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The Moon movie review: Aiming for the Moon but landing well short of it

Updated on: 23 September,2023 06:30 PM IST  |  South Korea
Johnson Thomas | mailbag@mid-day.com

Discover South Korea's venture into lunar exploration in Kim Yong-hwa's latest sci-fi thriller. Read on for an intriguing journey to put a human astronaut on the Moon

The Moon movie review: Aiming for the Moon but landing well short of it

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Film: The Moon
Cast: Sol Kyung-gu, Do Kyung-soo, Kim Hee-ae, Jo Han-chul, Amy Aleha
Director/Writer: Kim Yong-hwa
Rating: 2/5
Runtime: 129 mins


Kim Yong-hwa’s latest film, a sci-fi thriller, has South Korea joining the race to put a human astronaut on the Moon - to bring back samples with a view to establishing a future mining operation. The film in fact starts off positing a futuristic scenario wherein the second such South Korean mission is about to set off, after the first one failed following an explosion. The astronauts on board include highly trained Cho Yoon-jong and Lee San-won, along with relative newcomer Hwang Sun-woo (Do Kyung-soo better known as D.O. of the South Korean boy band EXO), the son of one of the engineers involved in designing that first rocket. Hwang Sun-woo’s father had apparently killed himself following the failure of the first mission. 
 
Woori-ho, the spacecraft they are travelling in, encounters high solar winds caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun, just as they are nearing their target. The craft experiences some difficulties as their communications systems and solar panels gets knocked out. Cho and Lee, while spacewalking to repair them, get caught in an explosion. The film tries hard to channel ‘Gravity’ here but it doesn’t even come close to that elevated experience. 
 
So, Hwang is the only one alive, trapped in a damaged vessel which he cannot steer and which only has enough air left for five days. This movie follows the typical space disaster movie format and has the control centre trying to establish guidance communications in order to steer the lone astronaut out of a sticky life-threatening situation. 
 
The efforts to rescue the endangered astronaut come a cropper as one thing after another goes wrong. The Space programme’s surviving engineer, Kim Jae-gook (Sol Kyung-gu), his ex-wife (Kim Hee-ae) who happens to work for NASA, and Han-byul (Hong Seung-hee), are the only ones able to help Hwang when everything else fails. The narrative is cliche-ridden and full of plot holes while the action and dialogue are pretty much cheesy. 
 
‘The Moon’ marks the first time that Kim Yong-Hwa has attempted such an ambitious set-up. The story is neither lean nor focused though. Sun-Woo’s survival and rescue mission forms a significant part of the plot but it’s not the sole focus. A backstory surrounding Kim Jae-Guk’s past, a bureaucratic subplot revolving around NASA and some hammy slap-stick also jostle for space in a narrative that prefers melodrama to subtlety and nuance. 
The science is questionable and the thrills are obligatory. The narrative ends up being way too long with too many twists and turns - thus making it rather impossible to believe in. The amplified emotions and obligatory tear-jerking moments make you feel like you are in a TV drama. Director/Writer Kim tries to do way too much with the story and narrative. 
 
Political issues, both national and international are also segued into the storyline in order to give the film a broader appeal. But it doesn’t work out as planned. The special effects are inconsistent but there are times when it feels entirely credible too. The meant-to-be-thrilling set pieces showcasing Sun-Woo facing various dangers don’t work up much thrill. 
 
The absurd action sequences make the filmed experience very much iffy. Hwang’s moon landing, and his attempts to avoid the path of a meteor shower, while outracing exploding space rocks are rather over-the-top. The audience doesn’t get to see much of the Moon either. The visuals and effects go from excellent to pedestrian in no time. The story borrows ideas from major Hollywood space disaster/survival thrillers. Even so, the scatter-shot plotting, sluggish pacing, and uneven VFX make this film a below-par experience.  



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