This film was very evidently a massive effort for Korea to break into the worldwide film market. With a budget that spiralled out of control to $75 million, more than double the actual budget, massive amounts of publicity, and being 5 years in the making, this English-language film starring some familiar American faces was set to make Korea’s mark in blockbuster cinema. The only issue is it’s truly abysmal.
Some spoilers follow, but you can probably guess the entire plot without needing to watch the film.
The film follows Ethan, a reporter who is obsessed with finding a girl called Sarah because an old man told him 15 years ago that he is the reborn spirit of a warrior from 500 years ago who must find a young girl who has the spirit of an ancient dragon inside her. If he doesn’t find her by her 20th birthday the dragon will be freed and world will end or something. He obviously finds Sarah with convenient ease, and they obviously fall in love within twelve seconds of meeting each other, because ‘destiny’. Everything happens with such joyless apathy; the main characters may as well be played by cardboard boxes with faces drawn on them because there’s so little emotion in the script or direction. Exposition is supplied solely through dream sequences that, even though derivative of much better movies, still manage to be terrible, and flashbacks to ancient times that show an attempt at matching the decadence of Asian Period films by Ang Lee and co., but with production values that more closely match an episode of Monkey. They’re a barely-watchable mix of poor fight choreography, mystical babble and turgid romance plus a ‘master’ who at one point unexplainedly skips across water because it looked cool in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. When the dragons and evil soldiers wreak havoc you’re practically cheering them on as they’re the only vaguely interesting characters on screen.
Back in modern day, the characters find themselves being chased by a snake-like dragon that must be 100 metres or more, and apart from a few surprised onlookers there seems to be no wider reaction to its presence. Two nameless government officials have an ongoing difficulty in tracing the enormous creature, but no one else seems particularly bothered. That is, until the screenplay needs a big action scene which is when the army all of a sudden arrive just as the city begins to be invaded by the evil forces, fronted by a rather unintimidating man with a sore throat. The action here is actually slightly acceptable, even if it makes no sense and eventually repeats the same ideas about 10 times. It’s easy to spot the effects shots that were done earlier on for publicity and to try and show producers the money was being well spent, and so too the shots that were thrown together when they realised they were spending money they didn’t have. As such the effects vary wildly from horrible to quite good, shot-to-shot.
The final part of the film takes place in some otherworldly dimension for some reason that makes no sense to the plot, but allows them to show off their “brilliant special effects” with a castle set among a flat volcanic landscape that wouldn’t look out of place in a homemade Lord of the Rings computer game. The sole strength here is that the dragons look pretty cool, but even that is diminished when the ‘hero’ dragon starts crying about a character sacrificing themselves, before the deceased’s force ghost says some nonsense about destiny dissolves into magic sparkles and the dragon takes their glowing soul-orb to heaven. I have no comment about this sequence; I think it speaks for itself.
This is by no stretch a good film. It is a terrible film, with barely any redeeming features and the 80 minute run time goes by incredibly slowly. But it has its moments of being ‘so bad it’s good’, with unintentional comedy and just a general sense of being completely oblivious to its clichés and complete lack of sense. Regular film-goers should avoid this film like the plague, but bad film lovers will find plenty to laugh at.