Dragon Wars is just a summer release date and a major star short of passing itself off as a legitimate special-effects blockbuster. Nothing here is more preposterous than what happens in, say, Transformers -- actually, the two films have some similar set pieces. But being dumped in September -- and possessing such a pulpy title -- gave the unmistakable whiff of a B-movie to Dragon Wars, or D-War for short. Those who went for precisely that reason may be disappointed, because it's not outrageously dumb, and in fact has some halfway decent scripting among all the ancient Korean lore, explosions, and slithery dragon mayhem. From an opening sequence in which an army of demon soldiers decimates a Korean village -- with the help of mammoth cannons on the backs of dinosaur-like lizards -- director Shim Hyung-rae serves notice that this film should be taken seriously as a technical achievement, even if these visuals are cribbed from the new Star Wars and Lord of the Rings trilogies. The important part is that they're impressive, and this same visual creativity carries over to the present day, when the dragons make good use of contemporary urban props in terrorizing Los Angeles. Their character design is refreshingly different from what we usually see in dragon films, more like serpents than four-legged flying beasts. No one is going to confuse this for an A-level cast -- the biggest name here is Robert Forster -- but the actors do help steer things clear of the hokum that could have overtaken this production. Shim certainly deserves some of the credit, especially in only his second feature, and the first one anyone saw. Plus, Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office) chips in a comic relief performance that's a lot funnier than these sidekick roles usually get.