[HanCinema's Film Review] "D-War"
By William Schwartz | Published on
Back in the aughts, writer/director Shim Hyung-rae had this crazy idea to ride the Korean New Wave to fund an ambitious monster movie franchise, combining South Korean know-how with bankable American stars and locations. It worked. Sort of. Thanks to an ambitious marketing campaign, "D-War" earned over 8.4 million admissions at the South Korean box office. It's also one of the worst South Korean movies ever made, featuring all the worst aspects of cheap nineties American films with none of the charm.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Tom (played by Jason Behr) is a local reporter who sees a burned up hole and remembers this one time a guy named Jack (played by Robert Forster) gave him a turquoise necklace. Jack said Tom had to use the necklace to protect Sara (played by Amanda Brooks) from some dragon. So naturally, Tom finds Sara, and they spend most of the movie running away from a lizardperson army.
"D-War" is a showcase of gratuitous special effects that mostly look like garbage, even by the standards of the time. For a sense of perspective, "The Host" came out in 2006 and still holds up, in part because the monster doesn't show up that much and serious effort is put into its appearance when it does. "D-War" of 2007 is much more aggressive with its lizardpeople, and its small dragons, and its cannon mounted giant lizards, and also that one big snake that keeps following the heroes around and killing bystanders.
It's not much of a spoiler to note that dragons destroy Los Angeles, given that the poster for "D-War" features the big snake coiled around U.S. Bank Tower. "D-War" might have been halfway passable entertainment if the movie had, as the title implied, just been about dragons attacking modern day Los Angeles, explanations kept to a minimum. Unfortunately the occult backstory about Tom and Sara's past lives dominates the story, despite being incredibly boring.
"D-War" is less a movie with an actual target audience and more a vague idea of what audiences seem to want from the cineplex. Namely, meaningless spectacle with a few half-baked plot hooks taped on. Jason Behr and Amanda Brooks not only lack chemistry, their characters don't even know each other. Yet their love story is supposed to be so transcendent we're expected to cheer them on as they ignore Jack's efforts to actually resolve the conflict, simply allowing the lizardperson army to rack up an ever higher body count.
"D-War" is a complete waste of time that shouldn't be watched by anyone, for any reason. Even the Rifftrax is surprisingly dull. How writer/director Shin Hyung-rae has convinced anyone such a forgettable movie needs a sequel is quite beyond me. But then again, "D-War: Mysteries of the Dragon" has continued to linger in development hell for over a decade now. Plans for film production probably fall through once his investors actually try to watch "D-War" instead of just assuming that a movie that made a hundred million dollars must have been doing something right.
Review by William Schwartz
How to Watch
Blu-ray (English Subtitled)
DVD MY (English Subtitled)
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.