Haeundae, the movie

Haeundae (해운대) is the recently opened Korean movie depicting a tsunami wrecking havoc on the city of Busan. The tsunami only occurs halfway through the movie, but I have no compunction mentioning it happening because the tsunami is the movie's selling point. The title of the movie refers to a well-known beach in Busan that is popular with vacationers.

I just saw the movie today. I can't say that it was a pleasure. Remember how I mentioned the tsunami occurring halfway through the movie? It feels like this is the point where two separate movies were joined together, and unfortunately they do not feel like they were joined satisfactorily. The first half dragged on examining the characters' lives, while the second half showed what happened to them in the tsunami. Perhaps focusing on one or the other would have made for an excellent movie, but trying to do both seems to have exceeded the director's abilities.

Part of the problem is that so much time is spent on random events occurring to the characters preceding the tsunami itself. Apparently the director or screenplay writer is among those who often hate a movie because "they can't care about the characters and what happens to them", and so much time is spent introducing the characters so that we would care about them. However, their efforts have backfired horribly, at least for me, and the time spent on random events pushed me from "these characters have issues" into "don't want to see these characters again" territory. Even the comedy does not save it for me.

In fact, the only character I actually cared about was the marine geologist trying to warn of a potential impending tsunami. It is no coincidence that not much screen time was devoted to him in the first half of the movie, and it helps that his appearances at least follow a coherent theme relevant to the selling point of the movie. The small amount of screen time even prevents "Cassandra syndrome", so that the bureaucratic inertia and ignorant incredulity remains at believable levels.

As for the tsunami itself, it is spectacular enough, although this alone is not enough to carry a movie unless you like lots of destruction happening at once. There is some emotional impact to how certain characters die, although I could care less about what those who survive go through (by only a tiny amount). There is nothing notable about how the characters try to survive. Maybe I would have enjoyed the movie much more if all the characters had died, after what I had to go through in the first half of the movie.

Haeundae is not quite a terrible movie, but I certainly think it is far from an excellent one. Perhaps there is something worthwhile from the movie, though; it could be a source of many myths to bust by the MythBusters, chief among them being whether an exploding container ship could blow away a container across a large distance at high speed without plowing through buildings like they were tissue paper.

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Comments

I love Korean films - there's something about the cinematography that beats anything coming out from hollywood nowadays. I will have to check out Haeundae.