Dragon Wars Blu-ray Review
PicturePresented in a 2.40:1 ratio the disc has used the MPEG-4 AVC codec in 1080P. The early part of the film is very well shot and the imagery is crisp and clear. Contrast is punchy but blacks are not as deep as they could be. Detail is rendered well and the CGI blends sympathetically into the backdrops. The problems really begin when the mayhem starts. Whilst the focus on objects in the forefront remains really sharp the strange CGI effects distinctly soften around the edges and around the body of the moving objects. This results in a distinct lack of depth to many scenes and what really should have come across as eye-popping spectacles conclusively fail to deliver all round on their promises. As the movie progresses the action and CGI begin to substitute the overall video quality on offer and the whole offering becomes a bit of a compromised affair. Colours remain vibrant but the skin tones are never accurate and hint towards the red scale. In the final battle at the end of the movie the picture becomes very murky losing much of the finer detail in the darker scenes. Nevertheless the final battle still has quite an atmospheric feel to it. Unfortunately you never get the impression of the wow factor in a movie that really should have had it in spades.
SoundDolby TrueHD 5.1 is the order of the day and you get the option of choosing English, Spanish or Italian. If you like your movies loud and brash then this is exactly what is in-store for you here. Pretty much right from the off all the channels are used and the LFE being worked overtime at every opportunity. The rears are also never out of the equation for long and you can be sure you'll have sound coming at you from all angles. Once the mayhem starts the audio is as confusing as the visual side of things. The steering never feels like it has direction or intent, it has all simply been chucked into the mix as it were. The dialogue is relatively clear but does become slightly lost in the mix when everything is going haywire. Everything is at overload proportions, pumped up to the max but all this soon becomes rather overpowering for the viewer. Whilst a bombastic soundtrack is always a welcome for an action movie you still need a degree of subtlety to allow a sense of variety to proceedings. Dragon Wars unfortunately becomes a bit of an aural onslaught with no respite. Consequently it all becomes a bit of a headache.
ExtrasThere are four extras to choose from the special features menu. You also have the choice of viewing the extras with subtitles in either English, Italian or Spanish.
5000 years in the making - (18mins 10 secs) Hyung Rae Shim presents the thinking and production that went into making the movie. It's actually 18 minutes of an introduction piece to an audience. The focus is on the technical special effects and the whole thing is presented in Full Frame SD. Seeing as the project was announced in 2002 and took a full five years to bring to completion the whole self-documentary type spiel is very uninspiring and your attention will soon likely start to wane.
Storyboard Comparison - (11min 19secs) 5 scenes from the film are over viewed in story board fashion. Bulco Attack, Hypnotist's House, The Café, The Altar, Liberty Tower. The screen is split into three with a static animated backdrop. The three split screens simultaneously show the artistic sketches, early special effects and the finished scenes. It's an attempt to show how the early artistic sketches actually translate into a filmed sequence.
Conceptual Art Gallery - Here is a selection of artistic drawings from the film that can be viewed as stills in slideshow. Most of the slides are sketches of the mythical creatures and animals depicted in the film as well as some being of the backdrops of the scenes. I did find strange that once I had entered this menu that I couldn't actually get back to the main menu on the disc.
Trailers - Theatrical trailers for three other films are include on the disc and all are presented in 1080P. (2mins 32secs) The Water Horse : Legend of the Deep, (2mins 32secs) Across the Universe, (1min 44secs) Saawariya
VerdictFantasy films always have a great appeal. The mythical characters, stories based on legend, saviours of the world, it's enough to conjure the imagination of most viewers. When you bring into the equation many weird and wonderful creatures, giant serpents, hordes of flying dragons and centuries of past history then there should be enough there to create a bit of an epic.
As a movie Dragon Wars starts off well with plenty of promise, the middle suddenly erupts into chaotic mayhem and then the finale brings all the proceedings to a predictable head. The movie lacks a gradual and sensible crescendo. Consequently, what it gains as a story early on is all lost in a senseless mish mash soon after 20 minutes. The disc package is also a pretty disappointing effort overall. As a HD release there are some merits to the picture but as a sum of the parts the whole presentation lacks the wow factor and the CGI soon tails off in its' quality and originality. The audio is a full on banging and bombastic affair from start to finish but it's not a polished audio presentation. It's not subtle and it's not inspiring, it just simply relies upon being loud.
I couldn't help but feel disappointment and bemusement with Dragon Wars. For a project that started off in 2002 and then came to being five years later you would be forgiven for thinking there was a great film in the offing in all that time. I was actually hoping it would be something akin to what Ray Harryhausen may or possibly would have conjured up. After all he was the master of bringing over-grown mythical creatures to life with his stop- motion techniques. Whilst the special effect techniques have moved on wholesale from his day, the story telling unfortunately hasn't. Hyung Rae Shim would have learned an awful lot from watching some of the Harryhausen classics to soon realise where he went so badly wrong in this one.
So, is the film any good and would I recommend it ? Well, think of a loose snake that's staring and hissing at you. Would you go anywhere near it ?
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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