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Space Sweepers

 aka 승리호 (Spaceship Victory)

 

Director: Jo Sung Hee

Written by: Jo Sung Hee, Yoon Seung Min, Yookang Seo Ae

Release: February 5, 2021

Distribution: Netflix

 

 

 

Cast:

Song Joong Ki - Kim Tae Ho

Kim Tae Ri - Captain Jang

Jin Seon Kyu - Tiger Park

Yoo Hae Jin - Bubs

Richard Armitage - James Sullivan

Kim Mu Yeol - Kang Hyon Woo

Park Ye Rin - Dorothy / Kang Kkot Nim

 

This movie struck me as a bit of a cross between a Star Wars movie and the US drama series Firefly, though there are elements which feel derivative from any number of space movies and dramas. It’s really the strength of its casting that makes this movie worth watching.

 

In a post apocalyptic world, where space is the ultimate escape, our heros are a ragtag band of people who crew the ship Victory salvaging space junk for money. They are not quite a team, mostly keeping to themselves, especially their histories and emotions. Of course, it turns out that their back stories have them falling from various graces, but they are all now just trying to make a living and get by.

 

Captain Jang played by Lee Tae Ri is a bit of an alcoholic when she's not working, keeping any intimacy or romantic intentions by men firmly in their place. Tiger Park played by Jin Seon Kyu is a bit of a savage person who would rather fight than smile, though he turns out to be a marshmallow inside under the right circumstances. Bubs voiced by Yoo Hae Jin is an android with an attitude who also happens to be a card sharp and is pondering taking on a human exterior. Tae Ho played by Song Joong Ki is a bit of a rascal desperate to raise some money in order to try to salvage his dead daughter’s body.

 

Then they happen upon a child Dorothy/Kkot Nim played by Park Ye Rin during one of their salvages. Initially thinking that she was an explosive device rather than a child, they come to learn that instead she is a very special child. They initially try to deliver Kkot Nim to her father played by Kim Mu Yeol for the money he promises to pay them, but it turns out that the villains are also in pursuit of Kkot Nim, and everything goes wrong in the reunion attempt.  It’s in caring for the child that the crew of Victory slowly open up to each other as well as to Kkot Nim.

 

The primary villain is James Sullivan played by Richard Armitage who is seen as humanity’s savior without realizing that he’s also slowly further damaging Earth and is planning on destroying it completely. He also happens to be TH’s adoptive father, of sorts.


This movie was definitely shot to be shown on a big screen. The space battles particularly needs a certain scale in order for it to be fully appreciated. Watching it on a small screen as I did, I feel that it lost some of its flavor.  The multicultural, multi-linguistic approach is also interesting with the two dominant languages being the Korean spoken by the crew and English by most of the non-Korean characters, especially the villains, but with smidgeons of other languages in there as well. I appreciated the attempt, though it means that pretty much everyone who watches this will end up reading some subtitles.

 

The movie also has a bit of a slow start as it opens with a voiceover of the world in decay in 2092, then cuts to Tae Ho trying to use some real rice versus molecular chemistry rice substitute as cash currency to get into what we later find out is a mortuary. It takes its time to build up the world and the crew, so it’s best to watch it when there are few interruptions.

 

Once it gets going though, it becomes engaging as we see more of the crew interactions, especially once Kkot Nim is introduced into the mix.  It helps that the adult cast are all veteran actors, so even when the plot starts to feel a bit derivative, they are still engaging and charsmatic. This is particularly important since there isn’t any romance in this movie. There is plenty of bromance, including with Captain Jang, and heaping doses of love of a father for his daughter, but no hint of a romantic flicker other than a crush by Captain Pierre on Captain Jang which is mostly played for laughs. The child actresses in this film are as impressive as Korean child actors tend to be. Both Park Ye Rin as Kkot Nim and Oh Ji Eun playing Tae Ho’s daughter Suni turn in solid, touching performances.

 

It’s deftly directed by Jo Sung Hee (who also directed the Korean blockbuster The Werewolf Boy) who is very good at pulling out the emotions from his actors without going overboard, and manages to balance the comedy with the more serious plotlines and themes. Btw, there is a moment at the end where Captain Jang scoffs at her crewmates for their cheesiness which is a bit of a crack up as it makes a wry nod at cliched emotions and situations.

 

I ultimately enjoyed watching this movie, and will even probably watch it again if I can find a bigger screen to watch it on. I’m not sure that it’s going to become a classic, but it is a lot of fun if you can stay with it. I’m hoping that there will be a sequel  “Space Sweepers 2” once the pandemic is over. Space Sweepers is good enough that I would like to watch this cast interacting again.

