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'D-War' stomps box office to pieces

2007/08/06 | 257 views |  | Permalink | Source

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"D-War", a graphics-rich monster fest directed by Shim Hyung-rae, is setting a new record at the box office amid the intensifying dispute about its unabashed appeal to patriotism.

Released on Aug. 1, the country's most expensive film, which cost $33 million to produce, sold about 2.9 million tickets in five days, surpassing the previous opening week box-office record set by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End".

As "D-War" continued to sell out in major theaters across the nation, the film's distributor Showbox said the box-office figure passed the 3 million mark around noon yesterday. The film opened on 530 screens and, thanks to the enthusiastic response, is now being screened in 689 theaters.

The sweeping success of "D-War" came as a surprise because the delay-saddled film made by a former comic actor did not inspire critics much. After all, director Shim had failed miserably with his previous attempt at a similar monster film "Yonggary", and "D-War" suffered a slew of negative rumors in a trouble-laden production period that lasted about six years. Yet the film's impressive visual effects, coupled with a Korean transformation legend, impressed average moviegoers here. "I was moved by the great computer graphics of a serpent changing into a dragon, and it was nice to see a Korean legend in this kind of film", said Lee Chang-ho, 32, who watched the film at Lotte Cinema in downtown Seoul.

In the film, Ethan Kendrick (Jason Behr), a TV news reporter, gets involved with an old Korean legend in which every 500 years, a bad imoogi called Buraki (a serpent yet to be morphed into a dragon) emerges to threaten the world. Ethan must save a girl destined to deliver the crucial yeouiju, or dragon ball, that allows an imoogi to transform into a dragon.

Many of the computer-generated scenes, especially those of monsters thrashing down the streets of downtown Los Angeles and helicopters staging dizzying battles in the air, exhibit a high level of technology and sophistication.

Shim, 49, also appealed strongly to Koreans' patriotism and sympathy, inserting a popular Korean song, Arirang, to the emotional ending credit, where he explains how difficult it was to produce a film like "D-War" in a country where he had to convince many skeptics about his ambitious dream to enter Hollywood.

"D-War" is set to be released in the United States on Sept. 14 and is also scheduled to be screened in Japan late this year. In the past couple of weeks Shim has appeared on almost every entertainment program, promoting his film and stressing that the homegrown computer graphics technology in "D-War" is comparable to that in other Hollywood action films.

On the internet, a large-scale battle is also raging on. At major portals, many online users are posting messages praising the film's computer graphics and entertainment aspects, and a dissenting voice is being crushed. Lee Song-hee-il, an independent filmmaker, criticized "D-War" on his blog, only to face a tremendous backlash -- a sort of cyber terror -- from angry online users who support director Shim and "D-War" feverishly.

Meanwhile, "D-War" has to sell more than 10 million tickets to turn a profit, and its performance in the United States -- Shim claims it will be screened in more than 1,500 theaters there -- is deemed crucial, though there are few film reviews out about it in the United States yet.

By Yang Sung-jin

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