Newest Reviews
American Fiction
Poor Things
Legend of the Bat
Party Line
Night Fright
Pacha, Le
Assemble Insert
Venus Tear Diamond, The
Beauty's Evil Roses, The
Free Guy
Huck and Tom's Mississippi Adventure
Rejuvenator, The
Who Fears the Devil?
Guignolo, Le
Batman, The
Land of Many Perfumes
Cat vs. Rat
Tom & Jerry: The Movie
Naked Violence
Joyeuses Pacques
Strangeness, The
How I Became a Superhero
Golden Nun
Incident at Phantom Hill
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Maigret Sets a Trap
Hell's Wind Staff, The
Topo Gigio and the Missile War
Battant, Le
Penguin Highway
Cazadore de Demonios
Imperial Swordsman
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
  D-War do not despise the snake for having no horns...
Year: 2008
Director: Shim Hyung-Rae
Stars: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Jihwan Min, Hyun Jin Park, Hyojin Ban, Craig Robinson, Aimee Garcia, Chris Mulkey, John Ales, Elizabeth Peña, Billy Gardell, Cody Arens
Genre: Action, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Given the biggest budget in Korean film history, D-War (also known as Dragon Wars) was their attempt to make an international blockbuster, including American and Korean actors and state-of-the-art special effects. A beautifully animated credits sequence has traditional ink paintings come to life while a cheesy voiceover (“Now is the time for destiny to unfold!”) recounts the legend of the Imoogi, giant serpents who by performing good deeds transform into dragons and ascend into heaven.

Earnest TV reporter Ethan Kendrick (Jason Behr) stumbles across an archaeological site full of monster bones, which triggers a childhood flashback. On a visit to an antique store, young Ethan (Cody Arens) finds a box with a blue glowing, reptilian scale. Jack (Robert Forster), the store’s mysterious owner, tells him the story of Buraki, an evil Imoogi whose warrior legions plagued 16th century Korea. The serpent searches for a heavenly pill able to grant him dragon-hood and immortality, that manifests in human form as aristocrat’s daughter, Yuh Yi-Joo (Hyojin Ban). Heavenly warriors Bochun (Jihwan Min) and Haram (Hyun Jin Park) are assigned to keep Yi-Joo away from harm, until she is eventually returned to heaven. But Haram falls in love with the girl and when Buraki’s vast army lays waste to the city, they leap hand-in-hand into the sea.

At the end of his tale, Jack reveals he himself is Bochan and Ethan is Haram, reborn to protect Yuh Yi-Joo from Buraki, who will soon return. Nineteen years later, Ethan searches for Sarah Daniels (Amanda Brooks), the reincarnation of Yi-Joo, who unaware of her fate is pursued by Buraki’s minions. Soon Los Angeles is besieged by mystical warriors astride cavalry dinosaurs called “Shaconnes”; small, fireball spewing, winged dragons called “Bulcos”; huge, lumbering “Dawdlers” who carry rocket-launchers on their back; and one seriously scary, giant snake.

Believe it or not, it was Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay who ignited the renaissance of Korea’s film industry when The Rock (1996) inspired the groundbreaking, mega-hit Shiri (1998). Since then, Korean filmmakers have often looked to the Bruckheimer/Bay style and D-War marks perhaps the ultimate example of this trend. A mind-boggling fusion of Korean mythology, Fifties monster movie clichés and American blockbusters, this half-crazed fusion of Godzilla (1998), Transformers (2007), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and The Lord of the Rings (2001) is the unlikely brainchild of writer-producer-director Shim Hyung Rae, the man who was once Korea’s answer to Benny Hill!

Shim Hyung Rae found fame on a long-running soap opera, playing the mentally handicapped (and deeply politically incorrect) comic relief, Yung Gu. The character was spun off into the Ureme movies (1986-1993), an eight part, kiddie sci-fi serial whose special effects were clips raided from 1970s anime shows. Imagine if Harry Potter movies stole theirs from old Hanna-Barbera cartoons! An unexpected breakthrough arrived with Tyranno’s Claw (1994), his surprisingly accomplished cavemen vs. dinosaurs romp, after which Hyung Rae seemingly set out to become Korea’s Steven Spielberg, with Dragon Tuka (1996) - an adventure with famous Korean folk heroes - and the woeful Yongary 2000 (2000, duh) - a remake of a Sixties Godzilla rip-off.

Shim Hyung-Rae has clearly been studying his Bruckheimer/Bay movies since D-War has all their familiar trademarks: bombastic MTV visuals, near-constant explosions, colossal set-pieces, but also the same logic loopholes and vapid characters, including the token wisecracking black best friend. A fact which prompted social realist filmmaker Leesong Hee-Il to observe: “D-War is not a movie, but rather like a fake American toaster that was made in the Korean black market back in the 1970s”, although the film was a huge success in its native land and the highest grossing Korean film in America, despite critics likening it to a bloated TV movie made for the Sci-Fi Channel.

A bewildered looking Robert Forster struggles to narrate an incredibly complex back-story full of intriguing folk lore and mystical detail, although it is fun to see him levitate and fling bad guys fifty feet into the air. Later on there’s a nod to Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), of all things, when a dream therapy machine makes Sara float and spout spooky voices. The leads spend most of their time running away, leaving the action to anonymous military men with whom we have zero emotional investment, yet the scale and ambition of its CG set-pieces remain incredibly impressive.

There are scenes to delight your monster-loving inner child: soldiers shoot it out with bullet-proof mystical warriors, Apache helicopters duelling with dragons, the amazing sight of Buraki coiling itself around a skyscraper and a rather excellent Celestial Dragon versus giant snake climax that imparts some of the lyricism of Korean fantasy. Cheesy, but chockfull of B-movie fun, D-War might someday become a cult favourite.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 4343 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Louise Hackett
Mark Le Surf-hall
Andrew Pragasam
Mary Sibley
Graeme Clark
  Desbris M


Last Updated: