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'D-War' Breathes Fire on Opening Day

2007/08/03 Source

The legendary Korean serpent Imoogi is about to become a full dragon. Shim Hyung-rae's new sci-fi flick "D-War" attracted 417,298 moviegoers on its opening day Wednesday, the film's distributor Showbox said. It's the highest first-day figure for Korean films this year, and close to the 449,500 recorded by "The Host", the biggest Korean hit so far. But perhaps more noteworthy than the numbers is director Shim's comeback. He's back in the spotlight despite being called an imposter following the flop of his 1999 movie "Yonggary".

Showbox is predicting at least 2.5 million viewers for the movie's first five days, based on advance weekend ticket sales and the number of cinemas showing it. That's similar to the 2.6 million "The Host" attracted in its first weekend. (Thirteen million watched the film in total.)

A poster for the film 'D-War' directed by Shim Hyung-rae.

Ticket reservations portal Maxmovie said D-War accounted for 46 percent of advance weekend sales as of Thursday afternoon, more than double the second-ranking Korean film "May 18". A Maxmovie official said, "Seventy four percent of those reserving tickets are in their 30s and 40s and each person is buying an average 3.2 tickets, which is more than double that of other films. This highlights 'D-War's' commercial potential as a family film".

The critics have been mostly lukewarm, with many hailing the visual effects but deriding the screenplay. The audience however has been more generous, calling it worth watching. Sympathy for Shim is also helping the film. Most of the online messages prior to its release were comments wishing him well as he has suffered difficult times. Messages disparaging Shim were invariably criticized.

The comedian-turned-filmmaker was a loner in Chungmuro, Korea's Hollywood. When "Yonggary" flopped at the box office in 1999, he was labeled a swindler. The title of "new intellectual" given to him by former president Kim Dae-jung boomeranged on him. Some film producers blasted the movie as a "Chungmuro disaster".

Despite the prejudices, Shim made a bold challenge in the sci-fi genre, a new territory for Korean cinema, and has come back with a new production after seven years. His endeavor must have touched the public's heart. "D-War" is set to open in the U.S. in mid September. Cultural critic and Inha University Professor Kim Dong-shik said, "Young people seem to regard Shim as an independent force in the film industry. The bigger the gap between his former comedic image of the idiot Younggu and his new heroic undertaking, the more the public will be impressed".

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