Roaring Currents is a big letdown, and here’s why.

Okay, so it’s been a while, and I thank the people still subscribed to this blog for their continued attention. Today I am going to review a movie that is breaking box office records here in Korea. It’s called Myeongryang in Korean and Roaring Currents in English. The synopsis: During the Imjin War, (1592-1598), a Japanese fleet of more than 300 ships is invading Korea, and Admiral Yi Sun-shin has 12 ships with which to defend the country. It’s not a spoiler if I tell you that Yi was successful. That would be like saying the Titanic sunk in the film Titanic.  As such, Yi is a revered national hero in Korea, and very respected in Japan for his strategy that defeated the Japanese navy against overwhelming odds.

I love war movies, so I was really excited to see this, especially since it had been getting such rave reviews in the Korean media. Korean films that Korean moviegoers like are generally good films. Some of my favorite Korean war-genre films include Shilmido, Taegukki Brotherhood, and 71: Into The Fire. As far as other war films outside of Korea, I liked Platoon, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, Saving Private Ryan, Joyeux Noel, Full Metal Jacket, and Inglourious Basterds. I’ll get to what it is about these films that I really liked later. At the same time, there are war movies I don’t like.  I won’t name them here, but you can be sure they will appear later in my analysis.

So let’s get into my experience watching the film.
As my wife and I stepped into the theater I was in high anticipation of this film.  The theater was packed.  I had just watched Guardians of the Galaxy a few days earlier, and was fun as that was, I was in the mood for a real serious tension filled historical period film that would really deconstruct what happened centuries ago and let us know the motivations behind a historical hero I had been hearing about since childhood. Remember, this is a guy who has a prominent statue in downtown Seoul.

Remember, this is a guy who has a prominent statue in downtown Seoul.

Every time I walk by this statue, I think.. 'hey, possible Gramps!'

X: This is the Statue of Liberty of Korea.   Y: Stop saying that Korean things are the Korean version of foreign things.

So the movie starts, and Yi Sun-shin and his advisors are discussing the dire situation ahead of them. There’s one guy in there that looks sneaky and evil just from the way he looks and speaks. Everyone else is really handsome and noble looking, but this guy looks like he’d double cross his mother in a heartbeat. The movie just started, and I don’t know exactly who this person is, so it doesn’t register with me yet.

Then there’s a cut away to the Japanese side. They are discussing strategy. Immediately I burst out laughing.  Want to know why? I’ll explain after the jump.


I am laughing uncontrollably and it’s only the second major scene of the film.  Why? Because it is OBVIOUSLY obvious that although these are supposed to be Japanese admirals speaking Japanese, they are played by Korean actors who have little to no command of Japanese.  I commend them for the effort, but it’s so distracting in scenes that last longer than 5 minutes to have people who have likely memorized their lines phonetically without knowing what means what speak to each other in heavily accented Japanese, sometimes pronouncing the same words differently, and sounding so unnatural. I’m a fan of analogies, and if you saw the World War II film Inglourious Basterds, there are several scenes completely in German or French. Thankfully Tarantino chose French and German actors for the film, or people who spoke well enough if the character demands it. But imagine if he had chosen backwater hicks from rural Alabama and shoved German dialogue in front of their faces, and they read it with a southern drawl. Iswood so clangin’ undies wur laja layj. (Es würde so klingen, und es wäre lächerlich. Google Translation of “It would sound like this, and it would sound ridiculous” attempted to be transliterated with my interpretation of a southern drawl.)

Maybe my explanation is not doing justice to my reaction. Here, for English speakers, watch this video.

Now imagine that the movie has scenes that sound like this from beginning to end.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they absolutely need to go out and hire hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese actors to play cannon fodder, and what are essentially stock villain characters (more on that later). But they could have pulled a Hunt for Red October, and just had them speaking Korean when only other Japanese are around.  Additionally they could have hired Japanese actors to play the most important characters on the Japanese side… or at least get Korean actors who speak fluent Japanese… There are plenty.

Maybe I am staying on this point too long. While it is a major gripe I have with the film, it’s not the worst thing about it, distracting as it is.

