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DRAGON WARS: Comedy Gold in Cinematic Tragedy

Wow. Just…wow.

Whoever made this movie is either a comic genius…or he lives in some twisted, woebegone reality where good movies are locked away, gifted writers burned at the stake, competent filmmakers tortured on the rack, and everyone steers with their ass. And movies like Dragon Wars are not only made, they are compared to Lord of the Rings and attract massive audiences at the box office.

Oh, Jason Behr, how art thou fallen. At least we got shirtless eye candy in Roswell.

Alright, alright – a synopsis is perhaps appropriate here. Basically, in mid-sixteenth century Korea there existed giant serpents called Imoogi, one of whom was mandated by Heaven to become a great celestial dragon by bonding with (i.e. eating) a sacred object called the Yuh Yi Joo. (Stay with me, folks, stay with me!) However, there seems to actually be only two of these serpents; I’m not sure what was meant to happen to the one not chosen, but it kinda seems like Heaven plopped a smelly wet one over his end of the stick.

As one might imagine, the jilted Imoogi, named Buraki, takes this less than gracefully and rebels. To protect the Yuh Yi Joo, Heaven seals it into a newborn girl named Narin and, because sending the Good Imoogi to guard her just makes too much sense, gives her an old man with a sword and a kid barely out of diapers named Haram. Nice. Well done up there, guys.

Twenty years pass, puberty occurs, Haram and Narin fall in love, and Buraki attacks with his army of orcs on velociraptor mounts and giant turtle beasts with shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Let’s read that again, and no, I shit you not. It’s the first of many wonderful “WTF?!?!?!” moments this film has to offer, and the beginning of endless unintentional hilarity.

The event is highly reminiscent of the siege of Gondor from “The Return of the King”…if Gondor were a small Korean village with clay walls and defended by men wielding farming implements. Consequently, it does not go as swimmingly for our unfortunate defenders, and their women are forced to endure the shockingly brutal, utterly senseless exposure of their…shoulders. Rather than allow Narin to be eaten by either Buraki or the patently nameless Good Imoogi, our star-crossed lovers defy the will of Heaven and commit suicide. Which is a big no-no.

Bad. Bad star-crossed lovers. No paradise for you!

Five hundred years later, and evidently with some help from very unusual plate tectonics, we’re in Los Angeles. An earthquake unearths a giant serpent scale, and on the scene is reporter Ethan Kendrick (played by our luscious, luscious man-star Jason Behr). He suddenly recalls the ancient story being told to him by a mysterious Uncle Jack in the Longest Flashback Ever, and remembers that he is the reincarnation of Haram. He discovers that Narin has been reincarnated as a woman named Sarah Daniels and, guess what, Buraki wants to eat her.

Frankly, 45 minutes later, I wanted him to eat her too. Only superhuman courtesy kept me from jumping out of my seat and screaming, “Stop posturing, you stupid snake, and eat the damn bitch!”

The plot is so much rendered dragon turds, the script sounds like it was written by a demented six year-old, and to call the acting wooden would do a disservice to petrified forests everywhere. There are so many dei ex machinis flying around I had a whole pantheon beating me over the head by the movie’s end, and I almost got whiplash from all the times I did a violent double take. While the delectable Jason Behr is still as hunky as a Michaelangelo sculpture, his character is about as useful as one on a life raft. For all the good he does, Ethan might as well have run around naked hurling rose petals into the air and rubbing himself with scented oils – the movie might then at least have attracted a decent gay following. Alas, as it is we don’t even get a gratuitous sex scene.

So, does Dragon Wars have any redeeming qualities?

Well, yes. It does have some fairly kick-ass action scenes, although they’re sandwiched between some of the most torturous attempts at plot development in cinematic history. Once I muscled past a gag reflex whenever anyone opened his mouth to talk, however, I found the action extremely engaging. There’s something weirdly funny about watching the US Army getting creamed by a bunch of mortar-bearing, fire-spitting dinosaurs, and seeing Buraki toss helicopters like chew toys is actually a treat.

Is this a good movie? Does it make sense? Could Atlas himself suspend my disbelief more than a few inches from the bottomless abyss? No, no and…no.

It is, however, one of the most awesomely bad movies I’ve seen in a long time. If you have an off-beat sense of humor and are a fan of MST3k, you will find much to enjoy in this awkward clunker of an action flick. Just don’t go expecting…well, anything.

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