As someone weaned on matinées in which Japanese dudes dressed as giant lizards stomped through scale models of Tokyo, I’m giving Dragon Wars a little extra leeway just out of nostalgia. It’s not particularly good, but it’s nice to have something like this taking up a screen at the local multiplex again.
But then, this is Korean and not Japanese, and the suits have been replaced with barely adequate CGI, but it still fills the niche. It also helps that the skyline of Tokyo has been replaced with the familiar landmarks of Los Angeles taking the brunt of the mayhem. Burn, Hollywood, burn. That makes the popcorn box a little happier right there.
A throwback to the ‘70s sensibility of casting American actors in Asian films, here we have some nonsensical back story that sort of explains that way-back-when there were two star-crossed lovers who sacrificed themselves rather than fall into the hands of an evil Cylon-looking mofo who wanted to sacrifice the female part of the equation. For some reason. Five hundred years later, the dude is back with his dragon army, stalking the reincarnation of the girl to pick up where they left off, taking more than a few narrative cues from The Terminator as he plots to end the New Hope that this Sarah carries in her womb.
None of that really makes sense or for that matter even really matters. That’s just the stuff you have to put up with between scenes of a giant snake slithering around the City of Angels eating elephants and the big dragon attack that is saved for the end. The film has a modest running time, so the wait doesn’t last long. As the big battle plays out, it’s a corker, worth the matinée price alone for the dogfight between Black Hawk helicopters and flying dragons, while below the giant snake pounds through the intersections tossing flaming cars about in its wake. Throw in loads of stilted dialogue and more than a few scenes of Kung Fu action, and you’re good to go.
It’s all rather silly, but given the choice between giant dragons tearing up a city or giant ‘80s toys doing the same, it’s a no-brainer. Dragons rule.