My biggest gripe is that the Japanese side is portrayed as supremely evil and two dimensional in the film.  Remember when I discussed the opening scene, about the tall handsome noble Koreans (and the one sneaky looking one). Well on the Japanese side, everyone is a short fat mustache twirler.

The actors themselves probably aren’t bad looking, but the way they are done up, they have perfectly twirlable mustaches, look very sneaky, and are generally not costumed to be handsome or noble looking.

Muhahahaha! Joseon will be crushed, then we can claim Dokdo and put our name on their Sea! Muahahahahah!

Muhahahaha! Joseon will be crushed, then we can claim Dokdo and put our name on their Sea! Muahahahahah!

They are stock characters. They are about as deep as Boris Badenov and and Natasha Fatale. They cut off the heads of their enemies and send them to their families. They speak arrogantly of the might of their military and their paltry opposition, and gosh darn it they are evil.  EVIL!  You might as well have played the imperial march from Star Wars whenever they walked in, because even sinister evil music is played when they are onscreen. (At least the score was pretty good though) They’re EVIL! They certainly look the part too. Except for that one guy who is a double agent or a traitor or something (I can’t tell if he was supposed to be Japanese because at the end the Japanese antagonist calls him a Korean once he learns he’s helping out the good Admiral.) He’s handsome. Oh yeah, and remember that sneaky Korean guy from the first scene? Well, he’s sneaky, he sabotages the Korean fleet, burning down the not yet completed turtle ship. What a Jerk!  It’s almost as if you can say handsome = good, ugly = bad. To be fair the main antagonist isn’t totally ugly or fat… he’s kind of intimidating and is built up to look kind of like what Darth Vader looked like in Star Wars.  You know he’s a badass just by looking at him.  Problem is, he doesn’t have 1/10th of the characterization that good ol’ Anakin does.

Now some may be asking, why I take issue with the Japanese being portrayed as evil in this film. After all, they probably did plenty of evil things, like killing, raping, pillaging, enslaving, and terrorizing the Joseon people in the areas they controlled. That’s a fair point. I would compare this to the poorly-made Revolutionary War film starring Mel Gibson, The Patriot.

A good film for eating popcorn, but completely biased. Americans = good. British = evil bastards. In one laughable scene the British general marches along to Mel Gibson’s house and thanks him for caring for the British wounded, but decides that since he’s also taking care of the American wounded, his house must be burned to the ground. He promptly kills all the wounded American soldiers, Mel Gibson’s pre-pubescent son, and conscripts Mel Gibson’s slaves, saying that all slaves who join the British ranks will be given freedom at the end of hostilities.  The slaves retort that they aren’t slaves, but they are working the land as FREE MEN!


I… I can’t even…. The Patriot is SO over the top to try to show you that Mel Gibson is a good guy, because for the rest of the film he’s going to be a bloodthirsty madman, so they have to show him as a guy who loves everyone, who doesn’t want to fight, and who is so nice, that random colored people who are not his slaves come to him to work on his plantation for free! How can the Brits ruin such a saint’s life? Simple,  the Brits are evil!

Now multiply that by 10, because even the evil British general in The Patriot had a line where he had mercy upon the people, as he saw that once the war was over these people would once again be British subjects, and they should be treated with dignity… well at least when he wasn’t locking them in churches and burning the church into the ground…

No, these Japanese admirals don’t have any compassion for anything.

But why exactly is this a problem? Certainly a Korean-made film is bound to portray the Korean side as justified and right, and the Japanese side as wrong. Few World War II films humanize Adolf Hitler, or the SS, especially American made ones. I will attempt to explain why this is a problem.

First, Koreans grow up in a culture that unfortunately instils anti-Japanese sentiment into everyone, to the point that young children will proudly claim that they hate Japan, because hating Japan is an essential part of being Korean.

(Edit: On second thought, that’s perhaps going too far. Without going onto a tangent of the historical formation of the post-colonial Korean identity and the willful manipulation of the educational system by the postwar government, I will briefly say that sometimes an evil other is needed to cultivate a united sense of nationalism, and once the nation was solidified, this unabashed evil otherhood status of Japan continued far beyond what its initial purpose was, to the point that today, while being anti-Japanese is not a necessity to one’s own identity as a Korean, as several generations have been raised with anti-Japanese sentiment instilled by the school system (and Japan not doing much to counter it), the effect is that the sentiment is cultivated in society in ways that run deep)

I may have been a bit irresponsible in that previous sentence, but put it this way.  I have had old Korean men tell me that they wish that tidal waves and earthquakes would send Japan sinking into the sea. I’ve had young Korean children talk about how those fucking Japs did terrible things to Korea (but couldn’t elaborate when I asked them to). The Korean online communities were rife with insensitive comments during the Fukushima disaster, saying those dirty Japs deserve it, because payback is a bitch.  I went to a soccer game between Korea and Iran, and the girl I was with shouted to the referee that he was a fucking pigfooted Jap because he didn’t call a penalty on a particularly hard tackle. Beyond all this, I grew up in somewhat of a Korean househild, and as liberal and open minded as my father is (he will freely admit that he believes Dokdo belongs to Japan) [GASP, I know, right?],as much as he spoke with admiration of the “Land of the Rising Sun,” he still unknowingly exuded anti-Japanese sentiment from time to time.

All this, and most Koreans have never met a Japanese person in their entire life. I would say that it is fair to describe this hatred of Japan as irrational. Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of reasons that this sentiment exists. Japan as a nation has not done enough to atone for the 36 years that it held Korea as a colony, and did some terrible terrible things here. But the hatred should be directed at the Japanese government, not the average person. This is why I have misgivings about this film.

The reason why this film is so popular is because it’s a stroke of the Korean ego, with a huge dose of anti-Japanese flavor to boot. It feeds on this anti-Japanese sentiment, to draw the audience in.. and has the effect of feeding into it, in essence making people hate Japan even more on the way out.

As we stepped out of the theatre, you could hear people talking about Uri (us, Koreans) and Jotpali dul, Wonsungi dul, Ilbon nom dul (Pigfooted Japs, Monkeys, Japs) in their discussion of the film.

But certainly that can’t be the filmmakers’ fault right? They are trying to make a historical piece. Besides they are drumming up hatred for Imperial Japan, not Japan today!

So do we start singing Kimigayo (the Japanese national anthem) now or after this scene?

So do we start singing Kimigayo (the Japanese national anthem) now or after this scene?

See the picture next to this. It is from the filming, but shows the Japanese soldiers carrying around the Japanese flag of TODAY! The filmmakers want you to know that these are Japanese, so much that they are willing to eschew historical accuracy to put the hinomaru (the sun flag) into the army’s hands despite the fact that it wasn’t officially adopted as a national symbol until 1870, after the Meiji Restoration.  Now there is evidence of sun-motif crests used during the warring states era of Japan for certain daimyo, but they have the mark of the Tokugawa shogunate there and the hinomaru, which are contradictions.

I may be in error on this point, but the only instance of a flag looking similar to that that I was able to find from that period was for a daimyo called Tozawa Masamori from Dewa Province. Dewa is in present day Yamagata and Akita in the Tohoku region of Japan (The Northeast part, just south of Hokkaido). It is also his personal flag, not a war flag for a common foot soldier as portrayed in this film. Plus he was born in 1585, which would make him 7 at the time of this film. I doubt he was involved. I can draw no other conclusion other than to assume that the filmmakers wanted imagery that says THIS IS JAPAN!

Nevermind the fact that Japan didn’t yet exist (and for that matter neither did Korea).  And Joseon and the Tokugawa Shogunate had pretty decent relations except for this one spat… but no forget that Japan is evil!  EVIL!


So I was really disappointed because I thought it was going to be a film that showed the motivations not only of the Korean side, but also the Japanese side, that would have real three dimensional characters and that I would come away with a new understanding of the battle. Look at some of those other films I mentioned. Starting with the Korean ones, Taegukki Brotherhood, while a tearjerker that is over sensationalized, actually has one of the protagonists fighting on the side of North Korea by film’s end. 71: Into the Fire also does not demonize the North Koreans, in fact casting a handsome looking guy as the Northern commander who only reluctantly decides to fight against a makeshift militia of high school kids. Looking at the western films, we continue to see more of this. Platoon and Full Metal Jacket aren’t feel good war movies and don’t make evil caricatures of the enemy soldiers fighting against the USMC in Vietnam.  Saving Private Ryan is a very pro-American film, but similarly shows that the German soldiers aren’t raving monsters. When one of them is captured, he’s seen as alone and scared. And Inglourious Basterds…

Hey Wait a second, you’re going to complain about the use of the Hinomaru in Roaring Currents, but you like a film that shows Hitler dying in a theatre in France long before he actually died in real history?

