After nearly five years of toiling, with the largest South Korean budget ever mustered, (reported to be somewhere between 35 and 70 million dollars) D-Wars was unleashed and added to last years' The Host proclamation that the South Koreans can deliver Hollywood-style spectacle just as well.
The director wisely decided to market his film to a wider audience by casting Americans in the lead roles, and setting it in the United States. But in an irony that can't be lost, Shim Hyung-rae has set out to make a â€˜mass appeal' picture, just like his Hollywood counterparts, and has fallen prey to the same trappings that often trip up Hollywood's â€˜mass appeal' duds: the story driving this high-profile film isn't anywhere near as impressive as its effects.
The convoluted story follows an American reporter, Ethan (Roswell's Jason Behr) who is the reincarnation of a Korean warrior Haram : a man who failed to fulfil his destiny 500 years before by killing Narin - the woman he loved to save the world from an evil serpent named Buraki. Narin was predestined by the Heavens to be sacrificed on her twentieth birthday, and her life-force given to a â€˜good serpent,' named Imuki, who would transform into a good Dragon and ascend to Heaven. Now Narin is reincarnated as the American girl, Sarah (Amanda Brooks), and it rests on Ethan's shoulders not to repeat the same mistake, fulfil his destiny, and sacrifice her... but of course he doesn't want to - and Buraki is back to take her for himself.
This story itself is not a bad one, if pared down a little. But the script is an awful mishmash of sloppy exposition, ridiculous dialogue, more plot holes than a teenager has zits, a lack of tone, a lack of coherent narrative, unnecessary repetition, and misplaced humour. The film jumps far too often and abruptly to different locales and times; the supporting character's are ridiculous in their actions and logic (if one would use that word) and the leads aren't much better; there are no character arcs beyond the two leads, and the leaps of believability we are asked to make are just too much (if a dragon the length of a city block was in Los Angeles a place with more cameras than Brittany's front lawn it wouldn't take long for people to A. Believe it, and B. Get the Hell out!) It could be argued that, â"Hey, this is a dragon film and you're crapping on about â€˜believability?" But by grounding the people portion of this tale in some form of reality, the onslaught that follows would have been so much more than a special effects laden, ear-drum bursting slugfest of giant lizards. But that leads us to the one thing in this film nobody can deny...
The effects are amazing for the most part, ranging from jaw-droppingly good to a 21st century knock off of Godzilla. There is a seldom dodgy shot or two throughout that don't quite ring true, but that had more to do with the direction than the effects work, and considering the budget at least half of a usual film of this type the magic makers have done wonders.
The direction is not that of a man with full hold of the special effect film reigns (yet), nor one with a sense of timing, tension, of â€˜atmosphere.' His reveals of the creatures are clumsy, and detract from the impressive CGI added after the fact. There is a sense of relying too much on visual imitation throughout the whole film, as if Shim didn't have a solid grasp on his own and sat down and made a to-do list of shots from the blockbusters of the last fifteen years and the how to of Ray Harryhausen. This is not to say that other directors don't do the same thing all of them do, even the best but there is no definitive style or singular vision driving this film, and coupled with the over-stuffed storyline that goes nowhere fast, it does the film no favours.
D-War was a financial success, and considering Shim's unwavering passion, and the amount of years he put into it, a deserved result. While critics this one included are not going to sing the man any praises for a poor script or direction, Shim at least deserves the acknowledgment that he sought out to make an extravagant movie and has succeeded in doing so. A ten year-old boy is not going to care less if the story makes sense, or the characters are believable he wants to see some dragons fight and destroy stuff, and on that basis solely, D-Wars will glue them to the screen.
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: Mandarin, English, French, Korean, Spanish
Language and Sound: English: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; photo gallery.
o 5,000 Years in the Making
* Gallery - Conceptual art photo gallery
Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging
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