACK OVER. The flashback ends with close-ups of Young Ethan’s eyes as he morphs into Old Ethan. Older Ethan must be wearing colored contacts because his eyes go from blue to brown as he becomes an adult.
Ethan suddenly snaps back to life and leaves his office to bug his friend Bruce, our token black guy for the film. Bruce is low-key and occasionally sarcastic, especially when Ethan wants him to look up a girl named Sarah that lives in LA. There are only a few thousand of them. We jump from the detective work to the actual Sarah, who is at a gym with her pal Brandy. Brandy has the hots for reporter Ethan and makes it verbally clear when she sees him on TV. Sarah sees video tape of the scale, panics, and runs away from the gym back to her home. The movie has decided to enter goofy mode as suddenly Sarah pulls out a Chinese book she has stashed in a drawer. We cut to investigator Elizabeth Pena looking over the scale, telling Agents Pinsky and Campbell that the scale is organic, and probably also saying it is harder than diamond, except she doesn’t really say it, the script sort of skirts around it like we were to just assume that is the case. Also, Jack from Jack’s Antiques is floating. Because he’s Peter Pan, or something. Some dude in a black trench coat thing then walks through a fence, and we suddenly jump back to Sarah’s friend Brandy returning home. Thanks, Wheel of Scenes! Wheel of Scenes, spin spin spin, show us the scenes that will make us grin.
Brandy is upset because Sarah randomly decided to put up a bunch of Chinese Kanji symbols written in red on yellow paper around the living room. These are the same types of papers that are used to freeze Chinese Vampires in movies such as Robo Vampire. Sarah is scared, so Brandy is all “Let’s go out and party!” So they do, except Sarah doesn’t feel like partying. You see, two other Sarah Conners have been killed…oh, wait, wrong movie about a girl named Sarah with a partying roommate who is hunted by unknown forces with a lone man destined to protect her. Sarah leaves the club (RazzBerriez for those of you who care about S’s being turned into Z’s) and quickly gets three guys assaulting her. Suddenly, Jack walks up and karate-cizes all three men into chopped liver, and then walks away without even looking at Sarah. This part is edited so badly you hardly can tell it is Jack, I didn’t notice until my second time watching. But since Jack can transform into all sorts of random people (as we find out later) I just assumed it was him anyway.
Sarah soon realized too much Feng Shui can be a bad thing
Meanwhile at the zoo, the Round Table Pizza Guy is working as a night watchman and witnesses the elephants getting eaten by Buraki. This naturally freaks him out a bit, so much that he forgets to order a Primo Supremo. Sarah is at the cops trying to explain that some random guy beat up three thugs, while a reporter shows up already assuming Sarah beat up the three guys. Ethan goes to Jack’s Antiques store only to find General Atrox there instead, talking in a demonic voice Ethan seems to think isn’t out of the ordinary. General Atrox sees the D-War necklace and speaks in Dragonese (or is it Korean? Sounds the same), and suddenly the stores antiques begin to float. Except this is all a dream. What is this, Nicolas Cage’s Next? Lame cop outs will only continue, I’m afraid. Ethan still in office, and Bruce has narrowed it down to 2700 Sarahs. But it is all for naught as the reporter from earlier comes into the office chatting about Sarah. So it all works out thanks to bad writing!
Sarah is in a parking garage for reasons unknown to anyone, and tries to unlock her car, only for it to flash dragon skin all over it briefly, like some sort of bad effect from the TV series Viper. General Atrox is there in a cop uniform to slash her with his flamesword except she wakes up. That’s two random dream sequences. Plus two flashbacks. She feels ill so calls an ambulance, that splashes a homeless guy who calls the ambulance driver a bum. Friend Brandy (and her boyfriend) get killed by Buraki, as Buraki tries to eat Brandy thinking she is the chosen one. But she’s only some random roommate, and now Sarah is going to have to get someone to sublet for the rest of the lease. Thanks a lot, Buraki! You jerk.
