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MOVIE REVIEW

'Dragon Wars' says it better with action

A reptilian creature ravaging Los Angeles! Now, that speaks to the 12-year-old boy in all (or some) of us.

September 17, 2007|Robert Abele | Special to The Times

Set in Los Angeles, starring American actors, filmed mostly in English and produced by Korean moviemakers, the rampaging-monsters flick "Dragon Wars" loudly speaks the universal language of effects-laden mayhem. Unfortunately, it is also fluent in the laughable dialogue of a million bad fantasy flicks:

"I never asked for this."

"You've got to live."

"You have awakened them!"

Writer-director Hyung Rae Shim hastily unloads the back story like a sorry poker hand, through a tale told by a mystical antiques dealer (Robert Forster) to a young boy. That child -- the reconstituted spirit of a 16th century Korean warrior -- grows up to be a TV reporter (Jason Behr) entrusted to find and protect his reincarnated love (Amanda Brooks). She's the key to unleashing a heavenly power that turns super serpents called Imoogi -- whether naughty or nice -- into dragons. And after a 500-year break, one very bad Imoogi is army-equipped to find her.

These movies are inevitably negotiations with like-minded souls: How much choppily edited exposition, somnambulant acting and general numbness will you accept for 30 minutes of blazing chaos? In the end, 12-year-old boys will be happily hypnotized by the full-throttle imagining of downtown L.A. laid to waste by a building-hugging reptilian creature with rocket launchers and storm-trooper-like meanies, and the helicopters doing battle with them. Michael Bay will wonder how it was done impressively enough for a fraction of the budget of his "Transformers."

And those old enough to remember will longingly recall the rough, oldtime poetry of guys in scaly suits stomping on miniatures.

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"Dragon Wars." MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and creature action. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In general release.

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