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D-War (Korean: 디워), is a 2007 South Koreanmarker science-fiction film released in North America as D-War: Dragon Wars, War of the Dragons in Malaysia, and sometimes referred to colloquially and in some marketing materials as Dragon Wars. It is written and directed by Shim Hyung-rae. It is a fantasy-action film that was Korea's largest-budgeted as of 2007.

Production

Originally titled Dragon Wars (and still referred to by this title in publicity material), D-War has a long production history in South Korea. The film was announced in 2002 by director Shim Hyung-rae as his follow-up project to 1999'sYonggary. A show reel appeared in early 2003, showcasing the extensive amount of CGI the production would be using to create the various creatures. Despite heavy promotion via posters, press releases and videos, principal photography did not begin until October 2004, continuing through December. The budget was set at approximately $33 million (30 billion won), but ultimately went over budget in order to create the various creatures in the film, with some outside estimates as high as $75 million dollars. The DVD release confirmed that it did indeed cost $75 million.

As with Yonggary, Shim opted for a mostly American cast. Veteran actor Robert Forster landed a pivotal role and Jason Behr and Amanda Brooks were cast as the two young leads.

The next three years were spent creating the creature effects, all of which were done in house by Shim's Younggu-Art Movies company. The completed film premiered at the American Film Market in early 2007. The film was released in South Korea on August 1 2007. In the U.S., the film was released on September 14 2007.

On August 7 2007, South Korea's MBC Morning Live TV Show broadcast the film's final scene on TV without the permission of the studio, causing a controversy. A few days later the Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a statement in which they said that the incident did not violateSouth Korean copyright laws.

Plot

As a young boy, Ethan Kendrick (Cody Arens) encounters in a shop, owned and operated by antiques dealer Jack (Robert Forster), a mysterious reptilian scale that shines with a blue light. This light projects itself upon Ethan. Seeing this, Jack pretends to suffer a heart attack and sends Ethan's father, who is selling him an antique dagger, to get help. Ethan then listens as Jack narrates a story (largely shown in flashback) explaining the scale.

Jack, having told this story, reveals that he is himself Bochun, and that Ethan is Haram, reborn to protect the Yuh-Yi-Joo from Burakai, who is soon to return. Jack gives Ethan a medallion formerly belonging to Haram and reveals that the Yuh-Yi-Joo is a girl named Sarah whom Ethan will find in Los Angelesmarker. Ethan accepts the medallion and the responsibility of caring for the Yuh-Yi-Joo.

Nineteen years later, Ethan has become a television news reporter, in which role he discovers that Buraki has returned. He then inquires into the news office's database for the location of a Los Angeles-based girl named Sarah, who is either nineteen or twenty years old and bears a dragon-shaped mark on her shoulder. His friend Bruce, despite his disbelief, helps Ethan search.

The Sarah that Ethan wants, one Sarah Daniels, sees Ethan's news report and is terrified by the tracks Buraki has left. She hurries home and surrounds herself with protective symbols, which she does not understand but which she feels are the only tools she has by which to protect herself. Her friend Brandy, concerned but not quite understanding Sarah's problem, takes her to a tavern for a drink, hoping to distract her from fear. Sarah, still afraid, leaves the tavern and is attacked outside by three thugs, who are driven away by Jack. Word of her escape later reaches Ethan through another reporter. Buraki and his army continue to search for Sarah, attracting the attention of the U.S. Government and the notice of at least one civilian.

Ethan eventually finds Sarah at a hospital. Although the hospital's receptionist refuses him entry, a doctor later revealed to be Jack in disguise allows him into Sarah's room. Ethan is about to explain the truth of their situation to Sarah when Buraki attacks the hospital, intent on capturing her. Ethan and Sarah flee in a car driven by Bruce, with Buraki in pursuit. They are stopped by a commander of the Atrox Army, but eventually escape him due to another intervention by a disguised Jack.

Ethan subsequently explains the story to Sarah, who accepts it as true and Ethan as her protector. He then takes her to a practitioner of hypnotherapy, who helps her revive the memories of her previous life as the unsuccessful Yuh-Yi-Joo. The energy released by her body during the hypnotherapy session attracts Buraki, who destroys the hypnotherapist's house and follows Sarah and Ethan.

In a car, Ethan and Sarah flee to a more densely-populated area of the city, where they meet with Bruce in a restaurant. When Bruce has left Ethan alone, Jack warns Ethan that the Yuh-Yi-Joo must fulfill her destiny. Ethan, defiant as a result of his new attachment to Sarah, demands autonomy.

Moments later, Buraki finds Ethan and Sarah again. They attempt to escape him, resulting in a chase scene that culminates atop the U.S. Bank Tower. There, Buraki is distracted by several military helicopters, who proceed to attack him. Buraki then summons the Atrox Army to help him. This legion enters the city and advances through the streets, engaging the United States Army and the Los Angeles Police Department in battle. Here, the Atrox Army is shown to consist of black-armored, humanoid warriors; theropod-like cavalry called "Shaconnes"; small, winged Western dragons called "Bulcos"; and huge, slow-moving reptiles identified in the dialogue as "Dawdlers", who carry powerful rocket launchers on their backs. The Atrox Army proceeds, overwhelming the outnumbered Army forces. Ethan and Sarah are taken to an empty garage by two FBI Agents. The senior agent reveals that he has researched the legend of the Imoogi, and attempts to kill Sarah so that Buraki and his army would depart for another five centuries. The junior agent then kills his partner and gives the fugitives his car whereby to escape.

