Save The Green Planet
Shin Ha Gyun, Lee Jae Yong
Jang Joon Hwan
Do you know who Jang Joon Hwan is? If you don’t, after this film you will. OHHH YES you will.
This guy came out of nowhere with a short film in the mid 90s (2001 Imagine). It was really acclaimed and stuff, all that talk that makes critics go apeshat on films. But this guy really has cinematic balls the size of a family friendly pint of Soju. He debuts with this film…out of the blue, and suddenly everybody is buzzing about the script. Everybody in the Korean Cinema community (in Korea, at least) is buzzing about how perfectly this guy integrated special effects, quirky comedy, social commentary, sci-fi genre trappings and more…and came up with something genuinely funny, touching, and life affirming. This, as those dorky people called critics call these films, is a masterpiece, folks.
Shin Ha Gyun, in the role of his life (he said so himself), stars as a dope-taking, daydreaming youngster who makes mannequins for a living. He’s an outcast, living on the top of a mountain in a crazy house full of weird books. He cultivates bees, reads extreme science fiction (the ‘Aliens invaded my stomach! I gained 60 pounds in a year and lost my job!’ tabloid type), watched sci-fi films and more. He lives with a chubby girlfriend who used to be a circus performer (Hwang Jung Min, curious name for a girl), and they live alone with a dog (called, go figure..Jigu -earth-).
This guy, Byung Gu, thinks he’s finally found the huge problem that’s making a mess out of our beautiful planet. It’s those damn aliens from Andromeda! They telepathically transmit messages with their hair, and use human likenesses to fool us mortals. He has to find the culprit, who will lead him to the Prince, and will allow him to SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! Who hoooo!
Who’s the culprit? We’re introduced to him while he comes home from a night at (probably) a suljib. When he comes out of the car he blubbers uncomprehensible mumbo-jumbo and makes weird noises. It’s him! The CEO of one of the biggest companies in Korea. Dressed like a technician from Bizarro Star Trek, Byung Gu approaches him and goes, free like a fly, “I come from your hometown…Andromeda!”.
Here begins the wacky story of our hero, and his capture of the CEO, or the Alien, if you want. It sounds like a comedy, right? It starts so, and it’s incredibly funny. But slowly, slowly, it turns into a drama. A very touching, incredibly involving dramas, one of the few who makes you think about yourself, the people around you and what you do every day when you wake up. It’s ending is wacky as the beginning, but fits perfectly with the whole mood of the film. What a fantastic film!!!
-Good- (Shin Ha Gyun) You’ll be challenged, as the film progresses, to feel sympathy for this character. He starts as this goofy guy who watched too many episodes of X Files, but then the director and Shin’s amazing performance change that. They make you re-think about him, reconsider if he’s really just a naive young fellow or not an obsessed freak. Just an incredible performance. Box Office for this film was crap, but I’d be really, REALLY surprised if Shin doesn’t become one of the most sought after actors in Korea
(Baek Yoon Shik) I could say the same. His CEO starts as an ass, but gradually becomes a person, it all unfolds under your eyes. You feel sympathy for him, or maybe compassion. I don’t know what it is…but it works. Baek hits all the right notes, be it when he has to be subtle, or when he has to go all Charlton Heston on you. And he’s not senile yet!!
(Director Jang Joon Hwan, and the whole crew) Wow! Great special effects, an awesome score, fantastic editing and pacing. Production values here are perfect. PERFECT.
(References) There’s tons here. Books, films (from 2001 A Space Odyssey to Men in Black), manhwa…
(Lee Jae Yong) A wacky detective, but his character is a memorable one. He’s one of the countless character actors whose face you remember, but I think I’m gonna start recalling his name too from now on.
-Bad- This film bombed at the box office. When will marketing companies start to understand that not EVERY FOOKING FILM has to be marketed as a brainless comedy? They tried with Jealousy is My Middle Name as a romantic menage à trois, this one as a wacky sci-fi romp…when will it finish? If I could have gone twice to see this in Korea, I would have. Alas, it didn’t even sell 100,000 tickets. And people go to see Hollywood movies…bah.
-Ugly- Well, it’s gory. And kinda disgusting sometimes. Whatcha gonna do….
OVERALL: An amazing film. Period. Perhaps Memories of Murder is a more polished work, but this takes the cake for me, best film of the year so far. Exciting, creative, memorable…