Why you should make sure you clean your pool
Sarah wakes up at the hospital, locked in room. Guard says nothing as she panics. Ethan figures out she’s the one. Not the Jet Li The One, but the one who has the Yuh Yi Joo. A phone call to Ethan from ????? (his magic fairy pal) lets him know that there was an accident at Sarah’s address, and Ethan goes there to find that Brandy is dead, not Sarah. A neighbor mentions Sarah went to the hospital (thank God for nosy neighbors!) and Ethan drags Bruce to the hospital with him. Sarah is under quarantine because of an unidentifiable mark on her body (what?) Ethan gets a doctor to let him in, the doctor
Buraki is on the roof of the hospital, luckily no one in Los Angeles noticed the giant snake going there, and no one outside the hospital bothers to look at the building, and no one inside notices the noise or snake over the window except the Round Table Pizza Guy, who gets tied in a straight jacket. Buraki attacks, and Ethan and Sarah are given an escape rout by the doctor who let Ethan in. The doctor morphs into Jack as they run off, the first of a series of 50,000 characters who will morph into Jack. They run to the parking structure (strangely empty) where Bruce is waiting in the car, and soon are driving away with a crazy giant snake dragon thing named Buraki slithering after them, smashing things all over the place! They escape the parking structure, only to have Bruce run into General Atrox in the middle of the road! Literally run into him, as General Atrox goes flying! The car is busted, and General Atrox grows his Heavy Metal armor. He tries to grab Bruce, but Bruce gets out, pulls a gun, and shoots. The bullets fail to do anything, as General Atrox has grown a shield out of his arm to protect himself. He pulls out his flamesword (it has a retractable blade that emerges after a flame effect) and tries to slice Bruce, only to be distracted by Ethan. Bruce grabs the sword but it quickly deflames. However, General Atrox gets hit by a woman driving a station wagon! This second incident of becoming roadkill knocks him out for the count and Ethan and Sarah escape in the station wagon (Bruce stays behind, but manages to yell “I’m okay!” so we know he isn’t dead or anthying. But way to leave the black guy behind!
General Atrox calls up the Atrox army, which pop out of scrolls stored at Jack’s Antiques (good job, Jack!) Dawdler – big lizard thing with the cannons. Oh, station wagon woman is also Jack. Jack is every character. I am Jack’s colon. Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of crap! But all they got was the script to this movie! Sarah and Ethan go to the beach. Why? Eh. Oh, let’s go to a professor friend of Ethan’s who is an expert on dreams and the subconscious. That’s where I go when giant dragon snakes and crazy generals are chasing me. Make with the dragon wars, already! I want blood! The Secretary of State tells Agent Pensky he might have to “take care of” Sarah.
Suddenly lots of helicopters and swat teams are running around some canyons somewhere (that is not Jack’s Antiques.) Special forces enter a cave, encounter Buraki, eit while firing, and all the other men and helicopters are dead and exploded. The Atrox army stomps up, and uses shields to protect them from bullets as General Atrox swings his sword and all the Special Forces guys explode. It’s just that easy? What the—?! Normally a scene this random would stick out, but in D-Wars it blends in like a chameleon on a pile of chameleons.
Flashback hypnosis of Sarah causes her to rise in the air and glow (Ghostbusters?) Buraki shows up, so they steal a pizza delivery car and drive off as Buraki smashes some stuff. Call Bruce, meet him at cafe, he’s set up the newscopter to come and pick up our heroes. Gives Ethan a gun, and Jack gives Ethan some random New Age mumbo-jumbo advice.
BURAKI ATTACKI! It’s wacky, that Buraki. Have a snacky. He smashes into the cafe as Ethan and Sarah escape out the side door, hopping into Bruce’s car. A neat sequence has Buraki pick up another car, toss it in front of Bruce’s car, and they manage to crash right into it. Buraki closes in for the kill, but cops shooting at the giant serpent distract it, so Ethan and Sarah can escape (Bruce tells them to leave him behind again!) General Atrox gives a peptalk to his troops, then sends Bulcos to go find Sarah and Ethan. Bulcos are basically mini-dragons. Or drakes. Just go with it, they’ll be fighting helicopters soon.
