We’ve seen a whole lot of films and series from South Korea this past year, and each one seems to just raise the bar. But while South Korean entertainment has covered many genres, we still haven’t seen a lot of sci-fi from them, much less ones set in outer space. And that’s exactly why we’re so intrigued by the upcoming release Space Sweepers.
The first of its kind from South Korea
Space Sweepers is an epic galactic adventure set in the far reaches of space. It is one of the first few science fiction live-action movies set in space that was made in Asia — and the first in South Korea.
In the Netflix online press conference, actress Kim Tae Ri shared that often, when we talk about science fiction films, we usually think about Hollywood films. “So, to think that an outer space sci-fi movie created in Korea, what that would be like — I think that’s exactly what we have created together,” she said. “[The film] is very Korean, I think so. I am excited to see what kind of other sci-fi films taking place in outer space will come about from Korea. . . . I’m very proud to have created something as a team that we all work so hard on and together.”
While the film has drawn comparisons with western blockbusters like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, it has a unique world of its own.
The premise: in the year 2092, Earth is dying and humankind had no way to go but up to space, where a utopia made by the company UTS is found. UTS handpicks citizens to bring to their utopia, while the rest of the world suffers on Earth.
With life difficult and lots of junk floating around space, a lot of people have turned to becoming so-called space sweepers, living off salvaging space debris. One such group of people is the crew of spaceship Victory, who come across a seven-year-old girl inside one of the space junk they find. The little girl turns out to be the humanlike robot that UTS Space Guards are looking for. So what does our lovely crew do? They demand ransom in exchange and get involved in a far more nefarious and complicated plot than they realize.
During the Netflix online press conference, actor Song Joong Ki even shared his initial thoughts “When I first heard [the storyline] from the director, I was really shocked because it’s so new and fresh.”
The brainchild of an award-winning film director
Director Jo Sung Hee, who won as Best Director for his previous work A Werewolf Boy at the Baeksang Arts Awards, has worked on this film for over a decade. Yes, Space Sweepers has been in the works for ten years.
“About 10 years ago, I heard the stories about space and space sweepers from friends, so this was an idea that we tried to develop since then,” Jo said during the Netflix online press conference.
“I realized that this subject has already been dealt with in animations and games, but never in a film. I started writing the script wondering how Koreans, who possess a tenacious mentality, would approach this problem,” the director said in another press conference.
Song, who also worked with the director on A Werewolf Boy, had actually heard about the film in its very early stages. “When I worked with the director on A Werewolf Boy, I actually heard back then way back then that he was planning to create this kind of a space sci-fi movie, and I thought it would be really interesting and amazing,” said Song. “And after a decade literally, he proposed this role, and . . . I immediately thought I would definitely do it.”
On top of an intriguing plot and rich worldbuilding, each character in the film is captivating with their own intricate histories. “We’re kind of an unusual crew, you could say that we’re misfits,” Song said about the characters. Funnily enough, he also described them as “kind of wimpy characters.”
Song Joong Ki plays the role of Tae Ho, the pilot of Victory who was formerly a UTS citizen. “When he meets the crew members, he begins quite a tough life,” Song said of his character, “and with the members, he tries to complete the mission that is given to himself.”
Kim Tae Ri plays Captain Jang, the badass female captain of the Victory crew who takes no shit from anyone. She used to be the captain of a pirate crew, but because of a past event, she ended up putting together the Victory crew. When asked if Kim’s personality is similar to her character, the rest of the cast agreed, while Kim said, “I personally think that I’m a clumsy person, but the captain is always very determined and perfect with everything.”
Jin Seon Kyu plays Tiger Park, Victory’s engineer, who looks tough and ruthless but is actually a warm person. Jin described him as “a very sentimental person who loves children and is in charge of all the housekeeping in Victory.”
Yoo Hae Jin gives voice and motion figures to the robot Bubs, the accounting manager of Victory who is also skilled with harpoons and spears. When asked to describe his character, Yoo said, “They’re a robot, but they’re also very warm-hearted, almost like a human being. . . . Bubs also has their own dream they want to achieve.”
A story of family
These unique characters come together to form the crew of Victory. And while they all seem like misfits, with each one working towards a goal of their own, they find a family of sorts with one another. This is proven by the uncanny coordination and teamwork the whole crew has. While it’s a film about space on the surface, Space Sweepers is also a film about family — blood-related families, found families, teamwork, sacrifice, and the lengths one is willing to go for their loved ones.
A blockbuster for all ages
Grammy Award winner Parasite has paved the way, but the thriller, with its subject topic and plot points, might not have been a film that other people may be convinced to watch. But with Space Sweepers, there’s a lot of elements of a blockbuster that the worldwide general public absolutely loves. Jampacked action scenes, unique characters, humorous dialogue, tragic backstories, rich worldbuilding. All these elements and more are in the film, so children and adults alike could easily enjoy it.
An amalgam of cultures and languages
Another thing about the Space Sweepers that makes the film a fun experience is the fact that you’d really have use subtitles. You might be thinking, isn’t that a given since the film is in Korean? Yes, but Korean and English aren’t the only languages being used in the movie. All throughout the film, characters of different nationalities talk to one another in their mother tongue: Korean, English, Russian, Chinese, German, Spanish, French, and more, even our very own Filipino! The very first conversation we get is in fact a mix of Korean, German, and English. In the world of Space Sweepers, characters from different cultural backgrounds are able to understand one another with the help of a universal translator.
So unless you’re multilingual who knows ten or more languages, you would really need to overcome that one-inch tall barrier, as Parasite director Bong Joon Ho said in his Grammy acceptance speech.
When can you watch it?
Space Sweepers will be available on February 5, 2021 only on Netflix. Kim Tae Ri suggests that you turn up the volume when you watch. “When you’re watching it at home, just pay more attention to the sound effects,” she said. “Please make sure that the volume is very loud. I think that would make it more vivid and intense and a better experience.” So make sure to ready your speakers, turn up the volume, and travel across the galaxy with the Space Sweepers.
Is Space Sweepers in your must-watch line-up?