It’s a unique feeling to leave a movie not just disappointed, but angry as well.
“Dragon Wars” gives you that feeling. Everything goes wrong in this movie, a Korean monster plot set in Los Angeles (don’t ask). But once you exit the theater, a curious thing happens. You might find yourself remembering the movie with fondness. In every logical sense, it’s awful work, but you can’t help but feel loyal to the experience.
Let me explain. Think of it as what “Snakes on a Plane” should have been. It’s the most serious of glorifiable camp; there’s not a single self-conscious moment here. To describe the plot is somewhat difficult (what I did understand: the protagonists are reincarnated spirits of two dragon protectors from 500 years earlier, mysteriously linked by tattoos and magical necklaces), but know that it’s a big monster movie based on a Korean legend that has dragons coming to Earth to battle for their place in heaven. And it’s completely straight-faced. This – not the reflexive goofiness of “Snakes” – is what makes a true camp classic, and in that cannon “Dragon Wars” is a hilarious gem.
As with most big-budget fare, American or otherwise (this is reportedly the most expensive Korean film ever made), we get whatever the producers could afford. Visual effects! Nonsensical effects! Over-the-top effects! Any narrative cue here that cannot be purchased has the quality of a Saturday night flick on the Sci-Fi Network, complete with outrageously incompetent acting, writing and direction.
About halfway through the movie, you begin to wonder if any of these people were even trying, and maybe that’s the point. Rubbery-looking snakes and turtle monsters (yes, turtle monsters) attack in a kind of “Gladiator”-meets-“Godzilla” fashion, and it’s just not possible for this kind of movie to be executed with any measure of intelligence. I mean, two snake dragons fight in the sky during a pseudo-Pagan ritual, and a zookeeper goes crazy as he witnesses a monster chewing on an elephant before throwing it through the air. Do you expect, and really, do you want, anything more than complete reverence to the silliness from the filmmakers?
Of course not. Terrible moviemaking makes “Dragon Wars” as delightfully obnoxious as it is unmistakably terrible, and that’s the only way it could be.
Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5
At Quality 16 and Showcase