 

Plot:  7
Cast:  9
Production:  9
Rewatch: 8

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It was a pretty enjoyable movie with  a good balance of action and emotional scenes. With just two hours , it usually isn't easy to give all characters growth but I think it was able to especially for Song Joong Ki's character Tae Ho. With the others , they had less time to develop their emotional arcs and I suppose if a 2nd instalment can be made, that could be explored. I particularly like that robot Bub who desperately wanted to assimilate ( become like a human being)  with the rest of his fellow crew members . So cute. 

Spoiler

I was rather moved by the sad backstory of how Tae Ho  lost his daughter. The little girt Kot-Nim reminded him of his failure as a father , and he put up an emotional wall immediately when he met her. So in the short time we had, we could see how in looking after Kkot Nim , it gave him the closure he needed for his daughter's death. 

 

I do think this movie is fun and a success - I don't remember seeing any k-movie of its kind and so was pleasantly surprised that it was a good quality production.

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Some fun facts about the show

(Source: Hype.my)

Netflix users are surely getting a load of excitement for the premiere on 5th February. To those curious to find out more about “Space Sweepers”, here are some fun facts for viewers to understand more about the movie itself beforehand:

 

1. Director Jo Sung-Hee actually planned this film a decade ago


Before Sung-hee’s first popular commercial movie “A Werewolf Boy”, the starting of “Space Sweepers” traces all the way back to the year 2009. The Korean director started developing the story of the movie upon gaining knowledge from a friend of his regarding space junk that travels very fast in outer space.

 

“Space workers” collecting “space debris” that travels faster than the speed of bullets and can kill people. The script that began from these two key words a decade ago has now resulted in seeing Korean “space sweepers” up in space on the small screen.

 

2. One of the first-ever Korean space blockbuster film

Space is a place where no ordinary person has ever ventured before, but have seen multiple times in Hollywood movies. Korean director Jo Sung-Hee alongside the production team started working on “Space Sweepers” with the particular goal of innovating a brand new world where Korean characters can wholly fit in with the context of space.

 

The director and the production team had to rely mostly on their country’s technology as well as creativity to make a new world, something people won’t see being portrayed in movies from Hollywood. It is also special to “Space Sweepers” according to the general guide created by the plot and its characters.

 

Actress Kim Tae Ri was feeling a sense of pride to be involved with such a project like this film, because if one were to mention sci-fi, people tend to assume it’s a Hollywood production. The actors also remarked saying that they feel the Korean flag on their chest.

 

3. The spear-throwing robot is South Korea’s first spacefaring robot character made by motion capture technology
 

Korean actor Yoo Hae-Jin plays Bubs, who is the nation’s first-ever robot or android character made through motion capture. Even with motion capture being countlessly used in a lot of Hollywood films (“Avatar”, “Star Wars”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Lord of the Rings”) and even some attempts done in domestic projects in South Korea as well, Hae-Jin is the first actor of “Space Sweepers” to portray a robot character using motion capture alongside voice acting.

 

The actor performed in a motion capture suit comprised of markers tracking his movements with additional devices strapped to the suit which provides visuals of characteristics of the space and movements of an android, cyborg, or robot. Jeong Cheol-Min (정 철민) had to stay on-site for 70 out of 74 shoots to set the optimal environment for the shoot with lighting as well as various other equipment for the succeeding part of the CG process. This is to aid the zero point for tracking the movement that had to be reset for almost every new scene.

 

Filmed footages were then refined through the post-production process of the VFX team animating Bub’s movements with costumes and lighting that provides detail to make the character appear on the screen. In addition, Bubs’ style adds to an enjoyable visual experience as he pulls off most outfit changes all thanks to his admiration for pretty things.

 

Although fans may not see Hae-Jin’s face in “Space Sweepers” as Bubs, the actor still has his voice, gestures, and movements that grasp the hearts of audiences alongside his humour and playful antics. Hence, his presence is very much visible.

 

4. The costume designs isn’t what you’ve seen from standard Hollywood films


“Space Sweepers” has one aspect that makes the movie feel entirely different from regular Hollywood sci-fi films. That aspect is placing ordinary Koreans as the main highlight of the film. They are individuals who are just coping and attempting to earn enough money to survive rather than being space heroes living in their own league. The costumes or outfits they wear reflect that.

