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[Review] ‘Space Sweepers’: Visual Is a “Victory,” But Story Is a “Tie”

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

After devouring all things possible on Earth, such as zombies, monsters and fantasies, the Korean cinema launched out to space after boarding The Victory. From 24 billion KRW (about $21,423,693) production budget and star-studded cast with Hollywood actor to eye-catching visuals and teaser contents, the aspirations of the project are heading beyond the Korean market into the world. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to greet the film on theater with the COVID-19 crisis, but rather, Space Sweepers’ ambition was only strengthened with the push from Netflix. After all the ups and downs, how did Space Sweepers turn out to be?

 

Turning “concerns” into “WOWs” – Visuals and action were a “victory”

Credit: Netflix

Space Sweepers is an SF movie about the space junk collector crew jumping into a dangerous deal after discovering a humanoid robot that’s known to be a weapon of mass destruction. As it is the first Korean film to incorporate space operas such as Star Wars and Star Trek into the big screen, many have shown their anticipations. On the other hand, it gained concerns over if the current technology of Korean films could properly implement the genre-specific scale and visuals, but it successfully turned these mixed reactions into pure astonishments with the result that went far beyond the expectations.

Credit: Netflix

In the beginning, the movie offers spectacular attractions, depicting the battle between The Victory and the rival spacecraft over space garbage. The speedy action and grand scale of the process are enough to draw out exclamations. Not only does it perfectly reproduces the main stage of the plot – the space and the future world – but it also details out even the smallest parts of the spaceship, realistically approaching the audience. And the space action scenes from the middle is unfolded from a variety of angles, adding to the immersion of the work with performances that capture the characteristics of the characters even if the plot is unraveled on a mega scale. On top of that, the magnificent melody that resonates in the right place and the right time highlights Space Sweepers’ technical achievements and solidifies its soul as a great SF blockbuster.

 

The characters are charming, but the story is… well…

Credit: Netflix

Leaving behind the flawless visuals, Space Sweepers will take a full-fledged step in the space epic.  Interest in the narrative continues amid the unique characters and the chemistry of the actors who played them. Song Joong Ki, who plays pilot Tae Ho, takes center stage and lets the rest of the characters exude their charms, and Captain Jang, played by Kim Tae Ri, gives off refreshing feelings with her chic attitude and strong-minded nature. Jin Seon Kyu turns into engineer Tiger Park and adds comedy by looking like detective Cha from Extreme Job on a spacecraft, while Yoo Hae Jin, who takes on the role of Robot Bubs, imprints his presence with just his voice.

They are worth their salt in individual battles, but their charms triple when they are together. Specifically, the film increases the density of laughter with lines that adequately portray each character’s personality through in the “bickering” scenes such as hwatu-betting game or allotting the prize money. It also delicately deals with the connection between the main characters and Dorothy, a key component of the story, delivering both deep emotions and waves of laughter. Director Jo Sung Hee has always been known for drawing out the harmonious chemistry between adult and child actors in his works, including A Werewolf Boy and Phantom Detective, and such skills only improved in space.

Credit: Netflix

However, reefs are found in the second half of The Victory’s smooth voyage when the characters’ charms show the bottom. Crucially, the acting of multinational actors, excluding the four main characters, is extremely awkward. Their unrefined lines and facial expressions make the atmosphere awkward, reducing dramatic tension. In particular, even the actors who play significant roles showcase unsympathetic performances that they only act as an obstacle to the overall flow. Richard Armitage, the main villain of the work, shows off his veteran skills, but most foreign actors give the impression of being clearly distant from the play. As the story progresses into the second half, the story becomes more and more distracting, and the lack of the originality of the material due to the mundane development lets much regret.

Overall, Space Sweepers has some obvious shortcomings, but it safely completes its entry into the space with the VFX perfection and unique characters. The greater the satisfaction we have, the greater the sadness we will feel of not meeting the work on the big screen. I sincerely hope that the current situation will improve so that we can greet this movie in theaters through film festivals and special screenings. 

Verdict: The impressive achievement made by the visual effects that it didn’t necessarily have to emphasize “K-style” (7/10)

What do you think?