I Must Warn Them All
A cult classic has been made, and the beauty of it is that it's in theaters NOW. You can still see it before it beats a rapid retreat to Wal-Mart's five-dollar DVD bin! From one of these theaters I have just returned and have no choice but to blog until I cannot blog any longer, for this movie has deeply impacted me.
No, this film not the next "Napoleon Dynamite." It is more like the next "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." And I guarantee that you will regret not paying money to see this on the big screen. Not since "Ator the FIghting Eagle" have I seen a movie so incredibly bad.
The film is entitled "Dragon-Wars," (or "D-war") and preferrably should be seen in a crowded theater with lots of friends.
The motion picture company Freestyle Releasing did not screen "Dragon Wars" for critics in the U.S. before it opened, and it's no wonder. It is so poorly written, atrociously acted, and horribly edited that only a trailer full of awesome special effects could draw people in. (You can check this trailer out at the movie's official site.)
The poverty of writing is evident from the first lines delivered. Jason Behr (from TV's "Roswell"), plays a CNN-ish news reporter who begins by delivering "I'm thinking"-style voiceovers while sitting and staring at his computer screen. "What about this breaking news story seems so familiar? I can't shake this feeling that it must have something to do with the story that mysterious old man told me so many years ago..."
And then we go from bad dialogue to even worse flashbacks. Make no mistake: these are no ORDINARY flashbacks. They are MULTILAYERED flashbacks! Seriously, at several points there is a flashback inside of a flashback inside of a flashback inside of a flashback. Don't believe me? Near the beginning of the movie, Ethan is thinking back to his childhood when the man in the museum told him a story from Korea in the 1500's, and there is liberal usage of flashbacks DURING the ancient Korea scenes!
There are also a number of scenes in which English subtitles are used as the ancient mystic Koreans are speaking. But the language is absolute gibberish. Even when proper names for people and the serpents are used, there is no hint of those words appearing in the spoken sentences.
The editing is so unbelievable in this movie that suddenly soldiers will be lying dead for no reason, with burning helicopter carcasses on either side of them. At one point, the editor evidently just gave up on the movie entirely and said, "I can't watch this trash anymore. I quit." Amanda Brooks (who plays the lead female role of Sarah Daniels (who is carrying a mystical power that evil forces wish to use to help turn a monstrous serpent into an even more powerful dragon (this is my literary version of nested flashbacks (get it?)))) - is standing on a beach talking to Ethan when suddenly the scene cuts to an FBI planning room. But her voice continues on, until it's inexplicably cut off mid-sentence. A classic blunder worthy of local low-budget newscast (wow, I really miss watching Cheyenne's CBS NewsChannel 5).
It would be a good thing if the editor did in fact walk out, because they couldn't have been paying him much. Nearly every penny of the production must have been put into the special effects, which most times are relatively stunning for the quality of motion picture D-War is. But in keeping with the make-fun-able nature of this movie, most of the effects scenes are laughbably derivative of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and 1998's "Godzilla". Not to worry - there are plenty of silly effects as well, including a pitiful "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" nod to "old martial arts expert runs across the top of the water" shot.
Whatever the effects budget was, they clearly had no money to hire talented actors. Lines are delivered so badly, I seriously thought it might be a Christian movie. Be offended at that statement if you will, but let's face it - most Christian movies produced, from "Left Behind" to the recent "One Night With The King," has featured acting on par with what you might hear in a first-year high school drama class production.
The really sad thing is that there is a great talent hidden in this movie. Holmes Osborne, who played Guy Patterson's dad in one of my favorite movies of all time, "That Thing You Do," appears as a hypnotherapist. For no apparant reason, Ethan the reporter convinces Sarah that she needs to go see this man to help interpret the visions she's been having so they can figure out what's going on. Never mind that anytime she stays in one place for more than ten minutes, the giant snake appears and tries to eat her. With electrodes strapped to her head, Sarah begins to see visions of the Korean city being attacked during her previous life. She begins to levitate above the couch with blue smokey lighting circling about her. The hypnotherapist doesn't seem surprised at this, but does rush to unplug the extension cord from the brainwave measuring machine.
Best movie dad ever:
"Go on off then and bang on your bongo drums as long as you like."
The only other notable actor in D-War is Chris Mulkey. You've never heard of him, but trust me, you've seen him in everything. As the head FBI agent on the case (the case being, "Why does a giant snake seem to be appearing around New York, doing things like eating five elephants and smashing up a hospital?"), somehow figures out that the armies of reptiles and thousands of armored Dungeons and Dragons-looking guys trashing New York City are really only looking for Sarah Daniels, so if he kills her, the problem will be solved - at least for the next 500 years until another reincarnation happens and they all appear again. His attempt at killing poor Sarah is so wretchedly executed that you'd think he didn't learn a thing from appearing in all those episodes of "CHiPs", "CSI", "M*A*S*H", "Walker, Texas Ranger", "Magnum, P.I.", and "Murder, She Wrote". Interestingly, he shoots Ethan at point blank range, but after the rational FBI agent kills Chris, Ethan seems completely fine, with no hint of injury for the rest of the movie.