Sweat, dirt, and dust are details that include a sense of realism to the story inspired themes of costumes and make-up altogether inseparably, even if the costumes for the members on Victory were designed to mirror each crew’s position or status on the spacecraft as well as their preference. Gwak Jeong-Ae (곽 정애), the costume director for “Space Sweepers” elevated the feeling of reality of the movie with the member’s fashion being aligned with the current outfits worn in real life. Such outfits include Tae-Ho’s jacket, Captain Jang’s leather jacket with sunglasses, Tiger Park’s work clothing, and also Bub’s colourful and vibrant informal attires.

 

Jeong-Ae ensured that the outfits made them seem like they are a working-class group of a spaceship by designing their costumes to look old and shabby. Director Jo Sung-Hee requested that the spacesuits designs to be light, proper, and flexible enough to ensure the characters move around seamlessly. With the extra analysis of various spacesuits seen in other sci-fi films with countless adjustments, “Space Sweepers” created costumes that are really unique.

 

5. The movie features popular British actor Richard Armitage


Casting a foreign or non-Korean actor is a big deal for a non-Hollywood film. British actor Richard Armitage is one of the few well-known actors from the big movie industry cast for a role in “Space Sweepers”. The actor had to overcome a language barrier to finish a unique and intelligent character.

Fans may know Armitage in major films such as the “Hobbit” franchise, “Into the Storm”, “Ocean’s 8”, and even an MCU film “Captain America: The First Avenger”. The British actor has created a huge following with his roles in various television series such as Netflix’s “The Stranger” and the third season of “Hannibal” on NBC. During his teen years, Armitage actually performed with a circus as well as in the Royal Shakespeare Company which made him decide to partake in “Space Sweepers” because he was attracted to the human story inside the genre of space sci-fi.

 

Armitage plays the role of the movie’s main antagonist James Sullivan, the constructor of the space development corporation UTS and is now developing Mars to ensure another civilisation. The role is perfect for Armitage’s performance, masking a deep voice with such class and strength to his performance that aligns with what director Jo Sung-Hee had in mind formerly. The British actor really does fit the role of the character. Going through a lot of research through books, pictures, and videos, Armitage exchanged ideas with Sung-Hee and even made conversations directly with the other actors while overcoming language barriers to finish his character for the movie.

 

The actor even has this to say about Korea in general, “Thank you for inviting me to play Sullivan, for bringing me to Korea, a place across the other side of the world… and introducing me to a new country and all of the sights and the culture, but most importantly for including me in a film which I think the Korean film industry is going to be extremely proud of“.

 

 

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It's a very entertaining action / space opera film. Few times I was reminded of Star Wars. It does has a good balance of action and emotional/characters' interaction scenes. I really enjoy seeing all of them turned into a loving father figure taking care of Kkot nim.

 

I had to re-watch a few scenes because things happened too quick and the eyes were also busy trying to catch up on subtitles. Even though I've the benefit of being multilingual it didn't help the the Chinese Space Sweeper was not speaking good Mandarin Chinese.

 

Plot-wise, I don't think it was novel — especially the villain's twisted theory about humanity etc. and plotting to destroy earth, but I appreciated the extra addition of having Kknot nim become part of the Victory team's family. I believe that's what set Korean's story apart from the western's. The only bit I thought needed more was Kim Tae Ri's Captain Jang. I somewhat think Tiger Park has more screen time and character's backstory than her. Agree that this movie won't be a classic or is memorable; however, it was fun and entertaining so it is suitable for everyone.

 

With this scale and extravagance, I think the production team has done an excellent job. It's really a big deal for South Korea since it is their first space opera based film. Sweet Home has set a high standard, and now this. I look forward to what more awesome stuff South Korea will give us.

 

I've also watched The Yin-Yang Master today and The Wandering Earth a while back. Both also have good visual effects. For decades, the Asian film industries didn't have the skills or cash to produce visual effects which the Western countries excelled in, so it is definitely a proud and gratifying moment that we Asians are now able to produce films with the same quality as the Westerns. And potentially even better script/story (e.g. Sweet Home) :pandachamp: 

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  • 3 months later...
46 minutes ago, movingwheel said:

will SJK & KTR do it??? Thats the biggest question...

 

That would be sooo much fun! It would be great to get the original cast altogether. I thought they were really fun, especially when they interacted with Kkot Nim. The "Victory" family just wouldn't be the same with any replacements.

 

Btw, the Korean title for this movie is "Spaceship Victory".

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@stroppyse yes it will be total fun.... considering the equation of Director Jo Sung Hee with SJK , I doubt he will ever ever be able to say no to him...

 

the cast friendship is fun basically that netflix jenga game.... when SJK was totally  bullied by mostly KTR and then others... :D

 

Their relation with kot nim was total fun... everyone was fawning over that kid.... i never thought i will laugh and cry and gleeful at the same point.

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