REVIEW: Despite a Clichéd Story Line, Space Sweepers is a Fun & Entertaining First Attempt at a Korean Sci-Fi Block Buster


REVIEW: Despite a Clichéd Story Line, Space Sweepers is a Fun & Entertaining First Attempt at a Korean Sci-Fi Block Buster

  • Though hamstrung by its plot and weaker secondary actors Space Sweepers achieves its ground-breaking goal of providing viewers with a light-heated yet emotional take on the sci-fi space genre.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Take an opinion poll of Netflix’s new Korean science-fiction romp and you would find a massive divide.

Credit: Netflix

One half of viewers are reveling in what has been billed as Korea’s first block buster movie and are understandably awed by the extremely well crafted CGI, the feast of superstar actors and a heartwarming story, while others, on the other hand, believe the story line to be cliched, unoriginal and undeserving of its hype.

Personally, I (and may others) exist in the no man’s land between these two differing opinions as I have thoroughly enjoyed the film while acknowledging its weaknesses, including the fact that the story does not bring anything new to the table.

Based on a webtoon by writer and illustrator Hong Sung-hyuk (“Hong Jacga”), Space Sweepers,  is a story of a crew of outcast junk collectors who exist within the cracks of a new world that has been created in space by billionaire James Sullivan (played by Richard Armitrage) and his UTS corporation (echoes of Elon Musk).

Fronted by Korean heavy weight actors Song Joong Ki (“Tae ho”), Kim Tae Ri (“Captain Jang”), Jin Seon-kyu (“Tiger Park”) and an endearing robot named “Bubs” who is voiced by veteran actor Yoo Hae-Jin, Space sweepers follows this motley crew of space junk collectors and former space guards who set out in their ship named Victory to wrestle over space debris with other similar junk collectors who form the bottom rung of citizens in this new society.

Following a bungled debris sweep and with their pockets emptied by frequent mishaps and the sheer cost of space life, the crew encounters a humanoid robot named Dorothy, played by child actor Park Ye-Rin. Believing that Dorothy houses a weapon of mass destruction, and seeing her as ticket to a new life, the crew attempts to ransom Dorothy in order to pay off their debts and fulfill their individual desires.

However, in the course of executing their get-rich quick scheme, the crew discover that rather than being a weapon of mass destruction, Dorothy is possibly the last savior of mankind. Thus, after predictably bonding with Dorothy, they seek to reunite her with her father and by doing so, thwart Sullivan and UTS’s plans to destroy the earth.

Despite treading familiar paths as western space block busters with its themes of family and a not-so subtle save-the-world agenda, Space Sweepers is a lot of fun.

In addition to the gorgeous CGI and the class of its main cast, the occasional parts of the film that resembles a buddy comedy is its saving grace.  The film is bolstered by the rapport between the characters, the charisma of its leads, and the sense of inclusivity which is marked by the varied languages on display (including Nigerian Pidgin) as well the prominent feature of the male-voiced “trans” robot Bubs, who dreams of buying new skin and becoming a “sophisticated lady”.

Space Sweepers does not bill itself as a thought provoking film as such it executes its limited agenda well. The story-line, while tired, is cohesive enough, the actors are good and the visual effects are even better.

Other than issues with the plot-line, if there is one critique to be made it would have to be that of the glaring weaknesses of the actors who play secondary characters in the film. Whether due to funneling its budget towards visual effects or paying off its leads, the production team of Space Sweepers did not appear to have paid as much attention to the quality of its supporting actors thereby weakening the sense of immersion one should feel when watching a film of this genre.

Despite these weaknesses, Space Sweepers is a lighthearted yet emotional space romp that is guaranteed to keep you entertained for the full 2-plus hours of its run time.

Directed by Jo Sung-hee, Space Sweepers is now screening on Netflix.

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