Another grossly underfunded line-item in the budget was the pool from which they would pay the movie's extras. When New York City is being attacked, and her citizens are running screaming down the middle of the street (behavior I've never understood in any movie, I mean for goodness' sake, get into a building and hide, you idiots!), there are never more than 20 of them.
If you get a chance to see D-War, please take the time to let me know your favorite blunders and idiotic moments. Here are some of my favorites that I haven't already mentioned:
1) There is no consistency of scale to the creatures in the movie. For example, this snake's head is nearly as big as the helipad atop the building:
But a few scenes before, it fit neatly into a hospital hallway while pursuing poor Sarah Daniels.
2) A classic line in the movie is delivered when the snake's massive body is coiled around this building and rapidly slithering to the top. Seeing this, a policeman calls for all cars to come to the vicinity because "there is a situation developing here."
3) Sarah suddenly gets weird at the gym and goes home to surround herself with all sorts of Korean letters written on parchment hung on the walls. "These are the only things protecting me," she claims, but then her roommate easily convinces her to go out on the town after getting some rest.
4) A big part of the storyline is that Sarah's internal whatchamacallit will become active for the serpent to eat on the day of her 20th birthday. So she's 19, right? She and the roommate have no trouble at all finding a restaurant where they're both casually drinking beers.
5) The two FBI agents are casually driving through New York City in the middle of Dragons vs. Man World War III, and coincidentally happen upon Ethan and Sarah. "Ms. Daniels, you need to get in the car."
6) Neither driver of the two cars that accidentally plow into the Evil General seem to be affected by the fact that they just flattened a pedestrian.
7) Sarah calls an ambulance because she thinks she's having some kind of heart attack, and then inexplicably ends up in a locked hospital room with a police guard. Before she knows it, she's being assaulted by hospital workers as if she's a crazy woman, and locked in solitary confinement.
8) Not knowing any of this, Sarah's roommate attempts to visit her in the hospital after visiting hours are over. Turned away by the nurse, she goes home to pack Sarah a suitcase of clothes as if she's going on vacation for a couple weeks.
9) While packing, the roommate and her boyfriend are set upon by the giant snake. Althought the snake seems to be able to sense Sarah's location at all times, he apparently needed to check her home address first. (Also, Sarah's house is pretty awesome for a 19-year-old living alone in a big city.)
10) Ethan goes to the hospital to see Sarah (who he's never met), and the nurse on duty says she's in quarantine. In a clear violation of HIPAA privacy rules, the nurse responds to Ethan's statement that he's a reporter with, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but..." and spills some sorry attempt at plot-explanation by revealing that health officials are fearful that the dragon-shaped birthmark on Sarah's shoulder (which she's had since BIRTH) could somehow be some terrible plague-inducing infection. Although she's in quarantine, Ethan has no trouble walking right into Sarah's room and introducing himself as a reporter who's not here to do a story, but to rescue her.
11) The snake is able to rush several blocks in a few seconds, destroying everything in its path, yet Ethan and Sarah always manage to stay ahead of it, whether they are in a car or on foot.
And every time they are about to die, gunfire from police handguns or army are enough to distract the serpent while they take off.
12) Trying to escape in a news helicopter, Ethan and Sarah have to jump when the snake grabs ahold of it. Fortunately, the snake holds it perfectly still and level, enabling them to jump a mere fifty feet or so down to the helipad below, uninjured.
13) Ethan's black coworker Bruce (played by Craig Robinson from "The Office") is left behind to deal with the un-killable Evil General while the other two flee in a station wagon driven by a willing passerby. The next day, Ethan calls him at work from his cell phone, only to be told by the forehead-bandaged Bruce, "I've been trying to reach you all night!"
14) The zookeeper, after seeing five of his elephants butchered by the snake, for some reason heads down to the police station to explain what happened, rather than calling 911 to get the police to the actual scene. He is of course put in a straight jacket and sent to the psych ward of a hospital (coincidentally the same one Sarah is locked in), where the psychiatrist tells him he will be released if he simply admits that he made a mistake.
15) Ethan decides he needs to drive Sarah to Mexico, but the dragon creatures quickly catch up to them as they race across some deserted part of the country. Sarah's great advice to Ethan is "speed up!"
Wow, the list goes on and on. But I'll let you add to it. Pretty much just watch any 30-second clip from anywhere in the movie, and you'll get at least two things to laugh at. I SO want this movie to become a classic. Do me and yourself a favor - get a bunch of folks together and go check it out. You'll be so glad you did.