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'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.


"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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