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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey"


There are few Korean drama writers more familiar to and loved by international audiences than Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran, but the sisters have been having a bit of a hit and miss career with dramas. "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi") is their first work for cable television, and an ambitious project full of potential for supernatural ensemble goodness during its conception. Delivery is a whole other matter, however.

Given the writers' track record, it is no mystery that "A Korean Odyssey" is predominantly a romance and OTP-heavy work. While the Hongs have managed to create colorful characters with focus in their dramas a number of times, it is one of the aspects of this one that sadly falls flat. There are enjoyable scenes and connections, but the two heroes and their romantic bond, above anything, is the focus. If you were looking for a supernatural epic, this is not the one.

That being said, there is a lot of imagination in "A Korean Odyssey". It is a case of the premise and character concepts being very rich, and clearly created with packed world-building in mind. Unfortunately, the drama does not face that potential and realize it, opting to regurgitate a handful of conflicts surrounding the two leads, while hastily wrapping things up for other characters, some of which remain caricatures with barely any plot use or development.

It is difficult to generate engagement in story when something as great as the apocalypse is teased, and "A Korean Odyssey" drops the ball when it decides to tease something as big, that it never really follows through on. Instead of focusing on the villains, who also seem to pop in and out of important in the story, the series focuses on the main pairing's tragic romance alone, using the aforementioned larger-than-life elements are obstacles for it, rather than as independent points of interest.

What we end up with is a series with an enjoyable cast and good chemistry, a world ripe with detail and potential, and the disappointing outcome of those never reaching said potential. The plot eventually becomes nonsensical, the reliance on special effects creates moments so cheap and cheesy that it is difficult to take the otherwise grand dramatic content in them seriously, and the main pairing's chemistry and bond can only do so much for engagement.

"A Korean Odyssey" suffered major production problems, which also resulted in the terrible injury of a staff member. To a degree, its chaotic nature can be explained by an equally chaotic schedule. That being said, most of its problems are known weaknesses of its creators that sadly pile up. While an ambitious project and an enjoyable enough piece to spend some time with, "A Korean Odyssey" is sadly nothing to write home about.

"A Korean Odyssey" is directed by Kim Byeong-soo, Kim Jeong-hyeon-I, Kim Seul-ah and Park Hong-gyoon, written by Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran and features Lee Seung-gi, Cha Seung-won, Oh Yeon-seo, Lee Hong-ki and Jang Gwang.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

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