A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 361 – Dragon Wars

Dragon Wars – February 24th, 2011

There are some movies, like Sharks in Venice for example, that seem to require a vocabulary all their own. They’re not good movies by any means, but they’re bad in a very particular way. In a way that makes me sit back and go “This is beautiful. This is amazing. I am so glad we own this.” We have a bunch of them. The aforementioned shark movie, Megaforce, and now this. I take full responsibility for us owning this movie and I am so glad I picked it up. I wasn’t expecting a good movie and oh, I didn’t get one. I got exactly what I wanted and so much more.

The FYE closest to us is, sadly, closing. It was always a nice place to drop by and browse, pick out a movie or two. We bought most of our Star Trek: TNG there. Now that it’s closing they’re selling off everything they’ve got. So the other day we went in and I poked through the 80% off bins and found multiple copies of this movie, in special tins, no less. I knew Andy wouldn’t protest. I knew he’d wonder what made me pick it up, but he wouldn’t protest. And he didn’t. I picked it up because I knew it would be pure fantasy cheese. It would be overblown and poorly scripted and utterly ridiculous and I had a good feeling about it. A feeling that said it would somehow have the right combination to be thoroughly enjoyable while also being incredibly bad.

About when the movie flashed back to an ancient Korean folktale that involves an army with mounted velociraptors and huge dinosaurs with rocket launchers on their backs, I knew I was right. Like I said, some movies just need a new vocabulary. Because while I would never describe this as a good movie, it is so very awesome. It is fantastically bad. And it has a bizarre level of self-awareness that doesn’t ever quite dip into parody, but certainly gets close, like when a passer-by sees the baddie walk through a chainlink fence and tries to copy him, succeeding only in bonking her head. Or when the main character’s best friend rolls his eyes and pokes fun at him expecting to narrow down the search for “a woman named Sara, 19 years old, with a tattoo, in LA” to a single person. I don’t have the right words for this movie. They’re all contradictions.

I’m not even sure it’s worth trying to give a rundown of what happens in this movie in any coherent manner. The basic plot supposedly deals with an ancient Korean myth about a young woman born with the power needed for one of two giant serpents to become a dragon and ascend into heaven. And in the myth the young woman dies before she can give her power to a serpent and so five hundred years later in LA she’s reborn as a blonde chick named Sarah and her champion is reborn as a floppy haired reporter named Ethan. A few days before Sarah turns 20 the evil giant serpent and its army show up and smash up the city and I mentioned the dinosaurs with the rocket launchers, right? There’s a lot of talk about destiny, and the FBI is involved somehow and no one believes there’s a giant elephant-eating snake loose in the city even though you’d think they’d notice that sort of thing. Ethan finds Sarah by what could be pure luck or could be the bizarre machinations of the guy who told Ethan the story about the serpents. It doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the movie cares much.

The movie doesn’t seem to care about a lot. Things get handwaved all over the place, there are some massive plot holes (big enough for the snake to slither through) and characterization? What characterization? Who cares about giving character background or any sort of connection to these people when we can have more scenes of a giant serpent attacking people and drinking out of swimming pools? Who cares about cohesive plot when there are fireball breathing pterodactyls attacking military helicopeters over LA? I mean, really? There are two Wilhelms in this movie. Two! Normally, while I could accept mythological dragons and the like, I’d have to draw the line at dewbacks with rocket launchers in ancient Korea, but not here. This here is a special place where such things exist in harmony. And to cap it all off, there’s an absolutely lovely dragon at the end. Okay, so most of the movie is more Snake Wars than Dragon Wars, but there is a dragon, and it’s very pretty and not a dinosaur at all. I’m proud to say I picked this up. I just wish I had the right terminology to describe it.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Dragon Wars: D-War

February 24, 2011

Dragon Wars: D-War

I admit that I never had any intention of buying this movie. I love a good cheesy movie, but I had been led to believe that this was a movie with no redeeming value. I distinctly remember at the time of this movie’s theatrical release that the producers refused to allow the reviewers in the press to see it before it came out. (Because they knew that the reviewers would in all likeliness not be kind.) The user review that appeared in IMDB today when I went to look the movie up said simply “Dragon Wars sucks.” But Amanda saw this at FYE during an “everything must go” closing sale and convinced me that our collection needed more cheese, so we bought it, and here it is.

What amazes me is that in point of fact this movie is hardly crap at all. Oh, it’s very poorly plotted and clumsily written, and has several unintentionally hilarious moments, but the effects are exceptionally good for a cheesy monster movie. (Compare them, for example, with Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus or Megalodon – these are a thousand times better.) The action is fun, if non-sensical. There’s even a sort of cool factor to watching helicopters and tanks doing battle with dinosaurs with rocket launchers strapped to their backs. Just because the movie sometimes has the feeling of having been written by a twelve year old boy does not necessarily make it unwatchable.

Our hero here is Ethan Kendrick, a reporter for a fictitious news network who dresses like he’s in the seventies. After seeing a giant reptilian scale at what is supposedly a natural gas explosion he has a flashback to when he was a young boy and he met a crazy antique dealer. In the flashback the antique dealer, Jack, tells young Ethan the backstory for the movie, which involves two mighty serpents in ancient Korea and the woman with the dragon tattoo (not that one) who has inside her the mystical energy they need to ascend to the heavens. Five hundred years ago in Korea the evil serpent had at his command a vast army of invulnerable warriors, flying dragons, velociraptor mounts and lumbering dinosaurs with rocket launchers. This giant army laid waste to the simple medeival village where the young woman Narin and her defender Haram live. Narin is supposed to have sacrificed herself so that the good serpent could ascend, but instead she and Haram flee, and ultimately the two of them die together rather than let the evil serpent get her power. Now, five hundred years later, the two of them have been resurrected as Ethan and Sarah Daniels. Sarah is about to turn twenty years old, which means that all the forces of darkness are out to find her, and the only hope for the world is that Ethan find her first.

The plot for the most part makes no sense. For example – there’s a scene about midway through that was clearly a pick-up done in post production where Sarah asks Ethan after one of their many close escapes from the giant evil serpent what happened to his friend Bruce, who had been driving the getaway car, because he’s simply not in the next few scenes. The two of them are in a hospital, then they’re on a beach, then they’re in a coffee shop, then they climb up the stairs of a skyscraper to catch a helicopter, then they go back down the stairs when the snake crashes the helicopter, then they try to drive to Mexico, and then for no particular reason they’re in an alternate dimension that looks suspiciously like the exterior for Orthanc. Sense is not to be had here. But there’s plenty of humor, epic battles and an angry giant snake smashing up all of Los Angeles. Amanda and I laughed out loud several times. Sometimes the jokes were even intentional.

It’s kind of apropriate that we watched this right after The Island because writer/Director Hyung-rae Shim would seem to have ambitions towards becoming the Korean Michael Bay. There are a lot of explosions. There are many, many expensive special effects. There are not one, but two Wilhelm screams. In short: this entire mess of a movie is one long collection of digital effects and battle scenes weakly held together by a flimsy plot. And yes, by the end, there’s even a dragon – which is extremely cool when it finally does show up.

I applaud Hyung-ray Shim. This movie is a crowning achievement in the world of mega cheese. The ultimate triumph of style over substance. Although I never would have willingly bought this movie without Amanda’s encouragement I’m happy to say that I’d watch it again with pleasure, and I’m actually glad we own it.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment