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STUDIO Galam – Entertainment
RUNNING TIME 112 minutes
• “Making of” Featurettes
South Korea tried to make a big, dumb 3D movie. They succeeded.
Ji-won Ha, Sung-kee Ahn, Ji-hun Kim
Directed by Kim Ji-hoon and produced by JK Youn (Tidal Wave), the sci-fi action thriller Sector 7 revolves around an oil rig crew forced to battle a deadly creature at sea. Hae-jun works at an offshore rig in Sector 7, a real-life joint-development zone that harbors Korea’s hopes of one day becoming energy-independent. Her greatest dream is to find oil, an obsessive quest that has yielded no results. Along with a crew that includes Dong-soo and ship captain Jeong-man, Hae-jun decides to conduct one last drilling expedition before withdrawing as instructed by headquarters. But when things start to go dreadfully wrong on the rig, the crew is overwhelmed by the disconcerting feeling that something is out there….
Sector 7 is South Korea’s first big 3D IMAX action film. That’s right, their first. We’ve been sending them our bloated 3D flicks for the last few years, and this is the result. The South Korean film industry has produced some real gems over the past decade, indicating that Korean adult audiences often prefer substance over style. Korean films also have a distinct sense of humor and whimsy, even in horror films like Thirst or The Host.
So what happens when South Korea decides to make a 3D IMAX action flick that puts style over substance? Sector 7 happens. Make no mistake, Sector 7 is not a good film. It poorly imitates the tropes that American audiences love about big 3D blockbusters, but it also serves as a painful reminder of just how stupid our own big movies are. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite its numerous flaws, Sector 7 could be a lot worse.
From a filmmaking standpoint, Sector 7 is a strange creature. The budget for the film was ten billion Korean Won (yes, billion) which is very, very high for a South Korean production. What most Americans don’t realize is that ten billion won is about nine million US dollars. In the US, you just can’t make a 3D action film for nine million bucks. Captain America cost $140 million to make, and that doesn’t even account for the vast amounts of money spent on marketing.
Given that knowledge, what Sector 7 manages to accomplish on its meager budget is somewhat impressive. It’s a big-scope picture, and the cast are stars in their native country. Approximately eighty percent of the shots in Sector 7 involve complex visual effects, including full CG creatures, set extensions, full CG sets, digital ocean, digital fire, digital skies, and so on.
The sheer amount of CG fakery in this film is kind of sickening. Logistically speaking, however, they couldn’t shoot on a real oil rig, and they damn sure couldn’t build one. So they did what they could afford. Much to its detriment, all of Sector 7’s visual effects look cheap. That’s one of the bigger reasons why the film doesn’t work.
What became apparent after watching the special features is that this generation of Korean actors doesn’t really have much experience in front of green screens, or reacting to invisible monsters. One featurette on the disc shows the actors having difficulties knowing where to look, since the creature effects wouldn’t be added until post production.
The monster itself is 100% digital. To make matters worse, the beast is poorly designed and poorly animated. The monster from Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is much better, but the creature for that film was animated by larger, more experienced companies in New Zealand and the US. Sector 7’s monster is a blobby, walrus-bodied sea slug with a maw full of teeth. It doesn’t work, and it isn’t scary.
The real trouble with Sector 7 is that it’s all been done better before. There’s an “insidious corporate agenda” beat and several character archetypes that are right out of Alien. There’s even a Jaws “let’s compare scars” scene. While there’s nothing wrong with paying homage to other films, Sector 7 doesn’t have a drop of originality.
While it might sound like I hated Sector 7, it’s really not all bad. The film never takes itself too seriously, and the cheese factor works in the film’s favor. The acting isn’t atrocious, and the actors seem to know when to deliver the comic relief. Early in the film, there are some attempts to inject history and drama between these characters. It’s not brilliant, but it helps us invest in these characters just a tiny bit more.
I don’t think most American viewers will be able to see past Sector 7’s flaws, but I think the movie provides an interesting look at South Korean film culture. If you’re into that sort of thing, you may want to give this one a try.
The Korean DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is pretty nice. Dialogue is crisp, and there’s a good amount of low frequency subwoofer action, especially in the underwater scenes. There’s an English dub, but it’s friggin’ terrible. The video quality is pretty damn good, though. I did see a little crud on the print during several scenes, but otherwise the transfer is great, with very nice contrast and sharpness. The disc features both 3D and 2D versions of the film, but I don’t have a 3D TV. From what I hear, the 3D is pretty extreme, making for a painful viewing experience.
The few short featurettes included on the disc are really just promotional, and not very informative. There were a few interesting facts sprinkled throughout, but it’s mostly fluff.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars