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Space Sweepers

Entry updated 10 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

South Korean film (2021; original title Seungriho). Merry Christmas and Netflix presents a Bidangil Pictures and Dexter Studios production. Directed by Jo Sung-hee. Written by Jo Sung-hee with Yoo-kang Seo-ae and Yoon Seung-min. Cast includes Richard Armitage, Jin Seon-kyu, Kim Mu-yeol, Kim Tae-ri, Park Ye-rin, Song Joong-ki and Yoo Hae-jin. 136 minutes. Colour.

The crew of the Spaceship Victory saves a small girl harbouring Nanotechnology from a corporate Villain intent on using her to colonize Mars.

"It may look like an innocent child but it is actually a devastating Weapon of mass destruction."

Fulsome backstories more suited to a Television series than to a two-hour blockbuster slow down this knockabout story of wealth disparities of the future (see Economics), but its Humour and set design more than make up for any longueurs.

2092: Earth's landscape is a barely-breathable toxic wasteland (see Climate Change; Ecology; Pollution) while humanity's elite is curated in orbit by the CEO of the UTS Corporation, James Sullivan (Armitage), a scenery-chewing bad guy of the old school who intends to transport the wealthy few to Mars (see Colonization of Other Worlds; Terraforming) while abandoning the Earth to a fiery fate. Kim Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), a former child soldier, Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), a former special forces officer, Tiger Park (Jin Seon-kyu), a former Drugs kingpin and Bubs, a Robot who identifies as a woman, form a small part of humanity's underclass as "space sweepers", collectors and resellers of orbital junk who service huge debts owed to the UTS Corporation.

This group finds the small child Kang Kot-nim (Park Ye-rin) amongst debris in orbit: the UTS-controlled Media Landscape insists she is an Android containing a bomb but the crew soon discovers that she is the daughter of Scientist Kang Hyeon-u (Kim Mu-yeol), who has injected her with a nanobot serum to protect her from a life-threatening disease (see Medicine). There follows a three-way tussle between the crew of the Spaceship Victory, the UTS Corporation and the Black Foxes (an environmental group described as terrorists by UTS) over Kot-nim, whom it emerges can breathe life into any plant, erect a Force Field and communicate with other forms of nanotechnology. It is only when the crew exposes Sullivan's plan to detonate a hydrogen bomb in orbit and thereby accelerate the Mars program that they are able to call upon the help of other space sweepers and avert a disaster for the inhabitants of planet Earth.

Inconsistencies and occasional silliness in the script – Clichés abound, such as Sullivan refusing to kill crew-members he wants to witness his nefarious plans – do not detract from the essential good-heartedness of the film. The Satire of Capitalism is built into both the behaviour of its protagonists and its locations and sets and the film is frequently funny, albeit in a fairly obvious way, with fart jokes, name-calling and so forth. The prevailing motif of how easy it is for the poor to be corrupted comes through loud and clear and the space battles and crowd scenes are as well choreographed as those in films with much higher budgets. If the end result is somewhere between the television series Firefly (2002) and the Chinese blockbuster The Wandering Earth (2019), Space Sweepers is none the worse for that. A digital Comic based on the film premiered in South Korea in 2020 and globally in 2021. [MD]

see also: Spacesuit Films.

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