Friday, October 09, 2009

Haeundae: The Deadly Tsunami ( 해운대 )


I suppose most are now acutely aware of how increasingly devastating natural disasters have been in recent years, starting from the 2004 Asian Tsunami which swallowed thousands of unfortunate souls. Then there are the recent destruction caused by typhoons and earthquakes, the latter which we're more acquainted with given the tremors which we feel as a result of neighbouring incidents, a phenomenon not experienced until the last few years.

There are numerous accounts of heroics and tragedy following every disaster, and it's not a surprise that they have become fodder for mass entertainment. We had 252: Signal of Life as the Japanese offering to the disaster genre earlier this year, and the Koreans too have decided to match that with Haeundae: The Deadly Tsunami. With 252 it was the disaster hitting hard and fast first, followed by the shoving of human melodrama down your throat, and thankfully though Haeundae is quite the opposite, having the human drama established first without feeling forced, before the special effects extravaganza took over.

So if you belong to Camp Impatient, then you're likely to feel bored as the film sought to introduce the ensemble characters, each with their respective back-stories and selfish reasons why they go about doing what they are doing, of course with repercussions all nicely built in as well for some karmic response. There's the fisherman and the romance with the daughter of a man whom he had caused the death of, and this provided most of the emotional anchor for the film. Then there are others like the opposites attract with the coast guard and the free-spirited girl from Seoul, a seemingly scheming politician who's in some kind of en-bloc mess with the folks of the coastal village, a much maligned scientist and his estranged wife and daughter, and enough overbearing mothers.

All these provided some 60 minutes worth of dramatic run time before it's time for Nature to hit back with its tidal waves, where quick response to an actual event will save lives, which stemmed from complacency creeping in when early warning signals went uncalled for. The filmmakers here had realistically created the phenomenon of the massive tidal waves with the receding waters and such, and the effects here were nothing short of eye-popping. Fear-inducing even, though there was one quick scene which seemed lifted from Hollywood's Deep Impact upon reconciliation of 2 characters in the face of impending doom.

But of course budget dictated that the effects could only sustain the movie for a short while, and anything more than 2 wave cycles would probably either be cost-prohibitive, or just plain dragging out the misery of the characters in their preservation of lives. Some fade-to-black-at-opportune-moments also came to the rescue of the film, and cheesiness reined comical supreme needlessly as well, though no efforts were spared in others especially the one involving the little girl left in the hotel room, providing that edge-of-your-seat thrills in what would be a literal roller-coaster ride in the last half hour.

Haeundae served more as a disaster film without any preachy overtones regarding the preservation of the environment. In earnest, I thought the release of this film was more like serving up an appetizer to the bigger budgeted extravaganza come November with 2012. That, I want to see.

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