'My Mighty Princess' is bland, cliche
By Yang Sung-jin
Published on The Korea Herald: June 19, 2008
"My Mighty Princess," directed by Kwak Jae-yong, revolves around a mighty female character who can beat up powerful martial arts professionals, if she wants to. The problem is that she does not bother to use her awesome power, even though the fate of the secret marital arts community in Korea hangs in the balance. After all, she`s a college student and she`s busy chasing after handsome guys.
Director Kwak`s new romantic comedy, which relies heavily on the visual effects of wire actions, starts from the cartoonish premise that a host of ancient martial art practitioners are living incognito in Seoul.
The movie`s heroine, So-hui, (played by Shin Min-a) not only belongs to this secret community, but also comes from distinguished parents. Her father was one of the four masters in the secret community, and her mother, who died when So-hui was young, was a top-rated swordswoman.
Despite that glorious heritage, So-hui is only interested in Jun-mo (Yu Gun), a good-looking hockey player who drives an expensive Suzuki motorcycle on and outside campus. So-hui, born with a phenomenal strength that often surprises her friends in college, wants to win his heart, so she joins the hockey club, but he wants someone else.
So-hui`s father (Choi Jae-seong) gets help from Il-young (On Ju-wan), a quirky, motorcycle-obsessed college student who practiced martial arts with So-hui when they were kids. But she does not pay much attention to her childhood buddy because she is competing hard to become Jun-mo`s girlfriend.
This silly set-up, which might appeal to teenagers, to some extent, takes an outrageous turn when So-hui`s father is attacked by Black Tiger, an evil character with sly eyes and an embarrassing smirk. All of a sudden, she is transformed into a martial arts superhero who seems to be innocent and powerful at the same time.
A powerful female character and her pathetically weak male counterparts? This sounds familiar, especially if you have seen "My Sassy Girl," the blockbuster by the same filmmaker who brought Jun Ji-hyun and Cha Tae-hyun to Asian stardom.
"My Mighty Princess," as the title unequivocally suggests, follows Kwak`s trademark formula: a strong female character and a weaker male counterpart get romantically and comically involved with each other.
Unfortunately, Shin Min-a is not Jun Ji-hyun. Shin looks charming and innocent throughout the film, but, except for her flying tricks, there is hardly any reason to compare her to the domineering character that Jun played.
There is a serious problem with the male characters in "My Mighty Princess," as well. Both Yu Gun and On Ju-wan might pass as handsome boys who can wow high school (or younger) girls, but neither of them exhibits any cinematic talent comparable to Cha Tae-hyun`s work in "My Sassy Girl." Yu Gun`s handsome boy character, who falls in love with a significantly older woman who is a police officer, is absurd at best, and On Ju-wan`s Il-young is not credible as a supposedly multilayered character that is said to have the key to unlock the petty and predictable mystery surrounding the decades-long strife in the martial arts community.
As with Kwak`s other romantic comedy films, "My Mighty Princess" leads to a tear-jerking melodramatic climax that is utterly devoid of inspiration and dramatic impact.
The movie will hit theaters on June 26, after being delayed more than two years, and it seems like the distributors had many valid reasons to delay this movie. The flimsy storytelling, bland mixture of comedy and martial arts sequences, and lame characterization are hardly a promising recipe.
One positive aspect, though, is the fairly high level of wire action sequences, thanks to DTI, Korea`s top computer graphics company, and Dion Lam, a renowned martial arts director from Hong Kong.