Gathered friends, listen again to our legend, of the Bionicle. In a time, before time, the Great Spirit, Mata Nui, fell from the heavens, carrying we, the ones called the Matoran. We were separate, and without purpose, so the Great Spirit illuminated us with the three virtues: Unity, Duty, and Destiny!
– Turaga Vakama, Bionicle: Mask of Light
As the father of two boys, I have just finished watching the four Bionicle movies with them. A strange experience to say the least; the Bionicle movies describe a world of heroic, living machines possessing a bizarre blended theology of polytheism and Eastern philosophy. Since I sat through all four, (some more than once) Goozlepipe presents the first of a four-part review.
When I was a child LEGOs were brightly colored, nearly indestructible plastic blocks that you could use to build anything your wanted… as long as it was roughly rectangular. But times have changed. Sleek and stylized, LEGO’s Bionicle (“biological” + “chronicle”) is a line of toys marketed primarily to 6 – 16 year-old boys.
As one of the holiest times in Christendom approaches, families like ours often struggle with balancing the commercialization and secularism in popular culture with the true reason for the season. To help others, we have assembled our list of Christian Christmas movies.
Our list focuses on those movie with strong Christian values. For that reason, perennial Christmas favorites like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A Christmas Story (1983), or Miracle on 34th Street (1947) are not included.
A Christmas to Remember (1978) – A city-bred grandson moves to his grandparents’ farm during the Great Depression and grows up enough under their tough care to help his grandfather deliver a surprise gift on Christmas Eve to their community church with the help of a phantom stranger.
Bethlehem Year Zero (2004) – A novel approach to the Nativity presenting Jesus’ birth as television reporters and analysts might have covered it, had the medium existed in King Herod’s time. The field correspondents and studio pundits discuss the economic and political ramifications on society and speculate about the meaning of the Messiah’s appearance in their milieu.
Christmas Child: A Max Lucado Story (2004) – An updating of Max Lucado’s book “A Christmas Cross”, this film is about a successful Chicago journalist, whose marriage is at a breaking point as he is about to celebrate both his 40th birthday and Christmas; he is sent away during the Holidays to Texas for a story, and there reflects on his life and its meaning.
“This one’s for connoisseurs of the ‘totally preposterous crap’ school of fantasy cinema. You know who you are: You have all the Warlock sequels on Laserdisc, the complete Leprechaun series on DVD, and go see Uwe Boll movies on opening weekend.” — Luke Y. Thompson of L.A. Weekly
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 min
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Starring: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Robert Forster, Jack Craig Robinson, Aimee Garcia
Amazon Link: Dragon Wars
SYNOPSIS: A young woman possesses the reincarnated power to transform a legendary giant serpent into an omnipotent, celestial dragon with her ultimate sacrifice. But the forces of darkness are out to seize the young woman while her reincarnated lover and his aged mentor stand in their way.
When viewing Dragon Wars, it should be noted to leave your brain at the door. That way, when you start hearing things involving good and evil dragons, reincarnated warriors, and such, you’ll just smile and watch the eye candy. This film is geared toward the sensibilities of young kids. In other words, my six and eight year-olds loved it. The story, what little there is, isn’t of much concern here. For the most part, Dragon Wars is actually kind of enjoyable, in a really dumb, cheesy kind of way – think of a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. As a matter of fact, the only uniquely interesting thing about the movie is that it isn’t an American production, but an Asian one, specifically South Korea.
Supposedly based on an ancient Korean legend, a 200-meter-long evil serpent called Buraki is denied a chance at immortality when two young lovers, who are to perform the ceremony, run away and leap to their deaths in 1507 AD. 500 years later in Los Angeles, the man is reincarnated as American news reporter Ethan (Jason Behr), who as a child was given a powerful pendant by an elderly antiques dealer named Jack (Robert Forster) and now has to find the reincarnated woman, Sarah (Amanda Brooks), before her 20th birthday.
“D-War” is a film that looks and sounds amazing, in theory, but the execution is so poor that you’ll rightfully feel that you’ve been cheated by the time the credits roll. The film’s human players are paper-thin caricatures and deliver cheap, insipid dialogue in scenes that rarely connect. More importantly, when you pay to see a movie called Dragon Wars, you expect it to, at least, live up to its title. The biggest flaw of Hyung-rae Shim’s film is that it barely even does that, focusing most of its energy on a mumbo-jumbo plot about destiny: Dialogue about fate and destiny peppered with more weird names than you can shake a stick at takes up about half the running time, and it just plain confusing. On more than one occasion, a character asks another, “what are you talking about?” and you get the impression that no one really knows the answer.
But you don’t come to a movie called Dragon Wars for the story or the performances. You want to see some tail stomping and some flame throwing. And for a few minutes in the final reel, D-Wars delivers. There are two sequences – an attack on Los Angeles by the armies of evil and the final battle between the good and bad dragon – where D-War finally delivers. In fact, the attack sequence is clearly what the entire film was built around; an impressive battle between flying creatures and helicopters that almost feels like it was transported from a better movie.
“D-War” unfortunately comes off as cousin to the American adaptation of “Godzilla” (1998) than anything that is uniquely Korean. Also, the story seems to take itself a little too seriously, the acting and direction seem mediocre at best, and the execution is flawed; maybe the director was trying to do too much without really working out the material in greater detail first.
All in all, Dragon Wars is what it is, and if you’re interested in it for whatever reasons, then chances are that you know what you’re getting here: Another “B”-grade monster movie. With no blood or nudity, virtually no bad language, and monsters galore, Shim’s picture is suitable for youngsters and delivers enough goofy fun to keep adults from getting too restless. When asked why they liked the movie, my children replied, “because it has giant dragons,” and for kids that’s a perfectly fine rationale.
Goozlepipe Rating:Liked it