D-War (2007)


Dir. Shim Hyung-Rae
Premiered August 1, 2007

I…I don’t even know what to say.

Going in, all I knew was that D-War was a Korean film, financed in Korea and directed by a Korean but filmed in Los Angeles and with an American cast that featured Craig Robinson, castmember of The Office and one-scene wonder of the previously-reviewed Knocked Up. And that it was terrible.

But I wasn’t expecting it to be this kind of terrible.

Every five hundred years, there is a battle between good and evil dragons known in Korean as imoogis. With battle soon to come, an ancient Korean shaman-warrior is reincarnated as Los Angeles antique dealer Jack (Robert Forster), who imparts this knowledge on his maybe-protégé Ethan Kendrick (Jason Behr), as well as a mission to find the Yuh Yi Joo, a girl who can turn an imoogi into a godlike Celestial Dragon on her twentieth birthday. And that her name is Sarah and is born with a dragon tattoo.

Kendrick, a cable news journalist who always reports live with his shirt open, resembling a 1970s lothario, begins looking for Sarah when dragon’s scales begin appearing in Los Angeles. In a sudden leap of plot, Sarah (Amanda Brooks) is taken into a mental institution when the evil dragon Buraki begins popping up around town, looking to consume Sarah so he can destroy the world. Luckily (?), Kendrick finds her first, and they end up in a battle, and there’s a supernatural army working for Buraki led by this guy who looks kinda like Henry Rollins…I don’t know.

D-War, advertised and labeled as Dragon Wars, but not officially called that, is impossible to follow from the first minute and never stops. This is odd, considering that 70% of the film’s dialogue is exposition. Then again, every single line of exposition could and should be followed up with “how do you know that?” Everyone in the movie knows everything, without explanation. They know what to do in every situation, and are totally capable as the plot demands. Kendrick seems to understand Korean with native proficiency, Sarah makes medieval Korean charms to protect herself (it’s ambiguous if she knows what they are, but Goddammit, she made them). Jack can teleport and shapeshift for no reason, and Kendrick’s fellow journalist Bruce (Craig Robinson) can somehow search an online database for women with dragon tattoos.

Honestly, there is so much wrong with the film that trying to point them all out is fruitless. If CinemaSins did a video on it, it would have to be at least twice as long as the actual movie. The special effects are about on par with Sharknado. The actors all speak in muttered monotone, and can barely be understood thanks to poor sound mixing. The fight scenes are more incomprehensible than the climax of Alex Cross.

The movie also features multiple rips on The Lord of the Rings. Not only does it feature an assortment of mythical baddies with which the film assumes the audience is somehow already familiar with, it notably includes shot-for-shot approximations of the siege of Minas Tirith, Moria, and Mordor, all of which apparently exist within driving distance of present-day Los Angeles. The film doesn’t even explain where these places are, so how can I?

And holy shit, I owe Michael Bay an apology, because the end of Transformers isn’t nearly as insulting in its 9/11-esque Downtown Los Angeles destruction binge as the bizarrely similar but much worse one that takes place here. When Buraki wraps himself around the famous Library Tower, it is referred to repeatedly as the “Liberty Building,” because George Bush once flubbed a line in the 2006 State of the Union Address by calling it “the Liberty Tower,” and the screenwriter couldn’t even get that right.

I am torn on D-War. Objectively, it is the worst movie I have ever reviewed. No question. It is the worst acted, worst directed, worst written (if written at all), worst shot, and worst edited film, maybe, that I have ever seen. Even The Room had Chris-R.

On the other hand, it doesn’t really earn its badness. It’s too leaden and careless to be enjoyably shit, and not unique enough to be the object of bile fascination– everything that’s bad about this movie, you’ve seen before (mainly by way of SyFy and Uwe Boll); here they just happen to come in one package. So while it is, to date, the worst movie of 2007, don’t take that as a recommendation.

Sign This Was Made in 2007
The movie flat out says it. Which is a first!

How Did It Do?
D-War grossed $75.1 million against a $32 million budget. Despite heavy print marketing in the US, it only did $11 million there. The vast majority of the grosses, some $55.2 million, came from its native South Korea, making it the fourth-most successful Korean movie ever made. As Korean culture has become more popular internationally, D-War’s position on that list has mercifully fallen, surpassed by such pictures as Snowpiercer and Train to Busan.

It got a still-way-too-high 29% rating on RottenTomatoes, but even most of the “positive” reviews called it garbage, which seems like a dubious application of the RT algorithm. Incredibly, rumors emerged in 2016 that Shim Hyung-Rae is preparing to direct a sequel.

Next Time: Bratz


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