“Uproariously funny!” is a reviewer’s blurb you’d expect to describe Superbad or Knocked Up. But I’m not talking about a comedy. Sadly, I’m talking about a Korean monster movie, Dragon Wars, and it’s comically bad.
Let me put it this way. At some point, I found myself missing the relative intelligence of the trailer for Resident Evil 4: This Franchise Died Two Sequels Ago that we had seen before the movie.
First, the plot holes. When I say that the plot has gaping holes, I mean the holes are big enough to accommodate a fleet of tractor trailers dragging a a school of blue whales.
To further cheapen the experience, writer/director Hyung-rae Shim employs the lamest contrivances seen this side of a 1990s martial arts B-movie in a half-assed attempt to fill the yawning plot holes. You might as well try to fill the holes in the ozone layer with a bag full of cotton balls.
But that’s not the worst part. As the movie progresses (and by “progresses,” I mean, “moves forward, chronologically,” not “moves the plot forward”), Shim clearly gives up on his band-aid contrivances altogether.
Rather than reach into my grab bag of superlatives to describe the extent of the ghastly storytelling, I’ll let you paint the picture yourself, based on a scene from the movie:
Corrupt FBI agent guy points a gun at the Heroine, from a few feet away. He starts to pull the trigger.
Hero jumps in front of the Heroine (BLAM!), taking the bullet.
Good FBI agent shoots the corrupt FBI agent. Good FBI agent and Heroine pick Hero off the ground, asking, “Are you Ok?”
Hero: “I’m fine.”
And he is! Perfectly A-O-K. At that cue, “I’m fine,” the film moves on to another scene, where the Hero continues to run around like he. Wasn’t. Just. Shot.
That’s it! No, “Don’t worry, ’tis but a flesh wound.” No, “It just got me in the shoulder, I’ll live.” No, “Ow, it hurts, but don’t worry about me…”
Literally, he’s fine. After getting shot, he gets up off the ground like he just tripped over his own shoelaces or something. And you know what? By that late point in the movie, the audience is only mildly surprised, because eventually, you become numb to the inexplicable.
(Seriously. Just look at President Bush. Can he really do anything stupid enough to surprise you, at this point?)
Throw us a bone here, Hyung-rae Shim! At least pretend like you’re not screening a movie for retarded monkeys who only need loud noises and pretty pictures to keep them entertained!
Here’s the good news:
1) It’s so bad… it’s good. In the beginning of the movie, an old man sets the stage for the movie’s events by sharing with a young boy the legend of the dragons. He tells a story so nonsensical and convoluted that you’re not sure whether to laugh at the writer’s glaring laziness and/or talentlessness, or to be insulted that this steaming pile would be hoisted upon you after paying ten bucks for the privilege.
This sensation follows you for the rest of the film.
At the conclusion of the old man’s story, the little boy looks at him–and without any apparent sense of irony, echoing the thoughts of everyone in the theater–says, “What are you talking about?” Cue the first of many unintentionally-solicited eruptions of laughter from the audience.
2) The battle between the dragons and the modern, conventional army in downtown Los Angeles is pretty frickin’ sweet. I mean, this is what people showed up to see, isn’t it? But I’m not sure I can venture out onto the limb where I would say it makes the rest of the movie worthwhile. Five minutes of hard-core dragon battle action doesn’t exactly mitigate seemingly endless minutes of plot vomit.
If you ever see this movie (and it’s perfect for enjoying on cable, preferably in HD), see which of these bits of information gives you more pause:
1) The movie (which is mostly in English) is chock-full of immediately-recognizable American actors, who have done perfectly respectable work. Jason Behr from Roswell, Craig Robinson from The Office, Geoffrey Pierson of 24 and Dexter, Elizabeth Pena, and many others.
2) This is the reportedly the most-expensive Korean movie ever made, and it set the opening weekend record in Korea.
I almost lost respect for South Korea, thanks to this movie… but then I wondered what they must have thought of us when they saw Norbit.