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Movie Review

D-War a.k.a. “Dragon Wars”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and creature action

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 14, 2007 (wide—2,000 theaters)
Featuring: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Aimee Garcia, Craig Robinson
Director: Hyung-rae Shim
Producer: Kim Woo-taek, Hyung-rae Shim, Dennis J. Lee
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing

“The One and Only”

Godzilla and Japan once ruled the roost as the king of monster movies, but that heyday has long gone. Today, Korea seems eager to lay claim to that title. After the smash Korean hit The Host the Korean movie industry felt confident enough to allow Hyung-rae Shim to film “D-Wars” (a.k.a. “Dragon Wars”) with American actors. Not that you will ever have heard of any of the actors, but the fact that the movie is predominantly in English should clear the way for those who have a phobia about captions (although there are some in the movie).

What the producers saved on actors’ salaries they spent on special effects, and the highlight of the film is definitely its special effects. Do not look for deep character development, or for that matter an intricate and engrossing plot. “D-Wars” is (or hopes to be) to Korea what “Star Wars” to the world. It is a mixture of fantasy and science fiction which will seem new to American viewers, but perhaps too new. Many reviewers are already trashing the film because it simply doesn’t fit in with what the American film industry is used to. Its mixture of Asian mythology, religion, and legends are combined with occasionally campy humor and sometimes a rather unpolished finish. Of course, so did “Star Wars.”

Now “D-Wars” is no “Star Wars,” although there are scenes which look eerily similar to it. In one scene in particular (which takes place in 1507 AD yet) there are elephant type creatures with laser cannons mounted on their back and armored soldiers which look like they stepped out of a Star Wars film. Nevertheless, “Star Wars” itself was hardly original; having borrowed from Flash Gordon and many other old science fiction serials. Thus the derivative elements of “D-Wars” still seem somewhat fresh having been set against an exotic backdrop and the new birth of Asian dragons.

This leads to the plot itself. “D-Wars” is steeped in eastern mythology and religious teachings. In the film a woman is supposed to sacrifice herself to a dragon. There is a good dragon and an evil dragon, both of which want the power that lies within the woman. Reincarnation is also featured in the film as well as hypnosis which many do not realize is an eastern religious technique. Those who are put under hypnosis cannot tell reality from fantasy, nor a dream from a memory. That is why so many imagine that they are “remembering” past lives or abused childhoods. Parents should be wary of allowing their children to take hypnosis as a legitimate science.

Morally the film was actually pretty clean. The “s” word was used once and I heard a couple of other mild profanities. The film is PG-13 for violence. The dragons do swallow people, step on people, and cause a great deal of murder and mayhem, but even then there is only a smattering of blood as the filmmakers clearly were aiming for PG. Parents should, as usual, take the rating seriously, but it is not as bad as some PG-13 films which deserve an R.

The real question for D-Wars is whether or not the viewer will buy into the new mythical world of “D-Wars.” Certainly the Asian movie market has no problem accepting the film’s premise as it has already raked in $55,000,000 overseas. The American market, however, is the real test. I predict that the film will appeal more to the younger crowd while older people may find themselves rolling their eyes and laughing unintentionally at the screen. Fortunately, the director does not take himself too seriously, as there is a smattering of campy humor, indicative of Korean monster films.

For the Christian parent, the pagan worldview might seem a bit much, but the idea of sacrificing one’s self for the human race could certainly be a “hook” for the gospel. Parents should make perfectly clear that the “angel” of this film is in no way a Christian depiction of Mary or Christ, but a pagan worldview representing the ancient belief that the gods (or dragons) had to be appeased. Christ, however, bore our sins. Abraham did not have to sacrifice Isaac, because it was God who would provide the perfect sacrifice of Himself. If you decide to take your children to see this film, make sure that they realize that there is no need for sacrifices of this sort, because there was only one sacrifice required, and that was 2000 years ago on the Cross.

Story : C-
Directing : B-
Acting : C+
Special effects : A
Entertainment value : B
Overall Grade : B-

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Neutral—…This is an OK movie, but it has scenes that look like they copied and pasted from the “Star Wars” films, and the special effects were not that good. The acting was sub par, and I could go on and on and on and on. I won’t, as for the Christian viewpoint it was a refreshing movie in that it had almost no cursing and NO nudity. Some scenes were a little graphic for some kids, so maybe 8 and under would not be good. Depends on what the child is used to. Then there was the whole thing about the dragons being from heaven and that sort of stuff. All of which you have to take as part of a FALSE story based on FANTASY. Overall, it is a movie that will NOT join my DVD library when it hits the stores. …
My Ratings: Average / 2½
Larry Barber, age 44
Negative—Before I saw the movie and only saw the previews, my impression was that the dragons were warring against each other, and the humans were in their path. I thought that would be interesting. The good dragons against the bad. Boy was I disappointed, and I have never been more disappointed with a movie more in my life. It was overly dramatic on the whole spirit-dragon thing. I might have missed something on that, I was getting bored. The lousy acting wasn’t able to keep my attention, and I almost turned the movie off. Overall, the movie was goofy and perhaps something more professionally made could fulfill your entertainment needs… like “Reign of Fire.” At least we weren’t getting a bunch of New Aged garbage shoved down our throats. (Which is what mostly ruined the movie for me.) If you want a cheap laugh, this movie is for you. Otherwise… look for something else.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Christopher High, age 20
Negative—Based on John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Hebrews 9:27, just to name a few, this movie was very offensive to me. After about an hour I pushed the reject button. I would not waste any more time… It continues the daily push of Buddhism, especially reincarnation, by the Entertainment industry. Simply watch how many times a week you see a Buddha in a positive setting of hope or joy, versus the negative setting when the cross is in the background.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Glen, age 45
Positive—As a Christian, I am giving this movie a positive rating but only from a strictly academic/intellectual point of view. As noted by other reviewers, the Eastern Religion and openly pagan world view is going to be very offensive to many Christians. My interest is in the antiquity of Korea’s dragon mythology which, if memory serves, stretches back over 3000 years. That puts us fairly close to Job who records the discussion with the Lord about Leviathan (Job 41:1) which sounds striking similar to the dragons in Chinese and Korean mythology. Job also records for us Behemoth (Job 40:15) which, along with Leviathan, we would now recognize as dinosaurs. The point is, it’s my studied opinion that Dragons are not totally made up creatures but have some basis in historical reality. That doesn’t mean they are as large or capable of flying as depicted in the movie or in mythology but there is, I believe, something to it never-the-less. I believe the Chinese/Korean dragons may very well be based upon some sort of dinosaur common to their region at the beginning of their civilizations. There is also a curious Biblical parallel, albeit in reverse. In Genesis the serpent walked on legs and then was made to crawl on his belly. In the movie the serpent crawls on his belly and then walks on legs. The most ancient pagan civilizations, such as Korea, could have retained some knowledge of the “Fall of Man.” One wonders if in their twisted pagan world view this was an attempt to undo the damage. On a general movie quality note, I did enjoy the movie. Yes, some of the acting was sub par and there are logical leaps but I thought the effects were quite good and it was, for the most part, very entertaining. My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—James Taylor, age 37