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Movie Makes Young Lee Sun-shin a Hero

Posted July. 14, 2005 02:07,   


You may consider giving a second thought, if you have been following the two expectations of “Heaven’s Soldiers,” a movie scheduled to be released on July 14. The two expectations are: “This movie is funny” and “Park Jung-hoon is funny.” To say the correct answer, this movie is not funny, nor is Park Jung-hoon. More correctly, neither the movie nor main actors and actress have intentions to make audience laugh.

Never Imagine This as a “Funny Movie”-

A nuclear-tipped "Bigyeok Jincheoloe," a bomb which North and South Korea jointly developed in secret, is about to be handed over to the U.S. Kang Man-gil, a North Korean solider (played by Kim Seung-wu), defies the order and runs away with the bomb. Kang and his fellow soldiers confront the group led by Park Jeong-wu, a South Korean commissioned officer (played by Hwang Jeong-min) who followed Kang. But right at that moment, there is some erratic influence from a comet passing by Earth which sends the two groups to the Joseon Dynasty (1572). They run into the 28-year-old Lee Sun-shin (played by Park Jung-hoon) who gave up taking the state examination for military officers and is making a living by smuggling ginseng.

“Heaven’s Soldiers” cannot be blamed for not being funny. The movie seems to have wanted to be positioned differently from the beginning from numerous other entertaining movies about time travel to the past.

Lee Sun-shin is not trivialized even once. Characters maintain their serious tones, which is evident in lines such as, “Does it make any sense to fight against the same people in front of foreign invaders?” (Lee Sun-shin) and “You are too great a figure to die from showing reckless valor” (Park Jeong-wu).

Audiences may burst into laughter sporadically while watching the movie. But the laughter will be the result of misunderstandings. Audiences may laugh when Lee Sun-shin says, “Why does my life always go wrong like this?” not because the line is really funny, but because they think it is intended to make them laugh.

From the audience’s point of view, the movie, which spent about 8.7 billion won in production costs, is “guilty.” To be more correct, it is “dolus eventualis.” Although the movie is not intended to be funny, its marketing assumes that the audience will come to theaters expecting to watch a funny movie.

What else could people expect from it, given the lineup of main actors and actresses, including Park Jung-hoon, Kim Seung-wu, Hwang Jeong-min and Kong Hyo-jin, the movie’s background of “time travel,” and the movie’s interesting ad copy reading, “The North and South Korean militaries’ project to make Admiral Lee Sun-shin.”

Serious Themes Including Blood Fight with Yeojin Tribe-

The last scene of the movie which shows a bloody fight between the brutal Yeojin Tribe and the Joseon is not only spectacular and appalling but also even sacred and heroic. However, the tragic beauty of the scene has a “surplus of meaning” because the core idea of time travel collapsed under the heavy weight of the theme of “making Lee Sun-shin a hero.”

For this reason, the scenes that could be automatically interesting against the background of time travel are not significant but bland. Among them were the scenes where the soldiers were sent to the past, the soldiers had trouble adapting themselves to the past, Lee Sun-shin decides to break away from his low-class life and the soldiers returning to the present.

Perhaps an interesting movie is more difficult to make than a serious movie. The movie is the first work of Director Min Jun-ki and is rated for viewers 15 years of age and up.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com