A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this monster movie is full of explosions and lots of CGI snakes and other reptiles that roar, shoot fire, and chomp and stomp on their human victims. Combat scenes set in the past feature cannons, while current-day warfare sequences include tanks, missiles, and small arms fire. A giant snake crashes through buildings and flips cars, making many city dwellers run and scream (and burning some to ash). There's a brief kiss between the featured couple and relatively minor language (a couple of uses of "s--t," "hell," and "ass").
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What's the story?
The hero of DRAGON WARS (D-WAR) is TV reporter Ethan (Jason Behr), who happens to be the reincarnation of a 500-years-dead Korean martial arts whiz kid. As soon as Ethan sees a devastating gash newly opened up in Los Angeles, he knows that somehow, "This has something to do with me." The explanation is delivered via flashback: Fifteen years earlier, young Ethan met old Jack (Robert Forster), who told him the legend of the good and bad snakes and the girl, born and reborn every 500 years, who must be sacrificed to one of them in order to settle their cosmic moral battle. Ethan is fated to ensure she makes it to the good snake and not the bad one. Though Ethan wants to prove worthy of Jack's trust, as soon as he meets the girl, Sarah (Amanda Brooks), he wants to save her. But he's supposed to take her to the Grand Cave, where she's to meet up with the Good Big Snake (the psychosexual metaphors here are beyond obvious). As the couple tries to figure out what to do, the FBI and the Secretary of Defense come after the Bad Big Snake, which is ravaging Los Angeles in search of Sarah. After plowing through parking garages, a hospital, and the Silver Lake suburbs, the Bad Big Snake finally reaches downtown, where it writhes up and around a tall building and chomps on a few helicopters that that are trying to shoot it down. In the final showdown, the heroes go head-to-head against the Snake's evil army.
Is it any good?
"Now is the time," intones a serious-sounding narrator at the start of the film, "for destiny to unfold"; it's also the time for confusion to begin. Why, for instance, does Hyung-rae Shim's movie have two names? Why is it premised on a Korean legend but set in L.A. with American stars? And why, oh why, do both the Bad Big Snake and the Good Big Snake (also called the Good Imoogi) need the same woman to sacrifice herself? At the end of the film, these questions remain unanswered.
In between the fighting scenes, the movie struggles to stay on any kind of course, with characters appearing and disappearing without much explanation. Ethan gets rudimentary help from his cameraman/researcher Bruce (good sport Craig Robinson), who solemnly gives him a handgun -- as if this will have any effect on the monster. Ethan has more effective help from the shape-shifting Jack, who isn't too happy about his protégé's decision to save the girl instead of sacrifice her. As for Sarah, she's mostly consigned to worrying and gasping: "Something terrible is coming, something more terrible than you can imagine." While Dragon Wars isn't so terrible, from her perspective, you'd have to agree.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of monster movies. Why is it fun to watch crowds of people run and scream as they're chased by giant (albeit computer-generated) beasts? Is it ever hard to distinguish the fantasy of monster movies from things that could happen in real life? Families can also discuss the film's take on "fate." Can you change your future, or is some part of it set? Did you expect Ethan to accept Sarah's fate? Why or why not? How is it different from what happens in most U.S.-made films?
- In theaters: September 14, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: January 8, 2008
- Cast: Amanda Brooks, Jason Behr, Robert Forster
- Director: Hyung Rae Shim
- Studio: Freestyle Releasing
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and creature action.
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