Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom of the Winds; Overall Impressions

I really wanted to like this series. As a big fan of Song Il Guk and having been very disappointed in his last effort, “The Lobbyist” I really wanted to like “Kingdom of the Wind”. Other than Song, I was unfamiliar with the other lead actors, but I was excited about the premise. The story followed King Daemushin, third ruler of Goguryeo and grandson of Jumong, the country’s founder. I had so enjoyed “The Book of Three Han; Chapter of Jumong” and we had several characters from that story that were followed through into this one, so as I said, I was excited.

There was so much potential from the word go, reuniting from one of my all time favorites: “Emperor of the Sea” the writing/directing team of Jung Jin-Ok and Kang Il-Soo. “Kingdom of the Wind” was loosely based on a manhwa (comic book) of the same name. I say loosely because it had similar character names and it was titled the same. Pretty much where the similarity ended.

The first episode met with my expectations – the look and feel of the series was more sophisticated than any I’d seen to date and the soundtrack was powerful. I strapped myself in for the ride.

The ride ended at that first episode. Daemushin – which means “God of War” is born as “Muhyul” to King Yuri but the baby is cursed by the gods, the prophecy stating that he will kill his mother, his father, his brothers, destroy his country, drown some cats, piss in the wind, spit in a cup and kick a dog. Better to just kill him now Yuri, he’s a bad seed.

Yuri doesn’t have it in him to kill the boy, so in good Moses-like fashion Yuri puts the baby in a little reed basket, plops him on a river, and hopes he floats. Big brother Haemyeong takes over, brings him to his banished girlfriend and we don’t see Muhyul for 20 years.

Blabbity blabbity, blippity bloppity boo blech.

I watched 10 episodes. Stopped caring. Other than a few sterling moments with Haemyeong, Yuri and Muhyul,the acting was substandard and the plot didn’t impress me. I was ready to walk away. But I felt like I should stick it out – I’ve said more than once that somehow I’m not able to invest in k-drama characters for a good 10 episodes. So I took a break, reluctantly coming back a few weeks later.

Sigh. It heated up to about lukewarm for me, but I was determined to make it through. Song Il Guk’s acting has matured and was consistent overall, without hitting the high notes he had hit in “Emperor of the Sea”. Jung Jin Young was moving as King Yuri, very deserving of his Supporting Actor award at the network awards show. Aside from their performances, nothing stood out for me.

I had a difficult time not comparing the series to “Emperor of the Sea” – some of the scenes were similar, some of the characters smelled the same – without the emotional punch. I don’t like to think the writers were a one-trick pony, but well, there you go. I started to feel like the writers, directors and producers were trying to create the darkness of EotS with the character affection of Jumong and it fell completely flat.

As I was trying to talk myself in to this being a good saeguk, glugging through, forcing myself to watch episode after painfully slow episode, I turned on “War of Flower/Tazza” and couldn’t tear myself away. If I didn’t have to go to mass and walk the dog, I likely would not have moved for all 21 hours. I was gripped, making me realize that KotW just wasn’t that good.

The last two episodes were a deliberate effort to make me cry – which served only to piss me off. One of the nicest characters, with a sweet side story line, was unnecessarily killed off in the 35th episode. It did not progress the story (though we’re supposed to think it was critical) and only embittered me. As if taking the one character I had grown to like a lot and burning him alive was supposed to provide that emotional punch and make me feel like this was a series of some import. It didn’t.

The series was not without its' moments; when Goeyu and Seryu consummated their relationship, Muhyul finding out who his father was, Yuri watching Haemyeong sacrifice himself, and especially the shout out directly to me as they gave me several full seconds of naked Song Il Guk foot.

It doesn’t make up for all of it, but it sure covered a host of sins.

Review up later.


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