Send to

‘Space Sweepers’ debuts at No. 1 on Netflix

Feb. 7, 2021 - 15:39 By Lim Jang-won
A scene from “Space Sweepers” (Netflix)

The first Korean sci-fi blockbuster set in space, “Space Sweepers” reached the top of the Netflix movie chart on Saturday after its worldwide release Friday, showing the potential of Korean-made sci-fi flicks despite some shortcomings.

Set in 2092, “Space Sweepers” by director Jo Sung-hee is about a space cleanup crew trying to sell a weapon of mass destruction: humanoid Dorothy.

The movie, with a star-studded line up of Song Joong-ki and Kim Tae-ri, reached the top spot in the Netflix movie rankings of at least 16 countries across the globe, including France, Malaysia, Croatia, Korea and the Philippines, on Saturday, according to market research firm FlixPatrol, signaling a triumphant start for the Korean space blockbuster.
A scene from “Space Sweepers” (Netflix)

The movie showed that Korea is able to create space movies that have cinematics on par with the best Hollywood films, setting a high standard for Korean sci-fi movies to follow. The film with a budget of 25 billion won ($22.4 million) had more than 1,000 people from eight companies working on special effects and computer graphics.

In addition to Korean being the main language of the film, elements such as the iconic 63 Building in Yeouido, Seoul in 2092 feature in the opening sequence, with the Korean flag on the cleanup crew’s spaceship “Victory” and crew playing a Korean card game keeping the Korean characteristics alive. The acting also keeps the audience engaged, especially that of veteran actor Yoo Hai-jin, who showed off his chops as the voice of robot Bubs.
Reprogrammed military robot Bubs, voiced and played by Yoo Hai-jin (Netflix)

While the movie excelled in many areas, though, it lacks in character and plot development.

Many recent Western sci-fi films in space, such as “Interstellar,” “Gravity,” “Ad Astra,” “The Martian” and others, have delved deeply into the science behind space adventures, along with incredible visual and sound effects to mesmerize the audience.

“Space Sweepers” is not a movie with supernatural heroes nor is it a movie with much scientific depth compared to the other sci-fi films. Scene-by-scene, the acting, humorous lines and special effects grab viewers’ attention, but as a whole, the plot raises many questions. For example, one of the villains without a background story seemed to appear abruptly at the end while a certain twist seemed forced without a proper buildup.

The film was made for theaters, and watching it on a small screen, one could not help but imagine how it would have been to watch it as intended. The movie decided to release on Netflix after the theatrical release was pushed back because of COVID-19. The large screen and quality speakers of theaters would have done the movie justice.

The actors seemed aware of the disadvantage, as actress Kim suggested during Tuesday’s press conference to “raise the sound like a movie theater” to enhance the viewing experience. Yoo and Jin Seon-kyu also mentioned there are many affordable sound bars available on the market and suggesting watching the movie with quality sound.

So far, no plans have been announced to screen the 136-minute movie in theaters.

By Lim Jang-won (