We’ve seen big epic space opera films from Hollywood. Films such as “Star Wars”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and many more have become something very iconic for movie buffs who love space exploration or otherworldly films in general. There is even space-themed anime such as “Cowboy Bebop” (カウボーイビバップ) and “Outlaw Star” (アウトロースター) which became cult space classics for anime fans. But now get ready to witness Koreans take over the genre with Netflix’s new Korean movie “Space Sweepers” (승리호).
“Space Sweepers” is directed by Jo Sung-Hee (조성희) who previously directed “A Werewolf Boy” (늑대소년). The Korean film features popular drama actor Song Joong-Ki (송중기) as the ship’s ace space pilot, actress Kim Tae-Ri (김태리) as a mysterious ex-pirate, Jin Sun-Kyu (진선규) as a spaceship engineer, and Yoo Hae-Jin (유해진) who plays as potential fan-favourite reprogrammed military robot Bubs.
The Korean film is set in 2092 and takes place aboard the spaceship Victory, one of the many vessels surviving on scavenged space debris. The crew members occupying the spaceship are Tae-Ho (Song Joong-Ki), Captain Jang (Kim Tae-Ri), Tiger Park (Jin Sun-Kyu), and a robot named Bubs (Yoo Hae-Jin). Upon snatching a crashed space shuttle in their latest debris chase, Victory’s crew finds a 7-year-old girl inside. Discovering that the girl is the humanlike android wanted by UTS Space Guards, they decide to request for ransom.
Netflix users are surely getting a load of excitement for the premiere on 5th February. To those curious to find out more about “Space Sweepers”, here are some fun facts for viewers to understand more about the movie itself beforehand:
1. Director Jo Sung-Hee actually planned this film a decade ago
Before Sung-hee’s first popular commercial movie “A Werewolf Boy”, the starting of “Space Sweepers” traces all the way back to the year 2009. The Korean director started developing the story of the movie upon gaining knowledge from a friend of his regarding space junk that travels very fast in outer space.
“Space workers” collecting “space debris” that travels faster than the speed of bullets and can kill people. The script that began from these two key words a decade ago has now resulted in seeing Korean “space sweepers” up in space on the small screen.
2. One of the first-ever Korean space blockbuster film
Space is a place where no ordinary person has ever ventured before, but have seen multiple times in Hollywood movies. Korean director Jo Sung-Hee alongside the production team started working on “Space Sweepers” with the particular goal of innovating a brand new world where Korean characters can wholly fit in with the context of space.
The director and the production team had to rely mostly on their country’s technology as well as creativity to make a new world, something people won’t see being portrayed in movies from Hollywood. It is also special to “Space Sweepers” according to the general guide created by the plot and its characters.
Actress Kim Tae Ri was feeling a sense of pride to be involved with such a project like this film, because if one were to mention sci-fi, people tend to assume it’s a Hollywood production. The actors also remarked saying that they feel the Korean flag on their chest.
3. The spear-throwing robot is South Korea’s first spacefaring robot character made by motion capture technology
Korean actor Yoo Hae-Jin plays Bubs, who is the nation’s first-ever robot or android character made through motion capture. Even with motion capture being countlessly used in a lot of Hollywood films (“Avatar”, “Star Wars”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Lord of the Rings”) and even some attempts done in domestic projects in South Korea as well, Hae-Jin is the first actor of “Space Sweepers” to portray a robot character using motion capture alongside voice acting.
The actor performed in a motion capture suit comprised of markers tracking his movements with additional devices strapped to the suit which provides visuals of characteristics of the space and movements of an android, cyborg, or robot. Jeong Cheol-Min (정 철민) had to stay on-site for 70 out of 74 shoots to set the optimal environment for the shoot with lighting as well as various other equipment for the succeeding part of the CG process. This is to aid the zero point for tracking the movement that had to be reset for almost every new scene.
Filmed footages were then refined through the post-production process of the VFX team animating Bub’s movements with costumes and lighting that provides detail to make the character appear on the screen. In addition, Bubs’ style adds to an enjoyable visual experience as he pulls off most outfit changes all thanks to his admiration for pretty things.
Although fans may not see Hae-Jin’s face in “Space Sweepers” as Bubs, the actor still has his voice, gestures, and movements that grasp the hearts of audiences alongside his humour and playful antics. Hence, his presence is very much visible.
4. The costume designs isn’t what you’ve seen from standard Hollywood films
“Space Sweepers” has one aspect that makes the movie feel entirely different from regular Hollywood sci-fi films. That aspect is placing ordinary Koreans as the main highlight of the film. They are individuals who are just coping and attempting to earn enough money to survive rather than being space heroes living in their own league. The costumes or outfits they wear reflect that.
Sweat, dirt, and dust are details that include a sense of realism to the story inspired themes of costumes and make-up altogether inseparably, even if the costumes for the members on Victory were designed to mirror each crew’s position or status on the spacecraft as well as their preference. Gwak Jeong-Ae (곽 정애), the costume director for “Space Sweepers” elevated the feeling of reality of the movie with the member’s fashion being aligned with the current outfits worn in real life. Such outfits include Tae-Ho’s jacket, Captain Jang’s leather jacket with sunglasses, Tiger Park’s work clothing, and also Bub’s colourful and vibrant informal attires.
Jeong-Ae ensured that the outfits made them seem like they are a working-class group of a spaceship by designing their costumes to look old and shabby. Director Jo Sung-Hee requested that the spacesuits designs to be light, proper, and flexible enough to ensure the characters move around seamlessly. With the extra analysis of various spacesuits seen in other sci-fi films with countless adjustments, “Space Sweepers” created costumes that are really unique.
5. The movie features popular British actor Richard Armitage
Casting a foreign or non-Korean actor is a big deal for a non-Hollywood film. British actor Richard Armitage is one of the few well-known actors from the big movie industry cast for a role in “Space Sweepers”. The actor had to overcome a language barrier to finish a unique and intelligent character.
Fans may know Armitage in major films such as the “Hobbit” franchise, “Into the Storm”, “Ocean’s 8”, and even an MCU film “Captain America: The First Avenger”. The British actor has created a huge following with his roles in various television series such as Netflix’s “The Stranger” and the third season of “Hannibal” on NBC. During his teen years, Armitage actually performed with a circus as well as in the Royal Shakespeare Company which made him decide to partake in “Space Sweepers” because he was attracted to the human story inside the genre of space sci-fi.
Armitage plays the role of the movie’s main antagonist James Sullivan, the constructor of the space development corporation UTS and is now developing Mars to ensure another civilisation. The role is perfect for Armitage’s performance, masking a deep voice with such class and strength to his performance that aligns with what director Jo Sung-Hee had in mind formerly. The British actor really does fit the role of the character. Going through a lot of research through books, pictures, and videos, Armitage exchanged ideas with Sung-Hee and even made conversations directly with the other actors while overcoming language barriers to finish his character for the movie.
The actor even has this to say about Korea in general, “Thank you for inviting me to play Sullivan, for bringing me to Korea, a place across the other side of the world… and introducing me to a new country and all of the sights and the culture, but most importantly for including me in a film which I think the Korean film industry is going to be extremely proud of“.
“Space Sweepers” is premiering this Friday (5th February) on Netflix across the world.