Why do I feel a need to even address this question? You’re cherry picking things with my argument without listening to it as a whole. Inglourious Basterds is not a historical film. It is revenge fantasy. The ending caught me by surprise for sure, I kept thinking, wow, how is Hitler going to get out of this one? I mean, I know he will escape, because this isn’t how he died. Then suddenly, BOOM he’s dead.  Wha?? Whaaaaaaa? That said, the film didn’t portray the Nazis as mindless evil robots like many other WWII films might. You could even argue that the breakout character in that film is Hans Landa, the multilingual German SS officer played by Christoph Waltz. Sure, Landa’s evil, but he’s evil in a likable way.

None of the villains in roaring currents seems to actually be human, and in the ending, when the antagonist is on Yi’s boat, he shouts Omae wa Chosenjin da! (You fucking Korean!) as he tries to kill the person who has betrayed him.  He takes a lot of arrows but he’s still not falling down, he’s charging at Yi Sun-Shin with sword raised. This isn’t a human being, its a monster. So the good Admiral Yi slays the beast with one chop of his mighty sword, slicing his head cleanly off, leaving his body still standing.

My point is this film demonizes Japan and reinforces anti-Japanese feeling.

I would bet that if released in Japan it would flop terribly, and I don’t forsee that it will do well in its upcoming U.S. release.






49 Responses to “Roaring Currents is a big letdown, and here’s why.”

  1. Koreans arent taught to hate the japanese. Are there anti japan marches in korea? Nope. Koreans enjoy japanese food, culture, and technology, just as many japanese enjoy korean food, culture, and technology. On the other hand, japan cant get enough of anti korean demonstrations, mostly from its right wing conservatives that wish to return to its days of imperial glory and tyranny. But thankfully there are still many good people in japan who rightfully support a more cooperative neighborhood community.

    And by the way what in the world does “admitting dokdo is japanese” mean? Admitting something is when it is the truth. How can you admit something when the whole world, except a few right wing die hards in japan knows its not true?

    The effect of the film was not anti japnese sentiment but revealing the inefficiencies of the korean government in handling national crises like the sewol incident ( which you could hvae , entioned that it was in the same spot as the battle) and the rolemof heros to take up the burden

    • I don’t know your background, so I don’t want to assume anything, but I have lived in both Korea and Japan. Anti-Korea demonstrations are looked at there similar light as the tea party or worse, KKK in the US. And in general the average Japanese does not openly say negative things about Korea. If you are trying to argue that there is no instilled anti-Japanese feeling among most Koreans well good luck with that and pass me some of whatever you are smoking.

      Yes, I believe Dokdo is Korean. My father is Korean and he doesn’t believe that. He believes it is Japanese, so admit in this case pertains to his belief, not mine. As far as the whole world siding with Korea on Dokdo, that’s simply not the case, most countries view it as an issue between Korea and Japan and don’t really want to be involved.

      Finally, your theory about the sewol incident driving interest in the film is interesting, but that still does not change my opinion that this film plays upon the audience seeing Japan as evil from the get go, and is itself an anti-Japanese film. If you think it is not, then you haven’t seen the film.

    • I don’t deny some of them in those demonstrations are very racist against Korea and don’t hesitate to show their hatred for Koreans. But the aim of the demonstration is to break the relationship with Korea(日韓断交), not to provoke Korea. The people who raise Swastika flags or the signs like “Kill Koreans” “Koreans go to hell” are known to be mostly Koreans who pretend to be Japanese (自作自演). Because those acts are strictly prohibited in advance. They are trying to label Japan as racist country. The attendants of the demonstration are not only right-wingers. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary high school students, housewives with kids, elderly people and so on join them and ask for break off relations with Korea. So-called “嫌韓本” (anti-Korea books) never fail to become best sellers in Japan nowadays. Do you still call them extreme right-wingers? Before you do, look back what Korea has been doing to Japan till today.  