The movie begins preparations to enter Awesome Mode with a sequence of Buraki smashing his way down a busy road in LA, as Ethan and Sarah head to the top of a skyscraper. The street is soon filled with trashed cars, smashed people, and the ruination of anything that stands in Buraki’s way. Ethan and Sarah get to the roof of the Liberty Building, where a chopper should be. Buraki uses his magic powers of gravity defiance to slither up the side of the building. Ethan and Sarah reach the chopper, but so does Buraki, who grabs it with his mouth. So Ethan and Sarah then jump out, while the chopper gets tossed aside like yesterday’s diapers. Buraki snake-yells and the skies get cloudy and darken like he’s calling the power of Gozer or something.
There is no Dana only Zuul!
Then we jump into Awesome Overdrive!
Army attack helicopters rise up and start blasting away at Buraki! They blast him so hard he falls off the building (what a pansy giant monster!) and screams for help. The entire sequence with the helicopter pilots will have a constant stream of indecipherable military-radio-speak chatter to add to atmosphere. Then the Bulcos come (the little dragons) and Buraki goes to hide under the streets. We get a nice sequence of cat and mouse with the choppers and the dragons, while the ground forces also arrive in LA to blast up the place, only to be met by US Army tanks. Things explode on all sides, armor fights lizards, gunmen shoot down dragons, dragons drop people, exploding buses kill civilians, helicopters crash into buildings, the Atrox Army uses shields to block bullets, it goes on and on, pure cinematic awesome. Somehow, amidst all the chaos, Agents Pinsky and Campbell manage to locate Sarah and Ethan. LA is trashed, so Pinsky is going to shoot Sarah. (First he shoots Ethan in the arm by accident, but I forgot about that in the first draft, probably because the movie forgets about it and by the next scene Ethan’s bullet wound is perfectly healed!) Except Campbell shoots Pinsky instead, because Campbell is just that Mmm Mmm Good. He tells Ethan to get Sarah safe.
We didn’t steal this shot from LOTR, we stole it from Eragon!
So they go to Mexico! What is this, Spring Break? Anyway, they get caught like two seconds later by dragons. Sarah is eaten and the world is destroyed. Oh, that’s what should have happened right after they were captured. Instead, Ethan wakes up in some alternate dimension where Buraki and the Atrox Army live. You know it’s an alternate dimension because of the sepia tint the light has taken. The entire army is assembled, Sarah is brought before an altar so Buraki can eat her, while Ethan is tied to a pole. Sacrifice is offered, Buraki comes out from his giant castle (Snake Mountain from Masters of the Universe) to eat her, but Ethan yells Sarah one too many times, so his D-War necklace activates, gets energy from teh sky and zaps the entire area in a shockwave that blasts all the troops, disintegrating the ground beneath them so they all descend to Hell (an instant final judgment blast!) and the shockwave even destroys the giant statue of a guy with a trident that was inexplicably outside Buraki’s castle.
“Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it, no matter what happens.”
General Atrox is not dead, and is going to slice up Sarah himself. Ethan and his miraculously healed gunshot wounded arm grab a sword and engage in hot irons with the General. Ethan is sorely beaten, until General Atrox stabs Ethan in the D-War necklace, which ends up blasting General Atrox to dust by electricity. I don’t even have to make jokes at this point.
Buraki is also not dead, but he is suddenly attacked by another Imoogi. The GOOD Imoogi. Remember him? No? Too shell-shocked from the previous WTF-ness? Anyway, this Imoogi is good, he has no name, and he also sucks as a fighter because Buraki kills him in like one minute. Sarah decides she’s all done running and goes to get eaten by Buraki. Except the Yuh Yi Joo jumps out of her, and she directs it into the mouth of the Good Imoogi! You’ve been Punk’d, Buraki! Someone call Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, as Buraki will be on the next TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes! Buraki tries to kill the Good Imoogi again, but Good Imoogi transforms into a Korean Dragon and puts the smackdown on Buraki. The fight drags on a bit until Good Imoogi/Dragon shoots a blast of fire, which disintegrates Buraki into Dustaki. Then the ghostly image of Sarah eminates from the Good Imoogi/Dragon telling Ethan not to be sad as they will be together again. Then the dragon flies away, also it cries, because that’s what you do in this situation. Jack (where the Hell did Jack come from???) disappears, and now Ethan is left alone in the middle of where ever the crap this place is as the movie ends.
