I first saw "Haeundae", not from start to finish, but beginning midway through on cable television. There were, as to be exected, a lot of special effects about a giant tidal wave destroying everything. Given that the press materials have always pretty explicitly tried to sell the product as a disaster film, this should come as little surprise. Then I tried watching the movie from the very beginning and made a shocking discovery. "Haeundae" is, in fact, a romantic comedy.
OK, OK, the subplots aren't all romances, I'll admit that much. But it takes so long for the tidal wave to actually happen that after a certain point I was just impatiently tapping my fingers and thinking to myself, just when is the disaster going to happen anyway? Do we really need all this plot about economic development plans and tragic backstories and saucy women acting unnecessarily aggressive? When is the tidal wave going to show up and kill everybody?
I might have found the build-up portion of "Haeundae" to be less annoying except that there wasn't that much of a point to it. When the disaster happens it doesn't actually make a difference who most of these people are anyway, because their main important characterization is their desire not to die and how they go about accomplishing this. Some are heroic. Some are incompetent. Some are cornball. And most are all three.
It's always nice when a movie is stupid in a way that's easy to mock- or maybe that's just the absurdity of the visuals. In the opening portion of "Haeundae" the scientist guy is always going on about his ridiculously implausible theory of doom and destruction. I kept siding with the people he was explaining things to because come on man. I'm watching a movie that promised disaster visuals and I still don't believe anything like this could possibly happen in real life. And then when those crazy visuals show up, well, the suspicions of absurdity are fully confirmed.
There's birds going crazy, storage units falling out of nowhere, rescue operations with terrible pre-planning, slapstick at inappropriate moments- in other words, all the things you could possibly want from a disaster movie that insists on spend most of the actual runtime humanizing characters who are probably just going to end up dead one way or another. The entire experience is a fairly morbid one- I don't actually like Busan or its beaches all that much, so I didn't mind when the wave came and destroyed everything even if for the most part the characters with dialog aren't terrible human beings.
"Haeundae" really is just a film of a bygone era. Even the best disaster movies don't have much of a shelf life, because they're a vehicle for the best special effects that exists at any given moment, and those go out of date so quickly. Even bearing this in mind, "Haeundae" was ridiculous enough that I didn't see any point in micromanaging the pseudo-realism of obviously impossible acts of nature. If you can tolerate the excessive plot of the first hour and change, "Haeundae" won't disappoint.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from YESASIA
DVD Single Disc (En Sub)
DVD TH (En Sub)
Blu-ray First Press Limited Edition (En Sub)
DVD HK (En Sub)
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Haeundae" + DVD Giveaway"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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