Director/Screenplay – Yeon Sang-ho, Producer – Kim Yeon-ho, Photography – Yoo Ji-sun, Music – Kim Dong-wook, Visual Effects – 4th Creative Party, Badclay (Supervisor – Nguyen Ngoc Minh), Bravo, Bridge Studios, Dexter Studios (Supervisor – Hong Jeong-ho), eNgine Visual Wave (Supervisor – Jung Hwang-soo), Forest Semo, Giantstep, Image, Kayel Creative, Magic Room Studio (Supervisor – Juan Salgado), Polymorph, Qingdao Doogle Films and Television Technology Co. Ltd, The Origin & TNT Studio, Special Effects Supervisor – Park Kyoung-yoo, Makeup Effects – Hwang Hyo-kyun & Kwak Tae-yong, Production Design – Lee Mok-won. Production Company – Climax Studio.
Kang Soo-yeon (Yun Seo-hyun), Kim Hyun-joo (Captain Yun Jung-yi/Jung_E), Ryu Kyung-soo (Kim Sang-Hoo), Lee Dong-hee (Chairman), Uhm Ji-won (Lee Se-yeon)
In the year 2135, pollution and rising sea levels has forced humanity to abandon Earth and move into space, building some eighty orbital habitats. Not long after, three of the habitats declared independence, forming the Adrian Republic. War has been going on for 40 years during which the polluted Earth has been turned into a factory to build weapons. At Kronoid Laboratories, scientist Yun Seo-hyun is trying to create an android soldier imprinted with the preserved memories of her late mother Yun Jung-yi, who was a top soldier. However, the Jung_E program has failed in all their attempts so far. The Kronoid chairman then decides that he wants to abandon the Jung_E program, which makes Seo-hyun even more determined to complete it.
South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho made a big international splash with the zombie film Train to Busan (2016). Prior to that, Yeon had made the animated films The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013), At the same time, he made an animated sequel to Train to Busan with Seoul Station (2016) and subsequently went on to the psychic powers film Psychokinesis (2018), a live-action Train to Busan sequel Peninsula (2020) and the tv mini-series Hellbound (2021).
With Jung_E, Yeon Sang-ho turns to full science-fiction. The scenario he creates is an intriguing one – not dissimilar to the recent Korean SF film Space Sweepers (2021) where humanity has moved out into orbiting habitats, leaving behind a badly polluted Earth. Yeon Sang-ho creates a potentially fascinating scenario here – of eighty space habitats where war has broken out with breakaway factions. On the other hand, the film remains strictly earthbound and we never visit the habitats apart from some footage during the video demonstrations – I was hoping here we would get something like another Elysium (2013). Certainly, there are some good effects when it comes to depicting monorails buzzing through walls of endless dreary city.
Most of Jung_E is centred around the efforts to construct a Super-Soldier program using a Mind Upload process to clone the memories of a deceased top soldier. As such, much of the film falls into the themes of Artificial Intelligence and Androids that have preoccupied media since the mid-2010s with works such as Ex Machina (2015), tv’s Westworld (2016-22) and a great many others.
I was expecting that Yeon Sang-ho would do something sensational with these themes but Jung_E falls well short of its potential. For one, Yeon Sang-ho misconstrues his story. He creates a great potential future backdrop but does nothing with it. The story is focused around Kang Soo-yeon’s attempt to perfect a lethal killer robot with her mother’s memories in it up against the corporate heads that want to repackage it as something more commercial. This seems to have its moral sympathies around the wrong way from similar films like Short Circuit (1986) and RoboCop (1987) to Universal Soldier (1992) and Solider (1998), where the drive is not to make a more lethal killing machine/super-soldier but to teach or have the machine reclaim its humanity. Yeon Sang-ho sort of does that here right at the end before having the android go on to kill a bunch of bad guys anyway.
Certainly, Yeon Sang-ho excels with the action sequences. From the armed combat sequence that opens the film with Kim Hyun-joo going up against robot soldiers and a tough invincible robot dog to the kick-ass climactic scenes, Yeon lets go with all in his arsenal. These scenes make the film worth watching. On the other hand, the eighty odd minutes in between remain draggy and talky, drawn out between the not terribly interesting internal politics of the Kronoid laboratory and Kang Soo-yeon’s obsessive attempts to complete the experiments.