Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Shim Hyung-rae|
|Produced by||James B. Kang|
|Written by||Shim Hyung-rae
Nick Alvers (uncredited)
|Narrated by||Roberta Farkas (uncredited)|
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Editing by||Timothy Alverson|
|Running time||90 minutes|
D-War (Korean: 디워), is a 2007 South Korean fantasy action film released in North America as Dragon Wars: D-War and D-War: Dragon Wars, in Malaysia as War of the Dragons, and sometimes referred to colloquially and in some marketing materials as Dragon Wars. It is written and directed by Shim Hyung-rae. This was Korea's largest-budgeted film as of 2007.
- Jason Behr (Cody Arens, young) as Ethan Kendrick
- Amanda Brooks as Sarah Daniels, damsel in distress and holder of the Yeo-Yi-Ju
- Robert Forster (Steve Tartalia, double) as Jack, Ethan's mentor and Sarah's guardian
- Chris Mulkey as Agent Frank Pinsky, senior partner of an investigation
- Elizabeth Peña as Agent Linda Perez, a scientist employed by the FBI
- Craig Robinson as Bruce, Ethan's fellow-member in televised journalism
- Aimee Garcia as Brandy, Sarah's friend
- John Ales as Agent Judah Campbell, junior partner to Frank Pinsky
- Billy Gardell as Mr. Belafonte
- Hyun Jin as Haram, a previous incarnation of Ethan's soul
- Roberta Farkas (uncredited) as Narrator
The story follows the adventures of Ethan Kendrick, charged in his childhood by Jack to protect the Yeouiju, an individual born able to change an Imoogi into a Celestial Dragon. To this end, Jack gives Ethan a medallion formerly belonging to Haram and reveals that the Yeouiju is Sarah, whom Ethan will find in Los Angeles.
15 years after this revelation, a corrupt Imoogi identified as "Buraki" invades the city, bent on capturing Sarah; whereupon Ethan, now a televised-news anchor, rescues her, conveys the knowledge of her purpose, and attempts to save her from Buraki. During the resulting chase, Buraki's "Artox Army" enters the city and engages the United States Army, the United States Air Force, 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 immense, slow-moving reptiles carrying rocket-launchers on their backs, identified in the dialogue as "Dawdlers". This army overwhelms the human forces, while Ethan and Sarah escape. They are subsequently captured by the Bulcos and taken to a menacing fortress in the midst of a darkened desert landscape. There, Ethan's medallion destroys the Artox Army; but Buraki attempts to consume Sarah, whereupon he is attacked by the Good Imoogi. The two Imoogi, good and evil, engage each other in a duel that Buraki appears to win after seemingly snapping the Good Imoogi's neck. Having won the fight, Buraki again approaches Sarah; but having offered herself to him, she instead gives her power to the Good Imoogi who had just revived, who thereupon becomes the Celestial Dragon, continuing the duel until it finally destroys Buraki.
After Buraki is destroyed, Sarah dissolves into a spirit form, and the Celestial Dragon permits Sarah to speak to Ethan, whom she promises to "love...for all eternity"; then withdraws Sarah into his body and ascends to the heavens. Immediately Jack appears behind Ethan, reminds him that the two of them "have been given a great honor" to take part in this transformation, and vanishes; presumably never to be seen again. After whispering "Goodbye old man", Ethan walks away into the desert.
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's Yonggary. A show reel appeared in early 2003, displaying the extensive amount of CGI used 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 30 billion won (approximately US$33 million), but ultimately went over budget in order to create the various creatures in the film, with some outside estimation as high as $US75 million dollars. The DVD release confirmed that it did indeed cost US$75 million. In Korea, the budget of this movie was controversial because of the high costs and the poor reception abroad, which led to embarrassment over the true budget numbers, which were concealed to further shame.
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 violate South Korean copyright laws.
The film received mostly negative reviews upon release in the U.S. and was not screened in advance for many critics. Up to January 5, 2008, 25% of the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 32 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 movie (Yonggary in 1999)", 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 connaisseurs 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 been similar.
D-War set a record of grossing US$20.3 million in South Korea in its first five days of release. As of September 1, the film has grossed US$44 million in Korea and another US$10 million in other countries, totaling a worldwide gross of US$54 million as of September 16. In North America, the film grossed US$5 million on 2,275 screens in its opening weekend. As of November 25, 2007, the film has grossed US$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 Japan.
- Yang Sung-jin. The Korea Herald (July 25, 2007): "D-War upgrades computer graphics"
- Barnes, Brooks. The New York Times (Sept. 10, 2007): "New Tactics Aim to Make Korean Film a Hit in the U.S."
- Jinho, Jung (2007-08-14). "On MBC's D-War Controversy". Joynews. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- "Dragon Wars - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
- "Dragon Wars (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- Elley, Derek. Variety (review posted Feb. 9, 2007)
- Scheck, Frank. The Hollywood Reporter (review posted Sept. 17, 2007)
- Thompson, Luke Y. L.A. Weekly (review published Sept. 12, 2007)
- Wallace, Bruce (October 15, 2007). "In South Korea, patriotism rears its dragon-like head". Los Angeles Times
- Su-jin, Chun. ""D-War" scores with nationalism". JoongAng Daily.
- Dragon Wars (2007)
- Official website (Korea)
- Official website (US)
- D-War Official homepage
- D-War (Dragon Wars) at the Internet Movie Database
- D-War (Dragon Wars) at allmovie
- D-War (Dragon Wars) at Box Office Mojo
- D-War (Dragon Wars) at Rotten Tomatoes
- D-War (Dragon Wars) at Metacritic
- Craig Robinson Interview about "D-War" at UGO.com
-  "D-War" Bodycount