      By the way, no Japanese crashes into the Korean embassy with a truck. No Japanese kills innocent pigs and pheasants for protesting against Korea. No Japanese burns voodoo dolls of Korean presidents in demonstration. No Japanese uses Korean flag as a carpet at the entrance of building. No Japanese prime minister tramples on Korean flags. No Japanese interferes in Korea’s textbooks. No Japanese newspaper insults Koreans. No Japanese builds a memorial of “Tsushima massacre by Koreans” in other countries. No pro-Korea Japanese gets fired from their jobs. No pro-Korea website made by Japanese is forcibly shut down. No Japanese who makes pro-Korea statement is assaulted or killed by other Japanese. No Korean is prohibited to enter Japan by the Japanese government. Just saying….

  2. Hello. Long time no see.
    Why was the last post deleted? I read it with great interest.

  3. […] One half-Korean viewer took exception to the fact that many of the characters (both Korean and Japanese) took on familiar one dimensional caricatures.  Commander Bae Seol (who deserted Admiral Yi a day before the battle) was portrayed by an actor who had an untrustworthy ferret face.  The Japanese were, predictably a bit evil and/or crazy looking.  Admiral Yi, predictably was appropriately heroic, serious and savior-like. […]

  4. Playing tonight@ Tribeca Cinema NYC US. Thanks comprehensive write up. Will let you know what I think.

  5. passingby Says:

    the Japanese used the Hinomaru during battle before modern times.

  6. Roaring current is an entertainment movie. If you want a movie that closest to history, then go watch Documentary. Did you complain that Troy movie doesn’t play well in the real history? or Alexander the Great? Entertainment movie is a spin off from boring repeating history class. The recorded war itself is far from what this movie represent. Japanese boats were lured into narrow passages where Korean civilians threw all heavy objects they could find to turn the ships into chaos and ramped themselves.

    However history does record that whenever Yishunshin cut off the route, all Japanese troops that trapped in Korea were usually massacared by angry villagers. This is not a surpirse. During Sengoku jidai, many Japanese daimyo ordered their troops to pillage nearby villages in Korea for food supply and women, in order to survive in the warring period. The attrocity creating anti japanese through out Korea, China and rumoured as far as Philipines.

    Why Korean still hate Japanese nowadays? Well, WW2 rapes, pillagings, using villagers for weapon and biochemical test subjects are enough generate hatred for generations, not to mention that WW2 was only 72 years ago. Most of the victims are still alive to tell the tale. Has Japanese learned from its mistakes? Well, nobody really believed that. Japan claimed island that far away from their territory, Japan erased their wrong doing from their school and try to brain wash their generations to justify their dirty works was somehow honorable. Before Japan left Korea and China, its biochemical viruses are spread among rivers to destroy Chinese and Korean next generations. From medieval times to WW2, Japan always spread their raping and massacares cultures. Despite their leader, trying their best to convince the world that they will not go into war with other nation anymore, they actively sent their troops to Afgan and Iraq to mend with other people’s business.

    People asked, what about China. Well, Chinese leaders always suspicous about Japan, just like US to Iran. Anyone who under estimate Japan always ended up in misery. China, Korea, Russia, even US were devastated when they though Japanese were nothing but peaceful people who busy about tea ceremony and origami. When unsupervised, Japan are capable to defeat Russia in WW1 despite outnumbered 20 to 1 in term of quantity and quality. Japanese zeros were not only transformed from wood to steel in less than a year, but also far superior compared to US warplanes in Pacific theater.

    So should anyone watch this movie? Well, if you are not Japanmania and love action movie, go for it. If you are japan fans like the writer here, then it’s like asking Vegetarian people to write a review about Potterhouse steak.

