space sweepers

Space Sweepers Movie Review: A Glimpse of a Dystopian Future

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Space Sweepers, the first-ever Korean space opera film directed by Jo Sung-Hee, takes us into the far dystopian future that earth might encounter if the current world status quo continues.

Space Sweepers Plot

In the far distant future of 2092, the earth is in an apocalypse. All the people are in jeopardy and are only living to survive. The world is too polluted, the natural resources have ceased to grow, and people have to wear gas masks everywhere. However, a chosen few “good” people were able to leave earth before this cursed period. Very few people are in a place like heaven or paradise, while the bottom has sunk deeper into oblivion. A few others, however, while not being exactly on earth, have escaped the damned world to clean up space and preserve all the planets. They are the Space Sweepers.

The four protagonists in the story are Tae-ho (played by Song Joong Ki), an ex-space guard who once lived in the paradise orbit to protect the status quo but refused to kill, was demoted, and lost all of his privileges. Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), a pirate organization leader, wanting to destroy James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), the head of UTS Corporation, responsible for transmitting select people from the unhabitable earth to the new orbit paradise. Tiger Park (Jin Sun-Kyu), a drug lord who escaped earth because of his death sentence, and Robot Bubs (Hyu Hae-Jin and Kim Hyang Gi), a transgender robot.

These four protagonists are in charge of Spaceship Victory. They discovered Dorothy, a nano-robot that is meant to destroy humanity. Full of debt and wanting to have better lives for themselves and their loved ones, the four decided to put Dorothy up for ransom. However, they soon found out that Dorothy or Kot-nim, was human and is their last hope to revive earth.

Review and Commentary

Space Sweepers, in all of its drama, is filled with cliches–the cold and destroyed man, the strong but soft guy, the cool and hip woman, the one who supports everyone, and the cute and charming child who there to beguiled everyone. All has been said and done by other films.

However, although being a mainstream film, Space Sweepers is a film about reality. It tells us about the inequalities in the world and what worse might even happen in the future.

As a dystopian film, Space Sweepers gave me a glance into the possible future–middle class and poor people being left in the broken world, while a very few rich people have made their way to a promised paradise. And there’s the space–a place for a few poor people to clean up the area. Many of these space sweepers are in the middle ground, but despite being so, they are still riddled in poverty.

There’s one scene in the film that hit me. When Tae-ho was about to claim his pay for the space clean-up, he was confident at first because his team got a lot of debris. The space sweepers are paid by how much they get garbage. The job is like a road to financial freedom or abundance since they are paid for their results and not by hours. However, to Tae-ho’s disappointment, the unfair rules and taxes got them more debt instead of having the chance to improve their lives. And this scene happens in real life, albeit very subtle.

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The film is a commentary on our current evil capitalist system, where a few huge private corporations control most governments. That’s the reason why the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. The film also showed the motivation behind why many of the rich and oligarchs hold on to their wealth and power–because of greed–our human nature that always shows itself whatever place we may be–may it be at the top Paradise, the middle ground, or the broken people down on earth. Yes, at some point, I see that it goes round and round in; whoever is on top will stick to their powers because we are generally selfish.

I know it’s the reality, and maybe you’ll think that I’m just saying this because I’m not on top, but that notion in itself is only bringing in the perception that there is no room for growth for everyone. There might always be a limit to our resources, but there is no limit to each of our brain’s powers. The poor getting rich, or having a comfortable life, or at least having a least tough life, won’t make us poor. So, why make them poorer?

Space Sweepers VS. American Space Opera Blockbusters

According to many reviews, Space Sweepers is derivative of several Hollywood blockbusters such as Guardians of the Galaxy, and it lacked an adrenaline rush. That might be the case, but Space Sweepers tackled a theme that I have yet to see in American blockbusters.

As the first Korean space opera film, its visual effects are topnotch, par with the West’s Star Wars and other space blockbusters. However, I am wondering why several liberal journalists have condemned Space Sweepers, saying it’s not worth watching, when in fact, it talks about the current struggles of a poor man devoid of enough supply for health and living.

Most American blockbusters’ mere intention is to perfume their geopolitical agenda, whereas, in Space Sweepers, we see our steady-rising Asian neighbors taking the driver’s seat with some of their middle ground international sisters, like Russia and even China. It was such a delight for me to see that they make a white Western person the evil one. And that perhaps made a lot of Western entertainment journalists uncomfortable. It isn’t the usual white people taking over the world scene to save the earth and the galaxy, even if it’s even ironic because we all know that South Korea is a Democratic American ally. However, I later learned that Chinese entertainment company Huayi Tencent produced space Sweepers.

However bad the reviews are for Space Sweepers, I believe it’s an important film to watch. What’s even great about it is that it’s something that non-indie lovers can appreciate while learning or reflecting on its message. Watch Space Sweepers on Netflix now.

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