Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
|Featuring:||Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Aimee Garcia, Craig Robinson|
|Producer:||Kim Woo-taek, Hyung-rae Shim, Dennis J. Lee|
“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.