Reporter Ethan Kendrick finds himself at the scene of a suspected terrorist attack. A winding trail of earth has been torn up, snakelike, through Los Angeles fifty feet wide and twenty feet deep, ripping through concrete and soil alike. In the debris he spies what looks like a scale, as from a fish or snake, but this scale is large enough for a man to use as a shield.
Ethan has had an experience with something similar before when, as a child, he was taken to a huge antiquity store by his father. Here he met Jack who, after seeing a magical display of lights from one of the antiques when Ethan approached it, tells the young Ethan a story.
So, flashback within a flashback, we are transported into ancient Korea where we witness the Dragon War.
Two huge serpents, Imoogi, have waged war since the beginning of time, each with their servants and allies. The Evil Imoogi is preceeded by a Sorcerer and his armies who use various creatures to aid their battles; while the Good Imoogi has its own Sorcerer and a lone warrior who’s purpose it is to protect a young woman who has the ability to transform one of these Imoogi into a Celestial Dragon and end the war.
Jack informs the young Ethan that he is the reincarnation of this warrior, and that he will one day seek out the young woman once more.
Back in the present day Ethan does just that, working only with the reincarnated girls first name, Sarah, and the knowledge of a birthmark she has in the shape of a dragon to guide him.
All this is too late however as the Evil Imoogi and its cohorts have already surfaced in preparation for the moment the girl can be sacrificed for the Imoogi’s transformation.
Initially it is just the huge Imoogi that creates havoc through the city streets, tearing down buildings and burrowing through the earth in its hunt. It is soon the Evil Sorcerer and his armies arrive, with bat-like dragons battling Attack Helicopters and enchanted cannons against tanks the whole city becomes a battlefield.
D-War is an odd amalgamation of Korean and Western sensibilities. All the cast are western, as is the location, but the tone and story are very eastern and that is what makes this movie the entertaining piece of work that it is. The approach is somewhat juvenile, firmly rooted in fantasy rather than horror or even action and this is something that wouldn’t fly if done by a western writer/director. But the heavily used Korean mythology and sensibilities allows the film to take large leaps of faith that doesn’t entirely sit with the viewer, but that the viewer accepts as a cultural anomaly rather than an error in film making.
All the questionable plot points (or holes) sit in the first third of the movie, and there is nothing that a creative viewer couldn’t explain away for themselves by the time the fantasy action starts; and when it starts you have little time to think of such things, because it really starts.
Giant snakes wrapped around buildings while eating helicopters, masses of smaller bat-dragons is a one on one dogfight with an equal amount of attack helicopters, tanks, sword fights and even an Imoogi eating a half dozen elephants.
Not much is left uncovered, and nothing is left to the imagination in a hour and a half fantasy thrill-ride that is genuinely enjoyable despite its many, many flaws.
One odd feeling I had all the way through this movie was that I couldn’t shake the idea that I was watching something cut down from a much longer length, or perhaps someone had acquired a Korean movie and had added scenes to try to westernize it. This was very evident in the first half when the story was being laid out for the audience, it all had a disjointed feel and the characters seemed to learn their places too quickly. This didn’t harm my enjoyment of the movie at all, but it did give me a very strong sense that someone was struggling with the ‘translation’ as it were.
Many will consider D-Wars to be useless throwaway trash, but I would completely disagree. Western audiences tend to judge the Fantasy genre beside films like “Lord Of The Rings”, but I think the LOTR’s movies are action films masquerading as fantasy rather than true fantasy movies. Its a personal belief, but I think fantasy at its true core doesn’t need the elaborate explanations or plot cohesion that other genres do. Fantasy is a ‘feeling’ not a concept, so for me D-Wars is much purer fantasy.
Give the movie a go and see what you think.