Director: Kim Han-Min
Cast: Park Hae-Il, Byun Yo-Han, Ahn Sung-Ki, Son Hyun-Joo, Kim Sung-Kyu, Kim Sung-Kyun, Kim Hyang-Gi, Ok Taec-Yeon, Gong Myoung, Park Ji-Hwan
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence)
Released By: Golden Village
Opening Day: 18 August 2022
Synopsis: HANSAN: RISING DRAGON is a historical war epic depicting the Battle of Hansan Island off the southern coast of Korea in July 1592, where Admiral Yi Sun-sin defeated the larger Japanese forces through intelligent tactics and the use of his signature turtle battleship "Geobukseon”.
Remember a time when we would be awed by blockbusters like Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), where we could experience epic naval battles on the big screen? Of course, there was also Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld (1995), which we honestly think wasn’t that bad, considering how the action movie was made almost entirely with practical effects.
It has been a while since we enjoyed the cinematic experience. For viewers who are fans of this genre, you’re in for a treat with this prequel to Kim Han-min’s The Admiral: Roaring Currents. The 2014 movie was a Korean action war movie based on the true life historical Battle of Myeongnyang, with the story centred on naval commander Yi Sun-sin, an admiral and military general well known in history books for winning battles against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty. The box office surpassed James Cameron’s Avatar’s record of 13 million viewers, and became the most watched and highest grossing local movie. It also went on to pick up prizes at several film awards.
Kim returns to direct this entertaining flick depicts the historical Battle of Hansan, an event which took place before the Battle of Myeongnyang. Taking over Choi Min-sik who played Admiral Yi is Park Hae-il, and he plays a younger version of the famed naval commander with ease. The year is 1592 and Wakisaka (Byun Yo-han) has successfully led Japanese forces to drive the Korean army from the capital and into retreat. Admiral Yi’s troops remain standing, and with the Japanese approaching his base, he has to come up with a plan to fight off the enemy.
The first half of the 129 minute movie may be a little dreary for some viewers, as the story takes its time to pan out the events that took place before the epic battle. Countless characters are introduced and their names are flashed on screen. However, without much knowledge of Korean history, you may be lost (it doesn’t help that the men in their period costumes look very similar) as most of them are minor characters that you may miss or never see again as the movie progresses. Expectedly, the story is largely dominated by male characters, and the actress that gets some screen time is Kim Hyang-gi, who does a good job at leaving an impression although she has no spoken lines.
When the battle finally begins, you get almost an hour of non stop action that mostly takes place on sea. It is an impressive spectacle and you will have your eyes glued on screen as the Koreans and Japanese execute their plans, with both sides experiencing ups and downs as the grand showdown takes place. You can feel the sweat of the men rowing the big ships, and the rising tension as the captains see enemy fleets inch closer to their ships. You’ll want to cheer when the Admiral Yi’s bulky and intimidating turtle ships make their entrance, bulldozing their way through the choppy sea to take down the Japanese.
The action doesn’t end with this movie. Kim’s plan of bringing the Yi Sun-sin trilogy to life concludes with the third instalment Noryang: Seaof Death, based on Battle of Noryang, which is scheduled for release next year.
(The epic sea battles are a sheer delight to experience on the big screen)
Review by John Li