Ethan and Sarah then enter the rural countryside in the car. Sarah, having given up hope of escape, remarks that wherever she goes, the Imoogi will find her. Ethan, who seems bent on saving her both from Buraki and from the Good Imoogi for whom she is destined, refuses to admit this. Sarah pauses, then tells him that she is now twenty years old, revealing herself to have come into her full power as Yuh-Yi-Joo. Immediately, the Bulcos knock the car over and capture Sarah.

When Ethan regains consciousness, he finds himself tied to a pillar which stands before a menacing fortress in the midst of a darkened desert landscape. In front of it lies an altar from which Sarah is to be sacrificed to Buraki. Buraki is about to consume Sarah when Ethan's pendant unleashes a light that destroys all of Buraki's legions, though not the Atrox Leader or Buraki himself.

Ethan attempts to retrieve Sarah, but is halted by the Atrox Leader, with whom he engages in combat. The Atrox Leader is killed by Ethan's pendant when he inadvertently strikes it with his sword. A revived Buraki knocks Ethan down and attempts to eat Sarah, but is unexpectedly attacked by the Good Imoogi. Ethan and Sarah then watch as Buraki and the Good Imoogi battle. Ultimately, Buraki wins. He then approaches Sarah, who offers herself to him. Just as Buraki is about to absorb Sarah's power, she redirects it into the open mouth of the Good Imoogi, who is instantly revived and continues to fight Buraki, transforming as he does into a gigantic Korean dragon. The two struggle for a few moments until the Good Imoogi, now the Celestial Dragon, disengages from Buraki, flies to the top of the latter's fortress, and burns him to ashes by firing a fireball down his throat.

Having slain Buraki, the Celestial Dragon approaches Ethan, allowing Sarah's spirit to speak with him. Sarah, now a fully fledged Yuh-Yi-Joo, requests Ethan not to be sad, adding that she will love him for all eternity. The Celestial Dragon then takes Sarah back into his body and ascends to the heavens. Jack appears behind Ethan, reminds him that the two of them "have been given a great honor", and dissolves into dust. Ethan, recognizing that he will never see Jack again, whispers "Good-bye, old man". His own fate is undisclosed.

Cast



Reception

The film received mainly negative reviews upon release in the U.S. and was not screened in advance for many critics. As of January 5, 2008, on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 25% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 28 reviews, while the film scored a 33 out of 100 at Metacritic. Derek Elley of Variety, reviewing it at the Berlin Film Festival's market section, called it "visually entertaining, and superior to helmer Shim Hyung-rae's last monster outing (1999's Yonggary)", while also saying the film had a "Z-grade, irony-free script," and "likely to end up the most expensive cult movie on DVD." The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck said, "the CGI effects are undeniably impressive" but that "the laughable story line, risible dialogue and cheap humor ... seriously detract from the fun." Luke Y. Thompson in L.A. Weekly derided the film as one "for connoisseurs of the 'totally preposterous crap' school of fantasy cinema... You know who you are: You have all the Warlock sequels on Laserdisc [and] the complete Leprechaun series on DVD" and says it's "funnier when it tries to be serious than when it goes for the gag."

Within nine days of its South Korean release, D-War attracted five million viewers, setting a national box office record for an opening week. The seemingly positive reaction from the Korean population, as indicated by the movie's box office success in Korea, was widely attributed to the film's appeal to Korean nationalism; a logical impression drawn from Shim's message at the end of the Korean version of this film, "D-War and I will succeed in the world market without fail," accompanied by the Korean folk anthem, "Arirang." However, despite box office success, D-Wars was far from critically acclaimed by either Korean critics or Korea's general public. Korean film critic Kim Bong-sok said, "They want it to be successful in the U.S. because it's Korean, not because it's good" and called the film "immature and poorly made" and "below criticism." Other reactions from Korean critics have beensimilar.

D-War set a record of grossing $20.3 million in South Korea in its first five days in 689 theatres. As of September 1, the film has grossed $44 million in Korea and another $10 million in other countries, totaling a worldwide gross of $54 million as of September 16. In North America, the film grossed $5 million on 2,275 screens in its opening weekend. As of November 25, 2007, the film has grossed $10,977,721 in North America, making it the highest grossing Korean-made film released theatrically in North America.

Since then, D-War has been released theatrically in Malaysia and China, both with moderate critical reaction. China was the only one to live up to the South Korean release record, spawning 3,000,000 admissions and a premiere including pop idol Libing Chen. The movie was a box office failure in Japanmarker.

Footnotes

  1. Yang Sung-jin. The Korea Herald (July 25, 2007): "D-War upgrades computer graphics"
  2. Barnes, Brooks. The New York Times (Sept. 10, 2007): "New Tactics Aim to Make Korean Film a Hit in the U.S."
  3. Elley, Derek. Variety (review posted Feb. 9, 2007)
  4. Scheck, Frank. The Hollywood Reporter (review posted Sept. 17, 2007)
  5. Thompson, Luke Y. L.A. Weekly (review published Sept. 12, 2007)
  6. Dragon Wars (2007)


References



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