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D-War: Dragon Wars by Steve Jablonsky

D-War:
Dragon Wars

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D-War: Dragon Wars (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky

D-War: Dragon Wars
Composed by Steve Jablonsky
Milan Records (2007)

Rating: 6/10

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Listen to this soundclip of D-War (Dragon Wars)Village Attack (353 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of D-War (Dragon Wars)Yeouijoo (419 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of D-War (Dragon Wars)Arirang (419 kb)


More clips from D-War at Amazon.com

 

“Depending on your musical-orientation, particularly in terms of the Remote Control variety, Jablonsky's score could be a fairly entertaining listen for you...or it could be an audio disaster. ”

Big Snake Moan!
Review by Christopher Coleman

Director Hyung Rae Shim's D-WAR, or DRAGON WARS, as it was entitled for the US release, was for his home country of South Korea, much more than just a film. It was, at the time, the biggest and most expensive film in Korea's history. Prior to D-WAR, Hyung Rae Shim, a well-known, comedic actor had only a few films under his belt as director and only one as writer. But for this project, he took on the both duties! Additionally, he started his own effects-house at the very same time. (George Lucas would be proud.) Five years after being green-lit, D-WAR emerged and was for the director and Korean cinema a huge triumph.

To make the D-WAR more accessible to western audiences, Shim filmed in Los Angeles and in English. Additionally, he was able to contract the services of a westerner, composer STEVE JABLONSKY. Accepting an amount substantially less than his normal composer fee, Jablonsky must have seen something special in the demo reel that Shim displayed. That or perhaps it was Hyung Rae Shim's passion and dedication to the film that won him over. Whatever the reason, STEVE JABLONSKY jumped on board and delivered a score that is likely far beyond the amount he was paid.

Now D-WAR (DRAGON WARS), when compared to most film's of this type produced in the West, is not a great film. In fact, in terms of story and screenplay, it is one of the worst I've seen in a while. If there is one thing we are NOT short on in Western cinema...it's feature films overburdened with look-what-we-can-do-computer-generated-shots and look-how-poor-our-writing-is-screenplays. So another one, even an import from South Korea, isn't going to make too big of a splash with audiences here. While many of the scenes in D-WAR were leaps and bounds ahead of any Korean film before it (if you doubt me...just look at Shim's own film REPTILIAN (2001 Yonggary)), there were still few "wow" moments in the film. And if there were, and I somehow missed them, they were ruined by plastic acting, wobbly writing, and a plot with enough holes for a herd of giant snakes to fall through.

STEVE JABLONSKY's score is certainly one of the better elements of the film. He develops a solid main theme, which we are immediately introduced to in "Imoogi" (track 1). This theme seems to build off of a familiar musical pattern, which I cannot help but associate with James Newton Howard (Signs, Lady in the Water). Under girding the whole thing is this repeating four-note motif, which provides the mysterious, otherworldly feel. The theme's backbone is this circular pattern which continually builds to a powerful and determined crescendo. This Imoogi/Title theme can sit alongside his theme for The Autobots in TRANSFORMERS quite well...and might even be considered superior by some. "Yeouijoo" track 5, is actually a more beautiful instance of this main theme. Being that this "Yeouijoo" is central to the plot of the film, almost as The Force is to Star Wars (but let's not get too crazy here), it makes sense that this is the central musical theme as well. The film's love theme (track 4) is rather mediocre with all the standard elements yearnful strings layered with simple piano and light vocals accents. Even though it is in the same family as The Last Samurai, it doesn't evoke the same level of emotion. You'll hear further connections to THE LAST SAMURAI (and other Zimmer scores) throughout the many, many action sequences, but most clearly in tracks 2 and 3.

The villainous element is musically represented by low male choir, deep percussion erupting with rambunctious brass and electronics as in track 6, "General and the Army." Deep within all the raucousness is a brass motif used a few times throughout the score when the General and his hordes come on the scene. From "Destiny" (8) onward, you are in for an very long action/suspense ride and if that is not where you think Jablonsky's strengths lay, then the second half of this soundtrack will prove painful. There are a couple of short respites before, but it is almost solid action music until you get to track 16, "Farewell." The concluding track "Arirang" (17) is one of the stand out pieces from the score. STEVE JABLONSKY's arrangement of this classic, Korean folk song, is a joy to listen to. The quality of the piece goes far beyond the overall quality of the film, but, as I noted earlier, this film represented much more than 90 minutes of entertainment, it was a sort of triumph for the director, producers, and Korean film industry. Having such an emotional interpretation of "Arirang" as the end credit music seems quite appropriate.

The saddest news of all is that Jablonsky's score in the film is done a complete injustice. The careful balance between sound design and score was simply obliterated in this film. In most of the action scenes, the score is overwhelmed by the roars, grunts, and squeals of the Baruki, big-lipped, armor-plated, hippos, and raptorized-fell beasts. And when their constant bellowing didn't overpower the music, there were a gobs of explosions and crashes to continue the job most sufficiently. Completely lost in that melee was JABLONSKY's music.

Now, let me save you a little anguish and make my recommendation for D-WAR (DRAGON WARS) as a stand-alone listening experience. Depending on your musical-orientation, particularly in terms of the Remote Control variety, Jablonsky's score could be a fairly entertaining listen for you...or it could be an audio disaster. If you found STEVE JABLONSKY's work for TRANSFORMERS worthwhile, then D-WAR probably has something to offer you, but you should also be partial to that specific brand of action music that comes from the Remote Control studios, because there is a ton of it to be heard.


Rating: 6/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Imoogi 2:19  ****
2 The Legend Awakes 5:57  ***
3 Village Attack 5:40  ***
4 Love Theme 1:40  ***
5 Yeouijoo 2:57  ***
6 General and His Army 1:00  ***
7 Second Life 1:18  ***
8 Destiny 2:55  ***
9 Battle in the Sky 2:24  ***
10 Hypnosis and Flashback 2:32  ***
11 Cafe Attack 1:58  ***
12 Rooftops Showdown 2:31  ***
13 The Altar 2:22  ***
14 Buraki 2:52  ***
15 D-War 2:01  ***
16 Farewell 2:41  ***
17 Arirang 3:16  ****
 

Total Running Time (approx)

46 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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