Dragon Wars: D-War Blu-ray Review
PicturePresented correctly at 2.40:1 using 1080p MPEG-4/AVC. When I sat down to watch this the opening credit scenes were absolutely stunning. The detail in the maps, textures on the parchment, and the ink literally jumping off the page to produce a startling 3-dimensional image, I was looking forward to the next 90 minutes. Like the film though I was ultimately let down. The transfer is not bad as such, it's just lacking; you're always thinking that it could have been so much better. Especially the CGI shots, which whilst colourful and detailed really lose sharpness and as a result they lack any real depth.
The opening historical prelude is the best part of the movie to be watching, the landscapes come across well as do the fine graduations in colour and textures form the clothing and temples. The encroaching armies look impressive, if not a little soft in the distance, with again the texture of the lizards skin, the suits of armour and the blast cannons strapped on the backs of the lizards all beautifully rendered and displayed. Blocking is never an issue and shadow delineation is more than acceptable.
As the film progresses it seems as though the CGI team were struggling for funds as it goes downhill, rapidly. Once on the chase in downtown L.A. the often-dark scenes lose any form of structure at all, with bad crushing continually on show. Shadow detail is lost completely, smearing is often apparent and at times the picture is a mess with little differentiation between borders, making it difficult at times to figure out exactly what's going on. On a positive note there's no artefacts to speak off but that small plus really doesn't pull this one up by the bootstraps.
SoundThe Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is loud so be aware of this if playing late at night, this really will rattle those bones, and most of the small statues in my cinema room if truth be told! LFE seems to be in constant use here and it is that, which like the crushing in the video, overcomes all else and at times drowns out the finer points of the score or vocals. Vocals, whilst emanating from the centre as expected, sometimes do get lost in the thundering bass that's forever coming from the monolith in the corner.
Dynamic range is hindered throughout with the high tones never really peaking nor that apparent. Like LFE, surrounds seems to be in extensive use, the sound engineer thinking that more is obviously better; not here and usually not elsewhere either. Surround use should create ambiance and effects, not constantly bombard your senses to the detriment of what's up on screen.
There's essentially just too much, too loud, and far too much use of surrounds to create an enjoyable listening experience. Mind and keep the volume turned down though when you listen!
- 5000 Years in the Making. - 0:18:10
Director Shim Hyung Rae, on stage pre or post screening of this feature. He talks about why he went down the road of making a dragon movie, the troubles he had with funding, why he targeted this at an American audience. He's a lover of old folk tales and music and comes across as a warm chap who certainly loves his country and his culture. He goes on to mention the art studio, Younggu-Art Movies, which he set up to bring the CGI in this film to life. He's very proud of his studio, and rightly so, and you get the feeling that he wants it to be the Eastern ILM. Hyung Rae is a pleasant kind of chap, his meanderings often amusing. Perhaps for his next feature though he should trust in his culture a little more and produce a movie for native Koreans rather than a Western audience, I for one have always found their output more than entertaining.
- Dragon Wars Animatics: From Storyboard to Screen. - 0:11:19
5 scenes in total with a play all function. The storyboards appear in one area of the screen whilst the live footage appears in another. Storyboards are ten a penny and tend to get little long in the tooth. Unless you're really interested in the film I feel they don't really add anything to the mix and unfortunately that's what we really get here; they become a little repetitive after a while.
- Conceptual Art Gallery
As they name suggests, art from preproduction. Some of the images are wonderful in the detail. It helps that this is presented in HD. They can be viewed individually or on mass as a slideshow.
Like the film itself these set of extras come across from the B-stable. They're on there because people demand extras, but in all honesty these are a rather cheap bunch. The photomontage is worth a quick look; the other two really are fall by the wayside affairs with nothing there to stick you on your seat. Perhaps a history of Korean dragon lore would have gone down well, but it seems that this set has been restricted by budgetary constraints.
VerdictD-War: Dragon Wars really is a piece of pap, but to some degree enjoyable pap as long as you've had a few beers and your mates are round on a Friday night. After that though it will lose its appeal and forever sit on your shelf gaining dust. I can recommend having a quick look if you're wanting a laugh, but again unlike a lot of quality B-movies its not bad enough to be enjoyable, but apart from that it gets the thumbs down from this fan of both Korean films and B movie genre.
The storyline gets lost up its own shedded skin and is far too cumbersome and convoluted to fit into 90 minutes; it should have been cut down somehow. For Sarah there's no way out and that I feel is never a good sign for any movie, you know what's going to happen anyway; there's no hope that there might be a get out clause. CGI is acceptable at times, but at other times it's murky and loses all definition, a pity as some of these battles should have been impressive on the big screen in high def.
Unfortunately this B movie doesn't quite hit the mark and as such it retains a low 4 on the rubber monster scale; watchable but seriously no more than that, rent it at best, or buy it and pass it on quickly before it loses any value whatsoever.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.15
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- 5000 Years in the Making. - 0:18:10