Space Sweepers (Seungriho) was released worldwide in February, 2020 on Netflix. As soon as this Korean sci-fi action movie was revealed, it reached number one in at least sixteen countries. Space Sweepers was undoubtedly the talk of the town, as it was Korea’s first “outer space” sci-fi movie. Moreover, the production cost of 24 billion won has surely caught the attention of many people.
Director Jo Sung-hee’s film kicks off in the year 2092 where the earth is at death’s door. The sky is full of dry orange dust, soil is cracked open, and humans are all wearing masks in order to survive this polluted environment. The wealthy people of the earth are selected by Utopia above The Sky (UTS), a mega-corporation who transfers the chosen ones to a utopian land, Eden.
James Sullivan, the mastermind of UTS has created a floating residential paradise in Eden and classifies the residents as UTS citizens. The majority that are sorted as non-citizens are mostly known as the “sweepers” who gather leftover space debris for a living. These space sweepers are the guardians of the cold vacuum of space and prevent Eden from getting damaged by the wastes.
Being broke is the common denominator of all space sweepers. They are in need of cash and everyone struggles for it. The way to make money as a sweeper is simple: The larger the space debris you collect, the more money you receive. Having the best ship and strategy, this is a piece of cake for the crew of a space junk collector ship called the Victory. However, despite being the finest group, the Victory team are still in debt.
The Victory crew consists of four members: cold but charismatic Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), former government operative Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), scary but sweet Tiger Park (Jin Sun-kyu), and witty droid Bubs (Yoo Hae-jin). The crew attempts to fix up a ship, but encounters something unusual on a blasted-out shuttle. Once they open the shuttle, a small and cute girl who introduces herself as Kot-nim is discovered.
Despite her adorable looks, Kot-nim is not an ordinary child. Kot-nim is also known as Dorothy, who happens to be wanted by the UTS Space Force and a terrorist group called the Black Foxes. According to the news, Kot-nim is also a weapon of mass destruction. Tae-ho starts to run some calculations and considers this as a chance to make some big money. Without further fuss, the Victory crew sets up a meeting with the Black Foxes to trade Kot-nim for 2 million dollars.
However, because of further complications, the meeting is interrupted and Kot-nim’s stay in the Victory is extended. Dorothy’s presence melts the hearts of the members and they are heads over heels for her.
Sullivan’s UTS company has plans in expanding their pioneering nanotechnology. Apparently, Dorothy seems to be an obstacle to this, which pushes Sullivan to eliminate her. The Victory crew does whatever it takes to save Kot-nim and the earth itself.
Space Sweepers shows an impressive quality although it is Korea’s first time entry into the sci-fi genre. The full-detailed set, production design, and world class visual effects surely prove that South Korea has a future in creating sci-fi films.
The storyline of Space Sweepers is somewhat cliched and could also be seen as similar to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Given that the film is an action movie, over-exaggeration of visual effects is used in some of the fight scenes. In addition, despite its long running time of 2 hours and 16 minutes, it seems that everything is rushed. It feels that there are some loopholes and there could have been more stories to tell within the given time.
Overall, Space Sweepers is a movie that shows the capability of South Korea’s sci-fi filmmaking. It proves that if given the necessary budget, South Korea can create blockbuster movies that compete with the Hollywood industry. Anyone who is a fan of science fiction will find a charm in watching Space Sweepers and would definitely want to see more.