2/24/09

R088 Dragon Wars: D-War

(2007, Fantasy-Sword & Sorcery/Horror, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Finally, someone brought a Pokemon sensibility to a Lord of the Rings style battle.

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

Korean mythology demolishes downtown Los Angeles.

Summary:

He pities the fool.Animated credits slide past the screen. A crazed Native American shrieks at cops from the side of a crater on the outskirts of L.A. A young reporter takes video of forensics experts uncovering a giant reptilian scale. He returns to his office and flashes back to when he was a boy, and his father abandoned him in a pawn shop with an old man who was a kung fu master in a previous life.

Within the flashback, the kung fu man flashes back five hundred years, when some sort of holy-ish thing fell from the heavens and marked a baby girl with a red dragon on her shoulder. This is very significant, because a band of cartoonish Sauron impersonators and their army of gungun-esque reptilians will stop at nothing to get it back. Flashbacked kung fu guy (your standard wise-and-bearded elderly Asian) trains a young man to protect the girl—called the, uh, Yu-Gi-Oh or something—until her twentieth birthday, when she will be sacrificed to a giant snake called the Great Gazoo. (Or, you know, Korean words to that effect.) Believe it or not, this is the good option. The bad option is to let the Sauron/Jar Jar army catch her and sacrifice her to Great Gazoo’s evil giant snake twin, B.A. Baracus.

Young trained Korean dude screws it all up when he falls in love with the girl and jumps of a cliff with her instead of sacrificing her. Why? Well, it’s something he decides to do after the flashback of the flashback flashes back to bits of earlier flashback, so, uh... I don’t know. We end up back in the “approximately ten years ago” flashback where the grizzled and now Caucasian kung fu guy dramatically reveals that the flashbacked young reporter is the reincarnation of the young trained Korean dude. He must find a girl with a red dragon mark on her shoulder and protect her until she can be sacrificed to the Great Googly Moogly or, er, something might happen maybe? Something bad?

Back to the present day, where the young reporter fiddles with the amulet the old man gave him as a prize for sitting still through the whole thing. He realizes that the dragon scale is a harbinger of, um... Well, he somehow knows the girl’s name is Sarah, and browbeats his jive-talkin’ black friend into searching a database of all the Sarahs in the greater L.A. area. No one is surprised when this well thought-out plan fails.

Completely inconspicuous.Cut to the aforementioned Sarah, who begins a series of disturbing nightmares and even more disturbing waking encounters with Sauron impersonators and giant snakes until she’s finally hospitalized. Oddly, no one notices the skyscraper-sized reptile until he’s chomped down several elephants, Sarah’s roommate, and half the hospital she’s staying at.

Reporter dude finally finds her (due to an unlikely set of coincidences and the friendly intervention of the shapeshifting kung fu guy) just in time to run away for two straight days while the Sauron Jar Jars join forces with the reawakened B.A. Baracus snake to slaughter every last inhabitant of downtown L.A. Flying Jar Jars finally catch up with our heroes while they attempt to flee to Mexico.

The preceding paragraph describes approximately half the film.

The final showdown takes place in an extra-dimensional desert, where the Saurian baddies prepare to sacrifice Sarah to their giant snake. Reporter guy is tied, Indiana Jones-style, to a nearby pole. He shouts at them until his magic amulet glows and turns the evil army to dust. B.A. Baracus is still intact, though. He’s about to eat them when the Great Googly Moogly finally shows up again. Identical CGI snakes fight until the Great Gazoo goes down for the count. Baracus looms up again, but Sarah pops her soul out of her body and sends him chasing all over the landscape like a kitten after a laser pointer. Her soul pops into Gazoo’s mouth; the good snake eats it and turns into a dragon, roasting his evil twin to death with his newly fiery breath.

Old kung fu guy shows up to smile and wave before fading into the afterlife. (So he was a ghost all along?) Sarah’s soul pops out of Gazoo’s mouth clad in a ridiculous conical dress and promises to wait for reporter dude in heaven before popping back in again. She probably won’t have long to wait, because as of the closing credits our hero remains stranded without food or water in the endless, featureless desert of another dimension.

Thoughts:

The movie's only dragon shows us his backside.Of note: This is a ninety-minute film called “Dragon Wars”, the last eight minutes of which are closing credits. The first and only dragon of the film appears somewhere around minute seventy-five.

I’d say this was the most laughably ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, but since December 2007 I can no longer say that about anything but The ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special. If I hadn’t seen TSWHS, though, Dragon Wars would be a shoo-in. The CGI and cinematography look decent, but they’re pushed haphazardly together and often focus on the irrelevant. Though mostly bloodless, the movie has a higher body count than Total Recall. The script makes no sense. (When, exactly, did our leads fall in love? What do all those meaningless dream sequences have to do with anything? Why is that old lady trying to walk through a wall, and why do even the flashbacks of flashbacks of flashbacks have flashbacks?) And yet, through it all, it remains exuberant and inoffensive. It’s like someone gave millions of dollars and a crew of professionals to an eight-year-old and then told him to go nuts.

The riffers professed some difficulty with this one—during the introduction, Kevin asks the Comic Con panel that selected it for them to “go entirely to hell”—but damned if it didn’t turn out to be one of the funniest things they’ve done. Favorite comments: When the kid reporter interrupts the old man’s nested flashbacks to ask, “What are you talking about?” Mike says, “Thank you.” (This happens a number of times.) During the oddly one-sided battle with the U.S. military, Bill laments, “If only our tanks were made of dragons, they would be able to withstand those blasts.” When the magic amulet annihilates the evil army for no reason, Kevin muses, “The lesson here is: Just do stuff and stuff will happen.” When the dragon finally appears at the end, the riffers try to decide which celebrity voice to give it, finally settling on an Al Pacino impression that had me laughing so hard I could scarcely breathe. Here’s another one for the “riffs absolutely everyone must see” pile.