Surprise, Surprise: Korea's Dragon Wars Makes $40M in Two Weeks

Drawing comparisons to The Host, but not from critics.

by | August 16, 2007 | Comments

It’s been a long time in the making, but the sci-fi fantasy Dragon Wars — reportedly Korea’s most expensive production ever — is coming to American theaters. What’s more surprising than the fact that it’s getting a U.S. release is that overseas, the $70 million film has already turned a sizable box office. Color us impressed!

Dragon Wars, or D-War as it was originally titled, is a Korean film set in Los Angeles, financed with Korean money and helmed by a Korean director (former comedian Hyung-rae Shim), starring a largely American cast. Its plot revolves around TV reporter Ethan (Jason Behr) who discovers that L.A.’s recent earthquakes aren’t just natural plate tectonics but the awakenings of a giant ancient serpent — a Korean serpent — that he is fated to battle because, well, the 500-year-old spirit of a warrior lives within him. He’s charged with finding the reincarnated version of that warrior’s soulmate, now a hot girl named Sarah (Amanda Brooks), and defeating the serpent before it becomes a dragon, destroys L.A., wreaks havoc on the world, etc.



Giant Korean serpents threaten Los Angeles in Dragon Wars

We first laid eyes on Dragon Wars at its modestly attended Sunday afternoon panel at Comic-Con. In all honesty, I hadn’t meant to sit in on the presentation at all, but a friend was watching and there were plenty of free seats. Producer James Kang sat onstage with three of his leads, Behr, Brooks, and Craig Robinson; they ran a CGI-heavy clip full of bombastic action (Explosions! Screaming humans!) and digitally drawn Imugis (giant snakes of Korean lore who long to become dragons) mostly slithering about. People applauded, but it looked on par with a really cool snake fighting video game, or your average Sci Fi channel monster pic.

So unmoved was I then that I stepped up to the audience microphone to spice up my Dragon Wars panel-watching experience. Mostly, that was to say “Hi” to Robinson, who plays second fiddle to Behr in the film (as his wisecracking cameraman). Fans of good comedy know Robinson from dropping a few performance gems, as the warehouse foreman Darryl on The Office and as the brutally honest bouncer in Knocked Up; I dare say he was my favorite part of the Dragon Wars presentation.

I also asked producer Kang to explain why they were changing the film’s perfectly ridiculous Korean title, D-War, to the more serious, spelled out Dragon Wars for American audiences. His response was something along the lines of “the digital age” we live in now — fine, whatever, but why even bother using such staid and grammatically accurate verbiage for something that would benefit from playing up a more playful angle? Especially when all of the film’s promotional materials highlight giant serpents eating cars, creatures flying above a metropolis, a showdown atop a skyscraper helipad — remarkably reminiscent of Larry Cohen’s Q: The Winged Serpent, in which an ancient Aztec serpent-god terrorized Manhattan from high atop the Chrysler Building.



Dragon War character poster; Q: The Winged Serpent

Don’t get me wrong — I have absolutely nothing against the idea of a sci-fi/fantasy dragon flick. I tore through Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series as a young, bookish nerd. I was excited about Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey’s Reign of Fire all the way despite its dubious science. And I will certainly give Dragon Wars a fair viewing before officially passing judgement.

Regardless, it was a tad surprising to hear that D-War (as I shall refer to it in the context of its non-U.S. dealings) has raked in massive earnings in its South Korean run — $20 million in its first five days, and over $40 million total in the two weeks since. Since August 1, a reported 6.14 million tickets have been sold in South Korea, which means roughly one out of every eight of the nation’s 49 million people have seen the film.

Pundits predict that at this pace, D-War will easily match the record-breaking run of another well-performing South Korean monster movie: last year’s The Host, which currently holds the all-time Korean box office title and got the patronage of nearly a fourth of the country’s populace while in theaters. That film’s commercial success, however, was bolstered by critical praise (the tale of a Loch Ness Monster-type creature is Certified Fresh with a 92 percent Tomatometer). It’s uncertain, but seems unlikely, that D-War will get similar honors. While most critics stateside have yet to review the film (excepting Variety‘s Derek Elley), a flurry of debate has erupted in South Korea over the film’s artistic value, with one critic deeming it “unworthy of criticism.”

You’ll be able to decide for yourself come September 14, when Freestyle Releasing is scheduled to let Dragon Wars loose on American soil. By then, every man, woman, and child in South Korea may have seen the flick. We’ll see how it goes over here.

Watch the Dragon Wars trailer.

