Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Myeongryang)

It's important to learn something new as often as you can. I highly doubt few people will in the English-speaking world know the history behind The Admiral: Roaring Currents without seeing this movie. I certainly didn't because the Battle of Myeongnyang wasn't required learning in school. Maybe it should have been, though. 

Last stands are a big thing in American folklore. From Custer's Last Stand to Davy Crockett at the Alamo to the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, I think that the idea of a group of men being greatly outnumbered and still willing to lay down it all continues to enchant us. Those fights didn't exactly end so well for the likes of Crockett and Custer and the 300 Spartans involved, but there is one famous last stand that ended in victory for the overwhelmed side. 

If there was ever a famous last stand that should be more well known then it is the one led by Admiral Yi Sun-sin in 1597. The Joseon Kingdom (Korea) was under siege by Japanese forces and after suffering a defeat in the Battle of Chilcheollyang, the Joseon fleet now had a mere 12 ships to fight off the Japanese navy that trumped them with anywhere between 133 to 333 ships. Regardless of the exact number of the attacking Japanese forces, those odds certainly don't seem favorable for the 12. 

Admiral Yi Sun-sin had been disgraced recently, but he was hastily reinstated after the failed Battle of Chilcheollyang only to have King Seonjo issue an order to dissolve the navy fearing that no victory could come from defending the Yellow Sea. 

Admiral Yi Sun-sin refused the order and went into battle anyway with only 12 ships. 

The Admiral: Roaring Currents is an ambitious movie and knowing a bit about the history behind the battle helps. Knowing what a turtle ship is and what it does would be a good thing to know beforehand. So would studying up on history of this particular war.

The first hour of the movie mostly explains a bit about the personal motivations of the characters so I'm sure it will seem a bit slow to people. There's a lot of obscure history here for those of us in the West. Not too mention Korean filmmaking is just different from American filmmaking and the emphasis placed on characterization is also different. So maybe how these characters are portrayed and the story is told won't mesh with us like, say, Braveheart did. 

Obviously, this movie is not a 100% note-for-note true story. Liberties have been taken. The usage of certain plot devices to create an atmosphere will also cause some division. It'll either do the job for you or it won't. However, it's a million times better than, say, Pearl Harbor. And just the fact that it isn't note-for-note probably should make it crossover more than people that claim it won't because of the obscure history behind it. At least this movie is somewhat truthful compared to the likes of Braveheart (although I certainly can't knock that film). 

There is a reason this movie is the highest grossing movie of all time in South Korea right now. The first hour of the movie shows the build-up to the battle, but it is undoubtedly the final hour of this movie that makes this film one of the best war-at-sea movies of all time. Hell, it's practically the Ben-Hur chariot race type of epic. 

I remember the first time I saw the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and felt somewhat disappointed with the battle scenes involving the ships despite the presence of a kraken and a bigass whirlpool and a huge budget. That wasn't the case with this movie. It's a lot more low key, but it simply has better battle sequences. What Fury did for tanks The Admiral does for panokseon. Someone spent a lot of time researching how to make the panokseon look truly real for an audience and how they would and should fight each other in reality. Sure, there were some moments that were obviously CGI in this movie, but overall everything seemed to be on point even if some of the ships themselves were CGI because only eight of the ships in the movie were actually real. 

The uniforms were fantastic, too. I've always liked these kinds of period pieces that show us uniforms of old and these were also done with extreme care for the accuracy. It's just one of those nice touches.

The venerable Choi Min-sik plays our title character and he brings to the role just what I'd expect from an actor this talented. Ryu Seung-ryong is excellent as the Japanese General Kurushima that is the primary antagonist of this film. The rest of the cast is kind of standard Korean movie fair, but the strength of the two leads and the immense battle scenes from the final hour are more than enough to buoy this movie.

I managed to get this on blu-ray after a trip to Best Buy for about fifteen bucks and I consider it a better investment that buying the first Captain America movie for thirty bucks. So, yeah, that's some praise.

I'd definitely recommend this film to fans of films like period sea movies Master and Commander, Choi Min-sik fans, and/or fans of glorious last stand battles that seem so hopeless for the other side. You just can't go wrong with this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment