Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Host (Gwoemul)

The Family That Stays Together...

This movie has already been much hyped because everyone is wondering what the Koreans saw in it to make it a resounding box office smash. So does it live up to expectations? Yes, in a different way. What I'll include below will be suitable more for a post viewing read, although most will probably have some prior knowledge about the movie from its trailers and poster. If you don't mind mild spoilers, you can proceed, until the part where I'll warn you about something major.

Watching this film will make you laugh at its comedic moments, feel a tinge of sadness in others and it might make you cry, or pound your heart with suspense, and will even satisfy the action movie lovers with some sequences. It's like a big pot of rojak - different ingredients mashed together, blended perfectly into a 2 hour long journey of pure entertainment with serious messages.

At the heart of it is a tale about family. Here, given its genre, there's no all-empowered super being or man's man who goes on a one man crusade against the beast. It's about what an ordinary family doing the extraordinary by digging deep and finding strength from within. The portrayal by the lead actors are quite believable, as you feel their pain, frustrations and idiosyncrasies as they go about trying to achieve their mission despite the odds. One thing's for sure, family ties run deep, with emphasis on unity, not individuality.

There're some key observations made about the human condition, how naturally curious we are when we spot things not normally seen, instinctively whipping out cameras to take pictures, and how we innocently provoke without realizing. Not too subtle jibes are made at how bumbling authorities are, and on the pompousness of the US forces in assuming control over the situation, sidestepping what they probably know as the real cause with a presentation of a smokescreen.

**Here's where the major spoilers begin**

The monster!! I absolutely have to blabber about it! I was half expecting Godzilla pounding through the streets of Seoul and pulverizing buildings to a pulp. But wait! The Host came up with something pretty refreshing - this monster, is midget! (if compared to conventional notions of what a monster would be). Herein lies one of the breakdowns in genre, but tenacity and nastiness is not measured on size alone - it's menacing and merciless when the time calls for it.

The creation of the monster came from a fictionalized imagining of a real life scenario gone wrong, with regards to the lack of respect to the environment, and on toxic pollution. If Godzilla was created in the nuclear age to highlight its dangers, then this being was created because of mankind's preference for the easy way out - through the kitchen sink.

The bugger looked beautifully ugly, but thanks to its excellent special effects teams (one of which is WETA, yeah, THAT WETA), it moves with slick grace and agility, I would even say it swaggers stylishly, It is so realistic, that never for a moment you'll think you're watching a cheesy monster flick (even though rubber suits are nostalgic).

** Major spoilers end **

The music is yet another plus point as it brought out the mood and plays with your emotions as well. The sound department has its work cut out in designing a unique roar, and you'll feel terrorized as if you're there on location as the creature rampages. For good measure, you might want to stay until the end of the credits for a little easter egg, and especially if you're watching it in a hall outfitted with a decent surround sound system.

All in all, two words: Highly recommended. Goes into my shortlist of movie of the year too!

P.S. I don't know why, but I was swearing at some parts of the movie (eg. "******** RUN!!") together with another group of strangers. We were having a hellishly good, fun time during the screening. Awesome!

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