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In a post-Skywalker Saga world, there may still be more Star Wars along the way through both film and television, but there haven’t been any other cinematic space romps. Originally, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was meant to be the big holiday movie of 2020, but of course due to the pandemic, it will supposedly be released later this year. Meanwhile, the first Korean space blockbuster Space Sweepers was meant to be released last year, but due to a number of postpones, it is released exclusively on Netflix. Will this movie fill in the missing Star Wars hole and grab an audience’s attention?
Originally titled The Victory – the name of a space junk collector ship – a crew struggles to make ends meet in a future where the Earth has become nearly uninhabitable. Meanwhile, the UTS corporation builds a new orbiting home for humanity, despite the fact only a chosen few can ascend. When the crew discovers a humanoid child robot named Dorothy that’s known to be a weapon of mass destruction, they get involved in a risky business deal, which ends up playing a huge part in the fate of humanity.
From the initial action sequence of Space Sweepers where a number of ships racing to claim some space debris, director Jo Sung-hee’s goal is to entertain us with a space adventure centering on a ragtag team of misfits who comically misbehave towards others and themselves. When they discover the adorable Dorothy, the dysfunctional adults are torn between their positions as junk dealers and being actual humans.
It is fair to say that the script of Space Sweepers on a simple narrative basis, is predictable from the team dynamic to them fighting a corrupt corporation whose supposed purpose to save the humanity. How many times do we have to see villains who think they’re goodies by actually destroying the world? However, the crew of the Victory has fun and melodramatic character traits, from the unlikeable yet tragic protagonist Tae-ho, to the heavily tattooed ex-gangster with a heart of gold Tiger Park. That said, the scene-stealer is the robot Hubs (played by Yoo Hae-jin through motion capture and voice acting), who may have a somewhat masculine voice, but also has a feminine quality that hilariously pays off at the film’s conclusion.
Although it does have Korean actors in the leads, Space Sweepers comprises an international cast that certainly feels uncommon compared to Hollywood productions, though you do have Richard Armitage, doing a menacing performance as the typical British villain. Two hours and sixteen minutes long, the film does too much with a tone that is all over the place, from the juvenile humor to the bloodshed violence. If the film had trimmed all the swearing and the violence, it would have been a suitable space adventure for the whole family. That said, you can tell the money is spent on every frame with well-produced visual effects showcasing how epic and thrilling the space battles are. They are visually reminiscent of the recent Star Trek films and Battlestar Galactica.
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