    • It always amuses me when I get called out as a Japan lover. These people who accuse me of such obviously have not read the rest of the blog, where the Japanese nationalists call me a Korea lover. The truth is that I am somewhere in between, possibly a bit biased towards Korea. Anywho…

    • There are plenty of history movies that have action and are well received without being forced to make things up. Historical movies nowadays however feel like they need to raise to outrageous levels the action. Look at a lot of the post-WWII movies like Tora Tora Tora. They didn’t change a lot, but still were well received. Because the action that happened was sufficient and embellishing it to make the players into super heroes was unneeded. Now it feels like historical movies need to create super heroes. Which in the end leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It diminishes the man the movie was based on when they need to make stuff up.

      History is full of atrocities by one people against another. To say the Japanese are any worse than others is paying them too much credit, and giving too little to other groups.

      You are obviously anti-Japan. Your drivel is worthless as plenty of cultures have done the same if not worse to other countries around them. You talk about it only being 70 years or so since WWII, and that not enough time has passed? How much time is sufficient? What must Japan do to appease you and other people that hate it that it hasn’t? It disbanded its military, apologized for its actions, and was pardoned reparations as cooler heads saw the need for peace rather than a continuous circle of hatred.

      China is a big circle of big government collapsing into warring states and then big government again. That’s how China has always been. No one thought Japan was peaceful. It was one of the few nations invited to the Washington Naval Limitations Treaty, so no one thought it was all origami and tea ceremony. Your lack of knowledge of history kills any credibility you have to talk about Japan at all.

  7. […] and unfortunately suffer from being one-dimensionally evil; I’ve also heard from reviews by fluent speakers that their Japanese is pretty badly spoken, although on my viewing the language barrier meant this […]

  8. The Insomniac Says:

    The film was more than a let down for me. It was ridiculous, even comedic, for all the reasons you have eloquently outlined here. It reminded me of the argument Koreans make about naming the Sea of Japan, “The East Sea”. Imagine calling a sea to the west of your nation, the “East Sea”. This one dimensional, outward, peninsula mind-set of the majority of Korean people, seems to be hard to change or discuss.

    • The East Sea discussion falls through once you realize that none of the evidence by the Korean side supports the name East Sea, it supports the sea being called “Sea of Korea” or some variation. Given that “East Sea” has very little official basis as an official name, it is no more the East Sea than the Atlantic Ocean is the “Eastern Ocean” to Americans.

      That said, it is pretty rotten that Sea of Japan has gotten prominence, and given that there is a precedent (see the North Sea, which was once called the British, French, and German Sea in their respective countires), a neutral name should be chosen by both parties.

      • The Insomniac Says:

        In the case of the Sea of Japan, it is so widely accepted due to the fact that the area is completely embraced and separated from the Pacific, by Japan. It has also been the accepted international name for a very long time, pre-dating Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea.

        • The Insomniac is totally right. Yujin, you are misleading the readers. You said
          >see the North Sea, which was once called the British, French, and German Sea in their respective countires
          The sea [Sea of Japan] has never been called “Sea of Korea” nor “Korean sea” IN KOREA. Their claim of “Sea of Korea” is based on “foreign maps”. (Claim of East Sea is more persuasive). Just as Dokdo/Takeshima had never been depicted or described in Korean maps and documents before the post war era.
          This is the biggest fault in numerous claims by Korea against Japan. They have to rely on evidences in foreign countries especially Japan every time they claim something against Japan. They always have no evidences themselves.

          • I really don’t see your point Ken.

            There are Japanese maps that call it 朝鮮海. You’re saying we should disregard Japanese evidence? Isn’t that central to the argument in Japan’s favor?

          • >I really don’t see your point Ken. There are Japanese maps……

            You are very sneaky.
            You said “there is a precedent (see the North Sea, which was once called the British, French, and German Sea IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES)”. So, I said it can’t be a precedent on this case because unlike those three countries, Korea doesn’t have a historical ground to claim the name herself.

            Just as many other issues between Korea and Japan, not to mention Dokdo/Takeshima dispute, you and Koreans always have to depend on evidences from foreign countries, especially Japan, when they claim something.
            The burden of proof is on the accuser, not on the accused nor the third person. Korea’s arguments are always weak since they don’t have their own evidences. Don’t refer to North Sea as a same level.

