Here Be Dragons
Kids, back in the day I watched a movie so strange and dumb and interesting and stupid that it inspired this very blog. It arrived one warmish day in May, and I put it in the dvd player. With a title like Dragon Wars I knew there would at least be a) dragons and b) possibly dragons at war with themselves, others, everyone, etc. It couldn’t be all bad, could it?
And now at long last, I have revisited this movie. So here we are again, and I feel the time is right to review this one for you. Enjoy.
You know a movie is gonna be one of “those” when the opening scene involves police hauling a man away while he shouts “the beast has risen!” You just know. While that happens, our hero emerges into the shot. Ethan Kendrick is a popular local news guy newly arrived on the scene of some horrible disaster. The problem is that it’s hard to tell what happened exactly. All I see is sand and some tarp. It looks more like a construction scene on a beach or something.
Anyways, now seems as good a time as any for Ethan to go into flashback mode. It all has something to do with the strange amulet he wears around his neck. Travel back in time with me, won’t you?
When Ethan was a little boy, he went with his dad to Jack’s Antiques. Young Ethan stumbles across a trunk that suddenly opens and starts to glow. Ah ha! Jack fakes a heart condition and convinces Ethan’s dad to go to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some meds for him. So…..that would leave the kid alone with the strange man. Whatever.
It was all a ruse. Once the dad is out the door, Jack turns to Ethan and says “finally, I’ve found you.” Now, any kid nowadays would high-tail it out of there. But this kid just says “the light from the box, sir?” Jack explains that Ethan saw was the scale of the Imoogi and the light was from Heaven.
Right, let’s nutshell. Imoogi are from Koran legend. They are sort of like dragons. Every 500 years an Imoogi was rewarded for good deed doing and gained the chance to level up and become a Celestial dragon. It would need, however, the gift of the Yuh Yi Joo.
The YYJ allows the Imoogi to turn into a dragon. But again, the YYJ only shows up every 500 years. Enter Buraki the evil serpent who wanted the YYJ. In 1507 Korea, Heaven sent a young boy named Haram and his master Bochun to protect the YYJ at all costs. Ethan asks Jack what on earth he’s talking about, and I’m thinking the same thing too. This is already a convoluted tale to tell a kid and an audience and expect us to still follow. Too many names. And this is a giant nutshell.
Basically, a baby girl is born bearing the mark of a red dragon on her shoulder. Congrats!. She’s the YYJ. When she’s 20, she’ll be sacrificed so the Imoogi level up. Sounds like a bum deal for the YYJ, but what can you do? Bochun takes the baby girl from her parents so he can raise her and protect her for that one big event in life. Her name is Narin. Haram and Narin grow up together and fall in love. Of course they do.
Are you confused yet? It’s annoying, but I have to tell you all this info because 1) it’s important, and 2) why should I be the only one to deal with it?
Anyhoo, all is wonderful in the land of young love and Good Imoogis. However, Narin turns 20 and the evil Buraki starts terrorizing villages looking for Narin so his Evil Imoogi can use the YYJ power for unlimited evilness.
Bochun gives Haram an amulet that will protect him from danger. He also instructs Haram to deliver Narin to the Good Imoogi. That’s all he has to do. Does he do it? No. He and his woman attempt to flee and end up falling to their deaths from a cliff whilst being pursued by the Evil Imoogi.
The Jack says, “I know it’s hard to believe all that, but you know what’s harder to believe?” And I’m thinking it doesn’t matter cause this kid obviously believes everything you tell him.
Jack tells Ethan that he is Bochun and that Ethan was in his first life, Haram. This is his second chance to protect the YYJ. It’s his destiny. He must find a girl named Sarah. She’ll have a mark on her shoulder and she must be taken to the Grand Cave by the day she’s 20. And that’s all the clues Ethan is given. Good thing he grows up to be an intrepid reporter.
Thus endeth the twenty-minute (!!!) flashback. That’s a lot to throw onto your audience, methinks. So now that we are all caught up on Ethan’s memories, he starts his search for the mysterious Sarah so they can save the world.
