Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Film Length: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Languages: English 5.1, French (Dolby Surround)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean
Cast: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Craig Robinson, Elizabeth Pena
Monster movies have always held a special place in the heart of the movie-going public. There’s a certain deep seeded pleasure that is satiated in watching (usually) a guy in a giant rubber suit lay waste to a toy representation of a major city. So when “Dragon Wars: D War” came up on my review list, I was excited at the mere thought of watching high resolution CG dragons tearing apart Los Angeles. Sadly, after viewing the film I found myself oddly unsatisfied given the carnage that had just taken place.
“Dragon Wars” begins with some very slick opening credits, as the audience is brought up to speed with the beginning context by a voice over monologue. The movie is based around a Korean legend that tells of enormous serpents known as Imoogi. The fable explains that the greatest glory an Imoogi can achieve is to be blessed from the heavens by the Yuh Yi Joo, a spiritual force that will transform a serpent into a powerful dragon. Naturally, a good Imoogi will use this power to help save the world and an evil one will use it for destruction.
In order to protect the Yuh Yi Joo from the evil serpent named Buraki, the heavens embed this spiritual force into the body of a young girl once every five hundred years. This special endowment is represented by a birth mark on the shoulder of the young woman in the shape of a dragon. As an additional defense, the heavens bestow two human protectors to the blessed girl.
Sadly, the first girl chosen is ultimately killed (along with her protectors) before the good Immogi can unite with her. Buraki, having coveted the Yuh Yi Joo immensely, now begins to wait for the next girl to be chosen.
Fast forward five hundred years, and it’s now 2007 in current Los Angeles. Ethan (Jason Behr) is a reporter assigned to cover the recent mysterious destruction of an area of the city. As he is subjected to dreams about serpents attacking the city, he comes to the realization that he is the reincarnated spirit of the previous protector of the Yuh Yi Joo. All he knows is that the girl’s name is Sarah and she will have what appears to be a tattoo of a dragon on her shoulder.
His search leads him to a young woman who was recently quarantined in a local hospital after complaining of mysterious dreams about serpents. As he goes to meet her, Buraki also lays siege to the hospital Sarah (Amanda Brooks) is currently staying at. This forces Ethan and Sarah to go on the run in an attempt to hide from the evil serpent while also figuring out how to give the good Imoogi the Yuh Yi Joo.
While this copy of “Dragon Wars” was only standard def DVD, I was very impressed by the picture being shown. All the colors were very sharp and vibrant. The city of Los Angeles is represented in high detail and the upconversion to 1080i was very good. All of the dragons and creatures shown looked good as did the battle scenes.
I highly enjoyed the 5.1 soundtrack. Considering all the activity going on on the screen, the detail of the sound work was impressive. The dialogue was clear and well balanced, even during the most hectic of action sequences. Also of note is the presence of the LFE track which was put to very convincing use. My subwoofer got a fantastic workout throughout most of the movie so I’d recommend securing anything not nailed down.
“Dragon Wars” is lacking somewhat in extra features. Included with the disk is one twenty minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a storyboard to screen documentary, and a concept art gallery. I actually found the featurette to be very informative, considering its relatively short length. The majority of the time is spent with the director Hyung Rae Shim in what appears to be a premiere showing in Korea. He speaks about how proud he was to have this movie made to the quality it was, as well having Mark Mangini and Steve Jablonsky sign on to the project even with their small budget.
The storyboard documentary was about what could be expected, going into detail how the producers turned their plan for shooting into a computer generated reality. The concept art gallery was probably the coolest feature provided and any person who is into eastern dragon design styles will probably love this.
As I said before, I was very excited to tear into this movie. I’ve always been a fan of monster movies as well as sci-fi films so “Dragon Wars” seemed like a no-brainer. I came out disappointed with several aspects, most notably the lack of any actual dragon war for the vast majority of the film. The title is “Dragon Wars” but a more appropriate name could have been “A Snake Chasing Two People Around L.A.” Save for the last five minutes of the movie, there is no fighting between evil serpent Buraki and the Good Imoogi (the movie never gives a name to the benevolent dragon-to-be).
Second on my list is the acting, which at times was uneven. I’m not sure how much of this rests on the shoulders of the actors vs. the script itself, but either way there was certainly something missing at times during the movie. I also noticed a few cliché moments from the actors, particularly Bruce (Craig Robinson). I’ll put this one on the shoulders of the script more than anything else, since that is the source material the whole movie is derived from.
While “Dragon Wars” will not be winning any awards anytime soon, it was still fairly enjoyable given the misgivings above. If the viewer can go into it without any expectations, there is an entertaining movie buried underneath the problems. A monster movie, after all, usually does have a bit of the “cheese” factor involved.
5.5 / 10