Tag Cloud

Binge Guide Stephen King strong female leads Lifetime Christmas movies Holiday game of thrones CBS Marathons Opinion Rocketman Anna Paquin Disney SDCC Mary poppins Comic Book Disney Channel The Purge Showtime USA Network stand-up comedy Food Network zombies hist anthology ratings canceled TV shows Thanksgiving Disney+ Disney Plus 45 rotten movies we love Ghostbusters Amazon Prime Video what to watch Syfy A24 Film Warner Bros. dc ABC Family Horror Elton John war serial killer Endgame Captain marvel scorecard Shudder aliens obituary Sundance Now indie Interview Country dragons romantic comedy Baby Yoda Martial Arts Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt blaxploitation Extras dogs LGBTQ Teen Spectrum Originals Ovation Epix discovery children's TV Black History Month parents independent Freeform spain 2019 Fantasy unscripted Marvel Studios richard e. Grant robots Dark Horse Comics Animation Rock Mystery WGN football cults science fiction Logo Western disaster Grammys Comedy Central free movies BBC America remakes Cosplay docudrama teaser Quiz HBO Max Netflix Tumblr American Society of Cinematographers films Amazon Valentine's Day Pop TV FXX IFC Films based on movie composers CMT NBC SundanceTV spy thriller Drama Women's History Month Mudbound GoT venice festivals The Arrangement fast and furious Amazon Prime WarnerMedia Writers Guild of America canceled Watching Series anime chucky LGBT Hallmark Christmas movies slashers Toys History OWN jamie lee curtis harry potter binge Nickelodeon witnail asian-american casting GLAAD cancelled TV series DirecTV ESPN best child's play historical drama National Geographic cinemax critics space BBC One scary movies Superheroes mission: impossible werewolf Certified Fresh Christmas biography sitcom E! Holidays Sundance TCA 2017 all-time 007 TCA Winter 2020 See It Skip It TNT video on demand kids social media The Walking Dead zero dark thirty batman Video Games IFC Disney streaming service book Paramount Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Music VH1 documentary San Diego Comic-Con Adult Swim romance NYCC Hallmark FX on Hulu New York Comic Con cats Walt Disney Pictures Action tv talk Character Guide RT21 documentaries Nat Geo Election President comic Pixar cancelled CW Seed FX TV renewals die hard X-Men TBS boxoffice Comedy Rom-Com Crunchyroll Reality Universal doctor who Nominations Paramount Network ITV joker AMC USA 24 frames DC Universe transformers cooking PlayStation nature dceu Schedule The Witch Winter TV Star Trek stoner elevated horror Classic Film Trailer Ellie Kemper spinoff MSNBC TCA revenge Brie Larson Travel Channel period drama Cannes Columbia Pictures comedies quibi PaleyFest Lucasfilm 21st Century Fox Pet Sematary spanish language cartoon Box Office travel Discovery Channel Amazon Studios GIFs 2018 ABC vampires 2020 Spike crossover Disney Plus OneApp adventure green book worst Biopics 2016 Fox News TV Land El Rey CBS All Access DC streaming service Infographic RT History news PBS a nightmare on elm street Awards Tour First Look Academy Awards cancelled TV shows Mary Tyler Moore Apple comics Podcast ghosts Pride Month CNN criterion TIFF diversity game show Peacock Mary Poppins Returns VOD Trivia cops Lionsgate Superheroe Oscars sports Set visit Marvel Black Mirror Starz TLC Turner Classic Movies Rocky classics blockbuster spider-man series toronto Esquire halloween Film Festival Lifetime talk show Pirates YouTube Premium streaming Hear Us Out award winner Family worst movies finale DGA psychological thriller comiccon Calendar Best and Worst YouTube Red 2017 crime thriller rotten TCM psycho festival foreign golden globes FOX BET The CW MCU YA police drama theme song Marvel Television Acorn TV latino dramedy Trophy Talk Vudu medical drama Apple TV Plus renewed TV shows Arrowverse video Year in Review Shondaland Premiere Dates BET Awards Pop BBC Tomatazos true crime VICE facebook universal monsters Hulu nfl 4/20 sequel Musical Polls and Games Britbox concert Tubi cars Cartoon Network Red Carpet Apple TV+ YouTube Funimation Fall TV Sony Pictures Winners Television Critics Association laika thriller 2015 satire name the review Netflix Christmas movies singing competition 71st Emmy Awards Television Academy stop motion HBO Photos reboot Chernobyl nbcuniversal animated versus Countdown APB cancelled television sequels south america TV indiana jones Star Wars 72 Emmy Awards Avengers MTV emmy awards justice league politics supernatural Tarantino reviews Kids & Family crime drama technology Emmy Nominations christmas movies mutant toy story Sci-Fi Comics on TV E3 hispanic Masterpiece Reality Competition Super Bowl First Reviews movie SXSW screen actors guild directors TruTV Musicals Sundance TV television DC Comics Heroines zombie crime Mindy Kaling natural history superhero TCA Awards Turner breaking bad mockumentary sag awards adaptation dark A&E Bravo franchise miniseries movies hollywood Awards BAFTA twilight political drama Crackle HBO Go Song of Ice and Fire 20th Century Fox Summer Emmys screenings Sneak Peek Creative Arts Emmys Spring TV