The initiated will know that Asia have been delivering high quality, and some of the most original storylines and films throughout the history of cinema. Something that the mainstream movie goer may not be too familiar with since the best of these have been taken by Hollywood, repackaged, rebranded and redistributed to appeal more to the Western pallet- and obviously to generate far more money for big American film studios. From the early days of Westerns and the likes of ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, and ‘The Magnificent Seven’, to the more recent ‘The Departed’, ‘The Ring’, ‘The Grudge’ and ‘Downton Abbey’, all take their DNA from Asian originals [okay one of those is a blatant lie, but you get the point – Godzilla isn’t the only film giant to have been given a big screen makeover].
However, the tides are turning, and the spotlight is falling more and more upon new, original material that is finding its way untouched to the big screen with great success and not just the epic martial arts films, but all genres – the Oscar winning, thought provoking ‘Parasite’, the zombie roller coaster ride that is ‘Train to Busan’ and several others have all been laying the tracks for more content to come to a cinema or streaming service near you.
But now, with the Korean made ‘Space Sweepers’, we find ourselves in the situation where Asia is trying to take a slice from the biggest American movie pie, the sci-fi action blockbuster.
Directed by Sung-here Jo, Space Sweepers is set in the year 2092 where the world is in a state of collapse where the elite can secure themselves a place in an off-world paradise, whilst the poor struggle for survival any way they can.
The story centres around the crew of The Victory, who make a living by salvaging space junk and scrap to the detriment of their rivals.
Onboard The Victory we have a rag-tag bunch of spacers including the ‘sassy, ass-kicking female’ Captain Jang (Kim Tae-Ri), the ‘enigmatic brains of the operation with his tragic back story’ and male lead Tae-ho, (played by Song Joong-ki), the hardened, gruff ‘tough-guy’ Tiger Park (Seon-kyu Jin) and the witty, ‘desperate to be a human’ military robot Bubs (voiced by Yoo Hai-jin). All very familiar sounding characters that are looking to secure a big win to help them achieve their hearts’ desire or dream.
And here’s where they stumble across a small android girl ‘Dorothy’, whilst capturing their latest prize, who just happens to be a weapon of mass destruction with a huge price tag on her head, paid out to whomever returns her to the large corporation who created her.
What follows is the twist and turns and adventures along the Yellow Brick Space Highway the crew have to undertake in order to strike the deal and deliver their cargo for the life changing reward. Obviously, along the journey, they have to spend quality time with the ever-so-cute WMD and begin to form a bond as they get to know her and themselves better and discover that there may be more than meets the eye to Dorothy and what they’ve been told about her, may not exactly be the whole truth.
So will they simply hand over the sweet, innocent, precious Dorothy to the Evil Corporation that evidently does not have her best interests in mind, or will they find the power inside themselves to turn away from the deal of their lifetimes and save her….? I think you can guess what the outcome may be.
Verdict: 7/10: Space Sweepers is a good attempt to take on the big sci-fi action films. The CGI is slick and high quality and it certainly fills the gap whilst waiting for other big budget releases. All the cast deliver good performances, including Ye-Rin Park who plays Dorothy and Song Joong-Ki and the storyline, whilst familiar and predictable, takes the watcher on a pleasant journey from the opening sequences to a satisfying finish. And that is the problem for me. The storyline is too familiar and predictable, the characters are too familiar and predictable. There is nothing that takes the film to the next level or introduces something new to the cinematic Universe that Korea and Asia are capable of doing so well. It is instead the reverse. It takes pieces from other already well known and established films and franchises and makes a patch work quilt that wraps the watcher in film deja-vu. But maybe that’s the point of Space Sweepers, not to revolutionise the sci-fi genre, but to attempt to fit in with the big players and lay the groundwork for those that follow. Either way it’s filled with enough nuggets of entertainment (including Bubs delivering a death blows to competing junkers with the use of her trusty spear) to easily fill the 2hr 16mins of runtime and will hopefully lead to the average Jo (or Jane) Bloggs dipping their toe in other World Cinema waters.