For a full disclaimer, "Robot Taekwon V" is a seventies-era cartoon about a giant robot. I could go on about the historical relevance, about what a big deal it was that Korean children had their own national robot cartoon instead of having to borrow from Japan, abut the massive sentimental value attached to all this. But when it gets right down to it, this is typical goofy seventies action cartoon stuff. Perhaps somewhat better written than average, although that's not much of a compliment
Still, I'm sure there are people reading this review right now who are in to that kind of weird stuff. For that viewer, here's some interesting facts about the setting in this movie. The bad guy is evil, but he might have been talked out of it if a large group of grown men hadn't started laughing at him for the most childish reason imaginable. The robots are obviously totally impossible, though enough technobabble is sprinkled about to provide plausible deniability. And most of the action is actually person to person.
I have to admire "Robot Taekwon V" for that- the whole concept of the movie is giant robot fights, and yet director Kim Cheong-gi deliberately emphasizes martial arts rather than robo weapons. It makes sense, really. Taekwondo was, in the seventies, still a nascent sport and, unlike robots, a completely real thing that young Korean children could excitedly do for themselves. A sports activitiy that is distinctly Korean- like the titular robot.
Unfortunately I still have to qualify the animation as just being above average for the time it was produced. There are flaws and brief bits of incomprehensibility in the action sequences. A child might not notice the difference, but watching the movie from an adult perspective the errors are pretty difficult to ignore. Characters rarely ever actually hit each other. They brawl, to be sure, but right when the hit's about to connect someone just falls down. Kim Cheng-gi does have the sense to only replay the high quality shots, so the construction of imperfect parts is decent, at least.
The style of the animation as well is sometimes jarring. While our lead characters are drawn in a serious expressive style, the unnamed ones tend to look a lot more crude, mainly just a set of cartoonishly drawn circles. Other bits, most obviously any scene that feature animals, look outright Disneyesque. The robots, well, they just look like robots. To someone who pays a lot of attention to style, the effect can be jarring.
I don't mind so much, personally. Yes, "Robot Taekwon V" is a goofy cartoon from an older generation, and the only particularly exciting novelty about it is that it's a Korean movie with a special local history. There is an introductory crawl explaining that history, but unfortunately there's no English subtitles for it on the DVD. So, it's am imperfect package. But then that's the story for all sorts of weird historical oddities. "Robot Taekwon V" has plenty of novelty value. While it doesn't have much else, for some, that may be enough.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD from YESASIA
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] "Robot Taekwon V" + Giveaway"
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