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April 27, 2013

Movie Review: Dragon Wasps (2012, Chelsea Films)

Reviewed By: John Beutler

I have to admit, good or bad, this reviewer is a sucker for 'nature strikes back' flicks, especially the mutation-themed ones...even going as far back as the '50's nuclear age, when ol' mad scientist Leo J. Carroll, was over a barrel, when "Tarantula" took to the hills. Giant bugs...giant animals...even giant people...sometimes borne of atomic radiation...often wrought from a mad scientist's radical experimentation...occasionally originating from the outer reaches of space...the odd times, abruptly awoken from prehistoric sleep...and in the past few decades, the dreaded scourge of genetic mutation. 

The basic story-lines themselves, a dime-a-dozen, and almost negligible...virtually writing themselves...the situations, given the variant 'tweeking', here and there, are often not that far removed from each other...put a number of characters in a desperate situation...a good guy, a bad guy, and a damsel in distress, amongst others...throw in the prerequisite slimy 'creature', which proceeds to dispatch the minor-league characters, one by one...cue the sappy, albeit responsive-to-the-situation melodrama...muscle up enough gumption from the survivors, in an effort to destroy the creature, as resourcefully as possible...and BAM!! Creature is destroyed, the typically arrogant bad guy dies, in the process...hero and damsel embrace, and all is well. An interchangeable scenario, seen often enough to become cliche, at this point...but like every other film of it's type, the real meat of the 'nature strikes back' flick, is the creature, or creatures...and how it is/they are creatively and realistically rendered. It is in THIS...what is supposed to be the anticipated payoff of the film, that 2012's derivative and ho-hum moderately entertaining, high-octane, rapid-fire sci-fi actioner, "Dragon Wasps", lets the viewer down...

Coren Nemic ( of those character actors, whom most might not recognize by name, but whose face is definitely familiar, having seen from time to time; for myself, in striking a familiar cord, I harkened as far back as 1994 on this actor, when he played Harold Lauter, in "Stephen King's The Stand") is the angst, by-the-book commander of a US Army platoon, staked out in a thick, predator-infested Belizean jungle, in an effort to thwart the smuggling efforts of local, gun-toting drug-runners. Keeping things lively for our intrepid commander, a self-proclaimed mystic drug-lord, with a penchant for keeping score...a life for a life, or rather, a soul for a soul. And if that wasn't trouble enough, it seems that an attractive and determined waif of a scientist, accompanied by a friend, wants to enlist the services of this platoon, in an effort to seek our her scientist father, supposedly working for a covert pharmaceutical company (...uh, naturally), and was reported as lost in the jungle, some days previous. But wait!! What's that buzzing noise?? Coming closer...and closer...and closer...and before you can say 'buzzzzz-kill', the aforementioned cast of characters are bombarded, and bloodily dispatched by wasps...giant three-to-six foot long wasps, with the unique ability to fire a napalm-like chemical substance from their butts. In the interim, adversaries become uneasy allies, as the military and the drug-runners reluctantly work together, to stave off a common enemy...and a most monstrously deadly one, at that...

Given the film's campy subject matter, it might be forgivable that here, the acting, as well as the dialogue is rendered rather sappily, and by-the-numbers ordinary; in fact, the only two performers herein, who actually seem to be having enough of a good time with this film, to illicit reasonably serious (...but not TOO serious) performances, are Coren, in his 'commander' character (...note: Coren also had double duty here, wearing the second hat of a producer, for this film), and actor Gildon Roland's performance as the eccentric jungle drug-lord  Jaguar. The engaging banter and verbal crossing-of-swords between these two characters, manages to make up for the contrasting lackluster performances of the rest of the cast. However, for a film of this caliber  it is the special effects, which make or break the proceedings; unfortunately, with regards to "Dragon Wasps", despite a minute smattering of strikingly graphic body 'exit' moments, as well as adequate payoff moments, involving the wasp's flame-throwing ability, the preponderant CGI effects appear cartoonishly jerky, sloppily unfinished and way too assembly-line choreographed. An easy candidate for generic SyFy Channel broadcast (...albeit, trimmed up for family friendly viewing), there HAVE been worse flicks than this...but then, there have been some, which are way better than this. Worth a look, but don't expect much...

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