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Television Debate About Dragon Film 'D-War' Fires Up Korea

2007/08/10 | 188 views | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The summer heat sizzled up as a 100-minute debate on the Korean blockbuster movie "D-War" televised live early Friday morning summoned an explosive public response via the Internet. As various film experts discussed comedian-turned-director Shim Hyung-rae's fantasy film _ with one bashing it as "unworthy of criticism" _ thousands of Netizens voiced their opinions through the MBC program's Web site.

After opening across some 690 screens nationwide Aug.1, the movie smashed local box office records by drawing in over 4.18 million moviegoers in just nine days as of Thursday, said distributor Showbox/Mediaplex.

Hosted by Professor Son Seok-hi of Sungshin Women's University, debaters questioned whether or not "D-War" is a source of hope for Korean films. The panel included Peter (Gwang-su) Kim Jho, CEO/producer of production company Generation Blue Films; cultural critic Jin Jung-gwon who is also a Chung-Ang University professor; Ha Jae-geun, cultural critic; and Sports Chosun reporter Kim Cheon-hong.

Jin attacked "D-War", saying that it owes its large following to "the patriotic appeal of a Korean film making a Hollywood debut, and director Shim Hyung-rae's pride for the domestically produced computer graphics". He further explained that the film, having only concentrated on computer graphics, lacks a plot and " is unworthy of criticism".

Alongside Jin, Kim Jho pointed out "D-War's" problematic marketing technique of utilizing elements unrelated to the film. To this, Kim Cheon-hong defended the film by saying that there is nothing wrong with employing patriotic requests, and that it is ultimately the audience's decision to watch a film.

The 100-minute talk stirred up Netizens, and even prior to its airing, Internet users posted some 7,000 entries on MBC's Web site. The number of posts added a further 4,500 during the live show and 5,000 after the debate ended.

Although many Netizens negatively criticized "D-War", they expressed disapproval of Jin's reasoning. One user, Hong Heon-pyo, wrote, "Critics must be ruthlessly objective, but Mr. Jin Jung-gwon said there was no need to even criticize the film". Hong rejected this notion, reasoning that patriotic marketing wouldn't even work unless the film was entertaining in the first place, and over four million people have already seen the film.

Another user, Lee Soyeong, criticized Jin as being unprofessional and rude for saying "It ticks me off that this big mess of a movie is receiving such one-sided support".

Yet another viewer, Kim Yun-sang, defended Jin, saying he was the only one to give a clear answer during the debate.

However, one Netizen, Park Kyeong-hwan, questioned the reason for holding the live talk in the first place. "There was no such debate when admissions for `The King and the Clown' surpassed 10 million. I don't understand why such a debate is necessary when `D-War' has only drawn over three million viewers", wrote Park.

Nevertheless, according to AGB Nielson Media Research, the TV debate scored a high following of 4.7-percent, up threefold from the program's usual view-rate. Meanwhile, a poll by a major online movie database www.maxmovie.com revealed Thursday, prior to the talk show, that 76.2 percent or 2,240 out of 2,938 of those surveyed agreed that "D-War" is a source of hope for Korean films. 10 percent, or 295, answered that it was not, while the remaing 13.7 percent, or 403, said they did not know.

The film's wide following, spreading like wildfire across the peninsula, immediately marked Shim's computer graphic venture on the map as a major blockbuster. But "D-War" is a "blockbuster" in the larger sense: Regardless of its positive or negative reviews as a motion picture, it has made a momentous social impact.

That is to say, although the film's continued success has yet to be observed, both here and abroad, the fact that "D-War" has inspired a heated debate on national TV, and that it has evoked immense public response, testify to the film's cultural significance.

Meanwhile, director Shim Hyung-rae, may not mind the negative criticism about his latest release. "I once told someone from Columbia Pictures that `Spider-Man 3' was not much fun and that the plotline wasn't well woven-together, but he said, `So what? It made money'. There is no `perfect' movie. There may be an `almost perfect' film, however", he said confidently about his work, during a press conference July 23 in a Seoul theater.

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