          • I don’t follow your logic. Who is the accuser?

        • Not true. Prior to the 1920s “Sea of Korea” or some variation thereof was more prevalent. “Sea of Japan” has been the accepted international name since about 1923.

  9. I’m surprised you didn’t get into the details of the battle itself. The actual, historical battle was about as amazing as any impossible underdog story could be, yet they “Hollywood-sized” the whole damn thing, having Yi’s ship take on the whole Japanese Armada on its own for practically the whole fight. And the straw covered, gunpowder filled ship heading towards them when they could’ve just…oh, I don’t know…ROWED AWAY FROM IT. And lastly, Yi DIED from an arrow wound before the battle ended, yet in the movie he survives the fight. And there wasn’t any turtle ship in that battle. Just panokson battle ships.

    • Yes, the battle did seem a bit hokey, and I think I alluded to that, but the battle of Myeongnyang is not where Yi Sun Shin died, that was the battle of Noryang.

      • Ah. I thought my Korean history was a bit spotty. Thanks for the review. Wish I’d read it before wasting my time on this film.

  10. I agree with you. I just watched this film on Netflix, and while it was better than a number of other historical movies I’ve seen, a lot of the scenes were just too sensationalized and too anti-Japan to really make me like it.

    I was honestly hoping for a lot more. Both in terms of how the Joseon Dynasty spat on Yi, but also, and primarily for this comment, more into the motivations for why Japan invaded the Korean peninsula in the first place.

    But I guess Hollywood everywhere prefers a straightforward good vs evil. And in this story, Japan will always be the bad guy and Korea will always be the good guy, even if neither one really exist at the time portrayed.

    • Oh yeah, and something I forgot to write down, which is more just a curiosity than anything else. The reason I wanted to see the motivations acted out was I wanted to see how a director would portray the new shogunate treating its detractors. While its been a while, I do remember researching and finding out that those Daimyo most opposed to the new Shogun were the ones sent on the Korean expedition. This was done in part to remove the majority of their forces from where they could stage armed rebellion and also in order to bleed them of strength so that even those returning would be weakened and not as much of a threat.

      Just something I found interesting.

      • I can forgive the film for not focusing too much on Japanese politics… that wasn’t its purpose. Honestly that film would have tanked here, even if it would have made the whole thing a bit more interesting for outside observers. Certainly they could have delved into Korean politics a bit if they’d wanted to, but they decided to make the story simple and black and white.

        • I agree it wasn’t its purpose, but something more than just evil!Japan, good!Korea would have been greatly appreciated. Maybe not a full in-depth investigation to the causes, but some grumblings from the Daimyo being forced on the expedition? Or reluctance from the Japanese in going at all?

          They would have been nice nods to the history.

          • You have to realize that all Japanese are bloodthirsty no-goodniks who want nothing other than to hurt young beautiful Korean maidens.


  11. Randomguy Says:

    You say they decapitate prisoners and seem super evil but in the film from what i recall the pirates did that. The PIRATES did that. Rewatch the film its the scene literally after the decapitated heads. Random japanese officer charges into room and goes why did you decapitate the PoWs to the Pirate leader.

    Honestly feel like youre really hurt over something that didnt even happen nor did you understand fully in the film

    • The pirates were Japanese, were they not?

      • Randomguy Says:

        But clearly not in the same mindset as the japanese. Pirates are Pirates. Youre overreacting to literally every single thing about the film because japanese “PIRATES” [eople who plunder, rape, and pillage on basically a day to day basis. Rewatch the film on netflix. Skip to the part where the guy charges in pissed off that they decapitated the PoWs.

        What youre basically getting at it. Hey US has done horrible war crimes especially with that mercenary group they hired who stepped out of line and killed innocent civilians. They must be the same as any other US solider. The US hired mercenaries were US were they not? Dont be a bigot.

        • In my review I said the film portrayed Japanese as evil. The fact that there were factions among the Japanese does not change this because all factions were portrayed as evil.

          • Then in that case did the movie portray Koreans as evil because there was an evil faction of Koreans as well (the guys who burned down the Turtle Ship).