Ethan all but abandon’s his job and with his loyal cameraman Bruce (played by Craig Robinson of Hot Tub Time Machine fame), he searches for Sarah. Meanwhile, Sarah (a pretty blonde played by Amanda Brooks) is kicking in as the YYJ. She has crazy dragon dreams. She goes into trance like states and writes in Korean calligraphy. She also has what I think might be a panic attack only it just looks like she’s got bad cramps. She calls 911. For cramps? Maybe it was a panic attack after all.
And somewhere while Sarah is in the hospital and Ethan is looking for her in the hospital, the movie comes back online for me. It got kind of dull with the “what’s wrong with me?” and “how do we find her” stuff. You know she’ll figure it out and he’ll find her. So let’s get this thing moving along!
If you look at the movie from a certain angle, Dragon Wars is a lot like Terminator. Sarah is Sarah Connor. Ethan would be a hipster Kyle Reese. The Evil Imoogi would totally be Arnold. Where does the Imoogi go to first looking for Sarah? Her house. Who gets killed? The roommate and her boyfriend. Just like in The Terminator.
Ethan finds Sarah and does a whole “come with me if you want to live” spiel, and off they go. What we have next is a rather lengthy sequence of Evil Imoogi destroying everything in its path to find Sarah. And I mean everything. They try to outrun it. They try to outdrive it. Not happening. And if they manage to get away from the Imoogi, there’s the Imoogi’s henchman come back from the afterlife.
While they run for their lives in whatever transportation is available, Ethan and Sarah manager to fall in love. Just like in The Terminator.
Meanwhile, the Feds are also searching for Sarah. They found the Korean legend and for some reason know she’s the key to the whole thing. So let’s see now. Giant dragon serpent thing is chasing them. Evil henchman is chasing them. Feds are chasing them. Not good.
I have got to tell you. Most of the rest of the movie is one action sequence after another with armies clashing, Imoogi destroying, Hulk smashing… (just checking to see you are paying attention). Also, to make things more fun, evil henchman’s evil army of Middle Earth creatures suddenly invade the city. So if you are having a hard time picturing this, use Power Rangers, Middle Earth battle creatures, a huge dragony serpent, and then visualize the usual Michael Bay / Roland Emerich movie magic destructiveness. You get the picture. Crazy, but it looks really good and kept me interested in the movie.
There is one image in particular that’s stayed with me. At one point in the melee, Ethan, Sarah and Bruce are all trying to make it to the helicopter at the top of the news building. The Imoogi has slithered up the building like a snake. Its long body is wrapped all around the tall building, and it’s quietly making its way up. It was a really groovy visual.
And just when you think they’ll find a way to fully escape or maybe defeat the Imoogi…..the film switches gears and we find ourselves at the Grand Cave for the grand finale.
I’ll stop there. I’ve skipped over a lot, but the cool points and crazy have all been brought to light. Dragon Wars, I think, would work really well as a video game. I’m being serious. Some of the music and dialog felt very Final Fantasy to me, and I could so see this as either an RPG or better yet maybe an action/adventure 3rd-person shooter type game. Think about it. You could play as both Ethan and Haram in two parallel adventures. You could do all your initial tutorial levels in the “500 years ago” section. Then, once the game goes into present day, it’s dragon’s ahoy! But that’s the game.
As a movie Dragon Wars is silly, but with enough action to keep me paying attention. The dragons/Imoogis look really good and I was kind of creeped out by them. I’ll probably revisit it waaay down the road. After all, it’s crazy “quick! Learn these volumes of back story in the next 10 minutes” plot made me sit up and take notice. No one else I knew had seen or even heard of this movie. But now you have.
Next week, I’ll return with my Oscar picks. This year it has been really difficult making predictions. I’ve changed my ballot around countless times. My deadline for final picks is Friday, so I’ll try to have my picks up by that night or early Saturday.
Posted on February 16, 2013, in Reviews and tagged adventure films, bad movies, cool films, disaster films, dragons, Long flashback sequences, movie reviews, Terminator, video game ideas. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Here Be Dragons.