JUNG_E. A science fiction movie that should have been longer
I rarely complain that a movie is too short, but when a sci-fi flick fails to provide basic answers to a central plot concept, I have the distinct feeling that something is missing. Jung_E, the latest Korean science fiction superproduction made for Netflix, is a film whose creators apparently ran out of ideas to develop the futuristic world depicted.
Jung_E is directed by Sang-ho Yeon, who has made several spectacular hits in recent years, such as the Train to Busan dilogy or Psychokinesis, so you should not have to worry about the quality of the production. And indeed: Jung_E looks extremely solid for a streaming production, both in terms of fight choreography and battle scenes, as well as basic world-building. What surprised me (negatively) already in the first part of the film was its laconic introduction to this futuristic, post-war world. Sang-ho Yeon, who is also the author of the script, apparently decided that a few boards with subtitles could serve as an introduction to the story he invented – and that’s enough. I admit that I had to repeat the opening sequence describing the events leading up to what we see on the screen – there are so many different concepts and concepts in them. Maybe it’s just my distraction, but when I started reading about all these wars, colonies, shelters and names and nicknames, I quickly felt lost. Re-reading cleared the picture a bit for me, but if anyone hopes that the course of the plot will shed a little more light on the origins of the post-apocalyptic reality, they will be disappointed – the story of Jung_E focuses on the scientist Seohyun and the title android Jung_E, leaving the entire geopolitical context almost entirely outside of the storyline.
Sang-ho Yeon’s film is dedicated to Soo-youn Kang, the actress who played the role of Seohyun, who tragically passed away in May 2022, just a few weeks after Jung_E had finished shooting. In the film set at the end of the 22nd century, Yeona plays a scientist supervising a project to build an android based on the consciousness of the legendary mercenary, Jung-yi (Hyun-joo Kim). There is a civil war going on between … well, and here is a problem, because the hastily outlined history of the conflict leaves a lot of question marks. We only know that people fleeing from the devastated Earth created shelters, some of which formed a sinister pact, attacking the allied forces of the other shelters. How this conflict proceeds, what are its motivations – as I have already mentioned, we do not have time to find out, because the narrative quickly focuses on Seohyun and Jung_E, as well as moral and ethical issues indispensable for any story about “playing god”. So here we have considerations about using the memories and consciousness of an authentic person to create a combat robot (as well as other machines with … a completely different purpose) or a question borrowed from Blade Runner about whether a replicant is aware of being a replicant. Echoes of classic sci-fi reverberate in almost every scene here, and some battle scenes made Jung_E read as a kind of Korean remake of Alex Proyas’ 2004 I, Robot.
The question remains whether Sang-ho Yeon’s imitation of the film should be considered a serious allegation. While Jung_E doesn’t offer much original elements, the high quality of production and a touching story based on the poignant acting of Hyun-joo Kim and Soo-youn Kang in her last role make Yeon’s film unforgettable as quickly as it could be. spend. I still believe that just 98 minutes of length was not enough to build a convincing world with rich context in Jung_E, but I appreciate the emotional dimension of this film, only heightened by the knowledge that one of the main actors said goodbye to viewers forever. And although any film work should not be read through such events, there is a certain tragic beauty in it, which elevates Jung_E and gives it an almost metaphysical meaning.