Yes, the hero is now stranded in the middle of the unknown.
“It’s great I saved the world and lost the girl and all but where the hell am I?”
Mr. Toad, it is time to retire, for we have found the new wild ride! I can’t praise what the film did right enough, nor can I stare in shock at what it did wrong. Together, it becomes the bipolar nutcase that makes family reunions so much fun. Trying to understand the plot of D-Wars is like trying to understand why Britney Spears is crazy. She just is, go with it and enjoy the crazy. That’s what we get here, a big box of crazy. Maybe if we’re lucky director Shim Hyung-rae will even bring Fish Wars to the silver screen.
Top Seventeen Random Things from D-War (in chronological order)
1- Protestor Arrested at site of disaster in opening
2- Different colored eyes for Young Ethan/Old Ethan
3- “It’s that cute reporter!”
4- Jack Floating
5- Jack walks up, beats up three thugs, walks away, all without looking at Sarah
6- “There is no Jack here” spooky voice not a bit concerning
7- “You lousy bum!” screams bum as ambulance that splashes him
9- Round Table Guy in a straight jacket
10- Car hitting General Atrox 2
11- Doctor/Station wagon lady/everyone is Jack
12- Let’s see my dream expert friend!
13- SWAT WTF? Explodosword
14- Let’s go to Mexico!
15- Waking up in an alternate dimension
16- Good Imoogi gets killed!
17- Wait, where the heck am I?
“Hey, want to yank my mustache?”
A Closer Look at the Atrox Army –
General Atrox – He’s metal, he’s raw, he’s a blonde mumbo-jumbo speaker! Armed with a flamesword, no charisma, and immunity to one and only one car collision, General Atrox leads his troops into battle, and manages to blunder around for most of the film being outwitted by shallow characters. His death is lamer than Captain Kirks, killed while stabbing a necklace. Gungan army equivalent = Captain Tarpals.
Atrox Troops – The raw meat of the Atrox Army, the troops march in formation, use magic shields to block bullets, and still get killed like stormtroopers on Endor. All of them are condemned to Hell because it was cheaper than paying all their GI Bills. Gungan army equivalent = Gungans.
Dawdlers – Dewbacks with big rocket launchers on their backs make up the heavy armor of the Atrox Army. Dawdlers can overturn modern tanks, their missiles have a decent spash explosion, and they even eat people. The real freaky thing is they all have perfect, big, flat white teeth. They look like those hopping teeth you buy at gag shops. I don’t know what the rest of the Atrox Army does during their 500 year downtimes, but I do know the Dawdlers spend all that time flossing! Gungan army equivalent = those lizards with the shield generators.
Shaconne – I call them Tauntauns in the review because they don’t bother to name them in the film. Now that I found out they are called Shaconne I still call them Tauntauns, because Shaconne is a stupid name. Bascially a mix of velociraptor and ostrich, the light calvary of the Atrox Army. Gungan army equivalent = that thing General Tarpals was riding.
Bulco – Small flying dragons the closest we get to actual European dragons. Responsible for some of the coolest scenes in the movie, espcially the crazy dogfights with the helicopeters. Not immune to bullets, or crashing helicopters, or randomly hanging out on the side of a skyscraper in the middle of a battle. Gungan army equivalent = Uhhhhh….those glowy balls?
Buraki – The big, bad monster himself. He’s evil, but has no motivation. A better plan would have been to fake being good so you get rewarded, then blast the Earth with your new-found powers the second you get them. That would show Heaven! Gungan army equivalent = Jar Jar Binks.
All this fuss over a glowing beach ball?
D-War Posters: (put here because the official site is a mess)
Rated 7/10 (Dragon Print, arrested Indian, D-War medallion, D-War scar, Buraki statue, Tears of a Dragon, Trident Guy!)
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