English Title: Jung_E
Korean Title: 정이
Director(s): Yeon Sang-ho
Screenwriter(s): Yeon Sang-ho
Studio: Climax Studio, Dexter Studio
Runtime: 1h 39m
Starring: Kang Soo-yeon, Kim Hyun-joo, Ryu Kyung-soo
My Verdict: It is not a poorly made film but it is unfocused in both its themes and tone as ideas are just thrown out there but not elaborated on.
● The premise is common in sci-fi stories: climate change has forced a portion of the population to leave Earth for “shelters” in space (before moving to permanent locations). Somehow, three of those shelters band together as the “Adrian Republic” to start a war against the rest referred to as the “Allied Forces”. Some people still live on Earth, working to supply the shelters and the war effort.
● I try not to be too harsh on the premise but some criticism is merited in this case. Setting aside “climate change”, there are logistical issues. These space shelters cannot sustain themselves, requiring Earth’s resources. How can merely three shelters start and sustain a war that has been going on for decades? Are they aligned with some people on Earth? These details are not actually essential to the story but are necessary for the setup to be plausible and draw the audience in.
● On Earth, the company Kronoid is working on a combat AI modeled on the brain of Yun Jung-yi (Kim Hyun-joo), basically a war hero who ended up in a coma after failing her last mission. Yun Seo-hyun (Kang Soo-yeon), her daughter, is the head researcher.
● Despite the premise, this film is not a sci-fi action/war film even though it does have some action. It is about Seo-hyun trying to successfully develop the combat AI for the Allied Forces in order to end the war.
● The film touches on many themes and imagery other sci-fi films and series have touched on but it never truly explores them. It just mentions/shows them and then moves on. Although it is not trying to be cerebral or profound, it is in this regard unfocused and even shallow.
● Themes include consciousness and identity as well as the moral implications surrounding using someone’s brain and body as a model for AI. These themes and even the visuals are presumably a homage to the Ghost in the Shell animes. Not surprisingly, there is some imagery from Blade Runner and Terminator as well.
● At a runtime of 1h 39m, it is not long. Despite being unfocused, it doesn’t outright drag but it can be tighter. The opening is particularly weak. The intro text narrates the background but there is also an early scene in which lab director Kim Sang-Hoon (Ryu Kyung-soo) makes a presentation to the brass and repeats the same background. It’s a waste of time, just one or the other will do.
● Although not central to the plot, there are minor issues like why there are a large number of robots being manufactured in the lab when the system is still being developed. Only a limited number is required for testing. Another example is that there are, of course, obstacles for Seo-hyun but as someone close to the chairman of the company and has his ear, one would expect these obstacles to not exist for her or be overcome easily. These issues may be relatively minor but can draw the audience out instead of in.
● The performances are generally good. Kang Soo-yeon never overdoes it as Seo-hyun, mostly playing the subdued scientist by taking the “subtle for the screen but not too subtle” approach. Sadly, she passed away in May 2022 before the film’s release.
● The production is solid. The visual effects and CG are better than expected and, apart from a few instances, generally look good. The set designs and costumes are excellent even if they are not particularly original but they don’t need to be.
● The score is mostly fitting but would be better if it is less dramatic. This is mostly because, as mentioned above, the film is unfocused with ideas just being thrown out there. As such, any musical theme that is too strong will come across as cheesy.
● Overall, it is not a poorly made film but it is, as already mentioned, unfocused. Although it doesn’t outright drag, such an approach would make a solid short film of no longer than 45m rather than a feature-length film.
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