            Hinomaru on the Nihonmaru

            It’s fine to be critical but you’re being quite excessive, as if you were just looking for things to be critical about.

          • 1. No it did not, because it was pretty clear they were glorifying Koreans in the film, labeling those guys as traitors. The film was doing anything but glorifying Japanese.

            2. The excessive use of the Hinomaru in this film was to identify the enemy soldiers as unmistakably Japanese.

            I don’t quite understand the logic of this film’s defenders. They are either too dense to see that the Japanese were obviously the villains and were played using stereotypical villain tropes, or they are deaf and didn’t hear the obviously obvious ominous music as they were on screen.

  12. Of all the films I have seen that have sensationalized history, this film gets credit. Not only entertaining with the battle scenes well done but considering how far wide the average American released film is when it comes to trying to stay within facts and this film of Yi Sun is quite good and within realms of tolerances of twist.

    I enjoyed the film. In summary it has many great points but the weaknesses were too many insignificant characters we were trying to follow, the Japanese generals needed to be made a little less fierce and more human, the fight scene with Yi’s ship needed to be shorter as the other ships were critical to victory More so than portrayed.

    It was not only one of the greatest military naval victories of all time, it was one of the most daring with death being a virtual certainty at the start of battle, you got to hand it to them, they had guts.

  13. brothajeff Says:

    I also couldn’t stand the unrealistic battles… They shot explosive arrows incredibly far… How fast the boats moved and turned on a whim was annoying. It almost felt cartoonish. Then when the flag ship was being pulled out of the whirlpool by little rowboats. They didn’t even try to make it look like the rowboats were rowing madly to try and pull it out. No they weren’t even rowing… They were pulling the ropes by hand. I face palmed…. It would have just pulled their boats towards the flagship… This drove me nuts… Then the terribly background actor sword fighting… It was soooooo bad… I was really shocked this movie got such good reviews. I found it to be really bad and incredibly biased.

  14. brothajeff Says:

    Not only that but so many terrible things that happened in this film that were so unrealistic and over the top ridiculous. I was just shaking my head. How they thought this stuff was a good idea. When they fired the explosive arrows incredibly far. It was crazy. The muskets they were firing are not accurate at all that they can snipe people a 1000 meters away… The thing that drove me nuts was when they were pulling the flag ship out of the whirlpool with the little row boats… They weren’t even rowing like mad to try and make it look believable… They were just pulling with their hands… Face palm… Their boats would just be pulled up to the flagship and join it in the whirlpool… Then there were the ridiculously bad background actor swordfighting. It was so bad… I couldn’t believe this was such a huge hit in Korea… Then how fast the boats moved and turned was crazy…. It was just really bad…. And also really biased…

  15. Victor Kim Says:

    Since it appears you have a pole stuck up your ass when it comes to “anti-Japanese” propaganda, I bet you must have absolutely LOVED the American love movie Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, and Josh Hartnett! Especially the scene where Alex Baldwin says that if his plane was going down, he would encourages the pilots to fly their plans straight into one of the dirty Japs ships and kill as many of those fucking bastards as possible in a suicide Kamikaze final stand. Where’s your blog post about that movie? In fact, how about pretty much any American movie that involves World War 2 battles in Japan? They all demonize the Japs as less than human. I don’t see you making a hissy fit about that!! Where’s your in depth WordPress analysis of the children and grandparents who were burned alive during Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I’m sure the entire internet would love to see that one!!

  16. Well I disagree with you. I am a native english speaker and watched this movie on Netflix in the US. I don’t understand either Korean or Japanese do your whole language gripe was moot to me. The first half was boring but once the action started I simply enjoyed it. I was very impressed with the special effects.

    • Well, this Review wasn’t written for you personally, so no point in you complaining about it. And for someone who does speak Japanese, it’s jarring and, at least for me, ruining every scene the Japanese speak in. As someone from the US, who probably only speaks English, and doesn’t know how it is speaking a second language (it’s awesome), it’s obvious you don’t get it.

      And those Americans that do speak a second language, often speak Spanish, but because of the availability of Native Spanish Speakers in the USA, something like in this Movie rarely happens/bothers someone speaking Spanish in the USA.

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