February 4, 2012

Dragon Wars: D-War: Bring on the Bilingual Lizards

A Korean movie in English? Should such a thing exist, Dragon Wars: D-War is it. Written-directed by Shim Hyung-rae, and produced by Korean mainstay Showbox, this action pic relates the fabulist adventures of a young American reporter (Jason Behr), his shape-shifting mentor (Robert Forster), and his whiny blonde love interest (Amanda Brooks), all of whom are the reincarnations of Koreans (Park Hyun-jin, Ban Hyo-jin, and Lee Jong-man) from 500 years ago. Because of that, Dragon Wars can feel a bit like a parallel universe. Where else can a white hero quote Korean proverbs, a white sage rattle off implausible Korean history, and a white FBI agent (Chris Mulkey) feel compelled to kill a damsel-in-distress because of his familiarity with some mumbo jumbo Korean mythology? It's as if the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailed from Busan instead of Castille's Palos de la Frontera.

Yet despite being bizarrely bi-cultural if welcomely bilingual thanks to an extended flashback, Dragon Wars first and foremost speaks the language of the action movie. Your ability to like this movie depends really on a willingness to sacrifice plot and character development for the joys of special effects and car explosions. Literalists will say Dragon Wars is about a young woman's destiny to birth a phosphorescent orb that will let an enormous snake sprout legs and antlers and thereby slay his evil adversary (also a supersized serpent). Truth-tellers will recognize Dragon Wars for what it is: An unapologetic excuse to see a lot of otherworldly creatures encounter various forms of weaponry in unending battle.

From the looks of it, mankind has cultivated the art of war over the last five centuries while the reptiles have let their mastery of torpedoes grow a tad slack. A giant snake may coil itself around a skyscraper but it can eventually be slain by armed helicopters. Fireball-hacking pterodactyls can terrorize the screaming masses but a militia of black-clad SWAT team members positioned on the city's rooftops are their equals at least. In the final fight of man versus monster, humans can defend themselves quite ably. Those overweight, elephantine Dune lizards that resemble supersized bathtub-squeeze toys with rocket-blasters on their shoulders aren't unbeatable foes. Not at all. Every roar must meet a rat-a-tat-tat, every ka-boom must meet its ka-boom. In this doomsday of resurrected dinosaurs, each side will have its share of casualties. What a pity the ingenue has chosen to wear a white sweater during Armageddon. If it's the end of the world, be sensible about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment