Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dragon War

(2007) **1/2

Read I'mnotMarc's review for the plot details I'm not going to get into here.

I see this referred to interchangably as Dragon Wars and D-War, and I wondered which one would be the real, genuine title after I'd hauled my ass to the theater to see it. The title flared on the the screen: "Dragon Wars" and then right underneath it "D-War." What, they had to use both titles, because they both kick so much ass? At that point, the muscles in my face that I use to squint and go "huh?" got the first workout of many to come.

But first of all, right out front, the big honkin' bad cobra is a superb monster. The CG ranges from pretty darn good to passable, but Buraki the evil Imugi always looks bad ass, even if he spends way too much time gnashing menacingly when he should be gobbling people up. The scenes of the monster attacks in downtown LA are damn fun as well. If you felt cheated by Reign of Fire's helicopter vs. dragon fight (unlike the poster art, there was only one helicopter involved), then this movie is the antidote. And there's a number of worthy sights, like a horde of flying dragons clustered on the side of a building, or the giant mega-cobra sidewinding down a major downtown street with such speed that cars are flying ID-4 style.

However, this movie has a terminal amount of narrative disconnect. It starts with a flashback in a flashback, which is never a good sign. It never explains how as recently as 500 years ago it was a given in Korea that there were giant intelligent snakes and armies equipped with huge two-legged slug lizards with surface-to-air missle launchers on their backs. Nor does it explain how our hero takes a point blank bullet and minutes later stands up without a scratch, or how a 600 foot long snake manages to sneak around downtown LA. Seriously, Buraki launches about 4 surprise attacks before going public, just by popping up behind buildings. And he's huge.

These problems are minor, however, compared to the whiplash you get from the way the story is edited. Robert Forster, playing the Ben Kenobi part, is seen meditating in his antique shop. The human bad guy is seen strutting in from outside. And next...we never find out. Forster is next seen as an array of disguised do-gooder roles, sagely morphing back into himself after the two pretty young heroes are gently boosted like wee tots into the next part of the movie. The evil guy apparently takes over the antique shop, because several confusing edits later we see him summoning his dread army by magicking their pictures off of Robert's dusty scrolls -- which implies that our trusty Obi-Wan Kenobi character has stockpiled the enemy's arsenal for him by accident. The heroine calls an amblance, is locked up in the hospital for no apparent reason, and by the time we find out she's being quarantined because they think her dragon birthmark might be a rash (huh?), she's about thirty seconds from getting out. The big downtown dragon fight is interrupted for a few minutes for the big scene with Hank from Twin Peaks and then it goes back to LA for a little more. It's a mess!

One of my favorite Peanuts strips has Charlie Brown describing a car chase he saw on TV in which a cartload of oranges gets knocked over. He laments beautifully: "nobody went back to pick up the oranges." That sentence has been a catch phrase for JPX and me for decades. Anyway, by that yardstick this movie is like an orange tsunami. This craziness comes to a head when our heros are finally out of LA and headed for Mexico ("Get to the border!" says Julie in my ear, "they won't be able to follow you!") Our heroes are driving along and in a trice they're taken down like rank amateurs by a bunch of flying dragons. And they wake up in...MORDOR! Not really Mordor, of course, but in one second they go from southern California to some weird fantasy world with red skies, craggy dark cliffs and a humongous stone temple. Things get even sillier from there, but I'mnotMarc coves all that. But it's so bonkers: they never mention any magical dark land until you're actually beneath the raging thunderclouds, and then they strand the remaining players there at the end! Who's in charge here?

Anyhoozles, it's some pretty goofy stuff, but with good enough monsters that you wish they'd actually get it right. Here's hoping for 1-18-08.


Johnny Sweatpants said...

I don't get it. Both you and I'mNotMarc dissed this movie but based on the pictures and summary alone, it is most certainly a masterpiece...

I always get fired up when a Twin Peaks cast member pops up. We should have a seperate side competition for that alone.

JPX said...

I still have that Peanuts' strip! It makes me laugh every time.