This is a frustratingly good movie. I wish I had the film-making vocabulary to describe it properly.
As a fun sci-fi heist, it is a triumph. The special effects are light-years beyond Star Wars – both the original and the sequels. The multi-lingual world it presents is possibly the most realistic depiction of the future that I’ve seen. It is Firefly with a grander vision, bigger budget, and more focussed plot.
It is aesthetic without being iconic. It outdoes Blade Runner and Alien in the detailed way it builds the world – but is curiously flat. There is something about the direction that never seems to settle on a style, never lets us quite get absorbed into the world. I can’t put my finger on it – but it feels like it is a cheap TV show inexplicably given a mega budget.
Show – don’t tell. That’s the first rule of
Fight Club story-telling. Sadly, large chunks of this film are just pure exposition. OK – you expect that in the first few minutes as world-building commences. But the action frequently pauses while a voiceover tells us the characters’ backstories. It’s weird.
I watched it in the original language, with English subtitles. It is tremendous fun! The main characters speak Korean, but the supplementary characters speak a mixture of English, French, German, Russian, and a dozen global languages. Particularly interesting is seeing when certain characters get English subtitles.
When watching a foreign film, it’s hard to gauge how good the acting is. Obviously every character is playing a trope – which makes things easier. But some of the English speaking characters are… not good. Like, primary-school Nativity bad. It dragged me out of the movie at times.
Finally, I’m sure I’ve seen this movie before. Every shot feels like it has been borrowed from another sci-fi film. For all the technical wizardry, there’s nothing original going on. Sexy baddies, mano-a-mano fights, lost loves, megalomaniacs – it hits all the clichés with crushing inevitability.
And yet… I loved it! A perfect popcorn blockbuster. Joyously silly, visually stunning, shamelessly multicultural, mawkishly sentimental, and a cacklingly evil villain. Brilliant!