Tuesday, August 05, 2008

D-War = The League on Crazy Pills

So, this weekend Jason and I watched the 2007 film "Dragon War" off the ol' DVR. The movie was in theaters only last summer, and already its made its way from theatrical release, through DVD and onto basic cable (most likely bypassing HBO, etc... en route).

One should enter into watching any movie with a raised eye-brow when one cannot determine if a movie is called "Dragon Wars" or "D-War". Even when the movie begins and both titles share equal importance during the credits.

Opening in modern day Los Angeles, the movie quickly goes through a flashback, wrapped in a flashback, wrapped in Robert Forester dumping a lot of exposition and Korean words with which you can't possibly keep pace.

The story to the movie is probably not that complex, but the writer/ director's inability to simply get out of the way of device and tell a story is mind-boggling. Let alone his refusal to provide characters with story-arcs, growth, and dialog that doesn't sound like it came from a Babelfish translation. Also, the director's idea for a black character is mostly an amalgamation of other black sidekick buddies who tend to say things like "That's whack!" and "Say whaaat?" Unfortunately, he cast Craig Robinson of "The Office" and Apatow film fame, who is making a career out of not being the black-guy stand-in character. The whole thing reminded me of this scene from Clone High.

And there's a really weird scene where Robinson's character is attacked by one of the villains with a magic sword, and our two heroes abandon him as soon as its convenient. Bad enough, but in the next scene they comment on how "he's probably fine", though they left him for dead.

Say, whaaaaat?

The appropriate reaction to this picture is to click on it, which will blow it up to a much larger size. You will then want to perform a face melting air guitar solo in front of your computer.

Several times during the movie, I turned to Jason and said "I have no idea what's going on". It's always a little bizarre to watch a movie and get that same feeling I used to get in college watching a movie after a few drinks, and that's why you can't keep up. But when your only substance of abuse is a Starbucks Frappucino and a pack of Willy Wonka "Shockers", well... you begin to feel a bit like you've been taking crazy pills.

Which is always a sure sign that you're in for a treat of a movie.

I don't know if I was supposed to be making inferences about how Point A was tied to Point G, skipping all points between. Or, in fact, what was going on for huge chunks of the movie. Such as, where was the good-guy Dragon larvae? What was this Grand Cave they referred to frequently, but which never shows up in the film? And why had nobody but one sad sack zoo keeper noticed the 200 yard-long snake (which must have weighed several thousand tons) zipping through the streets of LA? And why would the cops believe the five dead and mutilated elephants (tossed around like rag dolls) were the work of the zoo keeper?

Inexplicably, there's a ten minute stretch in the middle of the film that's suddenly and jarringly pretty good. 16th Century Korean Magical knights and their reptilian steeds take to the streets of Los Angeles, and the effect is lot more rewarding than the jumbled mess of a street brawl from Transformers (which I think used the same streets for their climactic battle).

You may do the air guitar riff thing once again. This $#!& is totally rad.

What's most disturbing about the movie is that they hired some actors you'll recognize, such as the lovely and underappreciated Elizabeth Pena, and then stick them in thankless supporting roles. Its just bizarre casting. And I could understand "The snakes are the stars of the show" pitch for casting unknowns as leads, but neither is able to do anything with their part. My gut reaction is: hey, these guys can't act. When I'm pretty sure the reality is: hey, I think the director is awful and Meryl Streep couldn't do anything with this dialog.

That doesn't mean anything about the final scenes of the movie makes any sense, but it's staged well, and you can see the money right up there on the screen. Until they shift to the end at some mystical castle which appears to be in Apache Junction, Arizona. And I don't feel like I'm giving anything away, because... really.

I have to recommend "D-War: Dragon Wars" or "Dragon War: D-War", or whatever its called. It will blow your mind.


Michael Corley said...

Just reading your post makes me feel like I've come off a drug trip for a medication I've never taken.

Dug said...

Oh my. I may have to seek this out. It's probably not a big enough film for the RiffTrax guys to do, but the home game should be fun.

J.S. said...

My enjoyment of the movie was somehwat tempered by The League yelling out, "WHAT?!?!" incredulously every five minutes. I tried to make up excuses to cover the gaping plotholes for as long as I could, but in the end I was overwhelmed.

k1 said...

Ah Dug dreams can come true...