By Lee Hwan-hee
Cultural critic Jin Jung-gwon, also a professor at Chung-Ang University, defended himself against attacks from the online supporters of the film ``D-War," in an OhMyNews column published Monday. Jin has been one of the more vocal critics of the film, calling it "not even worth critical consideration" on MBC-TV's 100-Minute Discussion Thursday. "D-War" online fans have since declared a war on Jin, by flooding his blog with angry responses.
The film, despite its original intent as a CGI-filled popcorn movie, has turned into a serious news topic due to the curiously polarized responses from both its supporters and critics.
Jin believes what's at the bottom of the film's popularity is not its quality, but the promotional campaign surrounding it which is designed to arouse moviegoers' emotions in a particularly crass, jingoistic manner. The supporters of the film claim that the film's visual effects match those of Hollywood films and the fact that it was entirely produced domestically should be a source of national pride, as well as a sign that the Korean film industry can compete with Hollywood on the level of making technically complicated blockbuster films. "D-War" is scheduled to be released in the United States Sept. 14. Though other Korean blockbusters such as "The Host," "A Tale of Two Sisters," and "Oldboy" have been released in the U. S., they were treated as foreign films for a specific niche.
Jin says "The supporters don't even talk about the actual film itself; even 'D-War' fans admit that its storytelling and characters leave something to be desired, but their rationale for praising it seems to be that this is the best the domestic film industry can come up with in terms of visual effects and technical matters, so we should support the film."
And Jin warns the fans of the film that it is myopic to think that "D-War" can have the level of success in the U. S. that's even remotely comparable to its success in Korea. He claims that the visual effects of the quality shown in "D-War" is commonplace in U. S. films, and in the U. S., the film will lose its main selling point in Korea, which is that the film was domestically produced. Jin emphasizes repeatedly in the piece that the quality of visual effects alone can't turn a bad film into a good one. To the complaint why his outright contempt has not been aimed at recent visual effects-driven U. S. blockbusters, such as "300," "King Kong" and "Transformers," he answers, "it is because the quality of visual effects, as well as storytelling, is superior in those movies than in 'D-War.'"
Jin admits that "Korean film has advanced much in the past decade, and the fact that Korean films and actors such as Jeon Do-yeon are winning prizes abroad signals that its status has improved internationally as well." But he claims that to pin the hopes of the industry on a film like "D-War" is to betray what that industry has already achieved.