SM Entertainment is the South Korean entertainment company that is responsible for such artists as Kangta, BoA, and Girls' Generation. That's a very abbreviated list- there's also Super Junior, EXO, and Red Velvet. Probably a bunch more that I'm forgetting too. This is easy to do, because "SMTOWN The Stage" packs about as many of its artists into the runtime as possible, with time roughly evenly split between live performance footage and the performers themselves just discussing why they've dedicated their lives to entertainment.
There's pictures going all the way back to 2007. It's hard to believe that K-Pop has really been going on that long- or maybe it's just the notion that idols who are revered for their good looks have actually been doing this exact same work for a very long time. And going by the way the performers act in "SMTOWN The Stage", they're not slowing down. They genuinely love their work, and they love their fans and...well, that's probably why K-Pop is popular isn't it?
The K-Pop industry gets a lot of flak for its corporate structure and supposedly artifical artist production method. What a lot of these critics don't get is that the SM Entertainment system is used because it works- there's no primadonnas working for SM Entertainment as far as I can see here. All of the performers seem genuinely humble, like they're grateful for the opportunity to perform in front of huge, screaming crowds of overjoyed fans.
Even the musical selection bears some of this out. The One Piece theme song of all things makes an appearance on the road. Why that song specifically? Because it's the song the fans want to hear. That's not the most intellectual explanation, but really, stuff like musical taste is completely arbitrary. More than talent, people place a lot of value in stuff like just general amability. A performer who digs the crowd is a lot more fun to be around than one who takes themselves too seriously.
Which isn't to say that the performers profiled in "SMTOWN The Stage" aren't talented. Here, though, the emphasis is on their work focus. SM Entertainment is advertised here as an organization which gives artists an opportunity to work and collaborate in a supportive environment whilst being loved as a part of a larger international K-Pop community. Both from the performer and the fan perspective, "SMTOWN The Stage" really just makes the industry as a whole seem, well, pleasant.
...The important word there being advertisement. I've been nice enough to "SMTOWN The Stage" so far but I should be perfectly blunt at least once- this movie is a feature-length advertisement for the SM Entertainment brand, produced by and for SM Entertainment. So as much as I liked the general relatability of the performers, the obvious manipulatory element is there.
"SMTOWN The Stage" should not be treated as if there is any pretense of objectivity. Really though, for a corporation to advertise how its products make people happy really isn't a problem as long as they aren't lying. I couldn't detect any especially obvious falsehoods in "SMTOWN The Stage". At the very least, the concert bits were pretty fun. And that's good enough for me.
Review by William Schwartz
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "SMTOWN The Stage""
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