Review by Adam Donato
The writer and director of Train to Busan, Sang-ho Yeon, comes back to Netflix to direct a science fiction feature about a post apocalyptic world where robot soldiers are seen as a new solution to a civil war. Yeon not two years ago directed six episodes of the Hellbound show on Netflix. Apparently JUNG_E is so under wraps that IMDb only lists two of the stars of the movie, Kim Hyun-joo and Ryu Kyung-Soo. During the inescapable hellhole that is January, does the director of Train to Busan have enough cache to get audiences to check out this science fiction picture?
Netflix recently announced almost a hundred original movies coming to their platform this year. Yeon being one of the directors in Netflix’s pocket is quite the get. That being said, JUNG_E is not his best work. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but the story feels like such a recycled science fiction retread. Typical science fiction themes about the morality of the human race and our impact on the world are explored. It’s not done poorly — there’s just nothing new added to the conversation. It's pretty typical stuff for the genre. On the other hand, the action and special effects are where this movie shines.
The acting was obnoxiously over the top, specifically the villain and the comic relief. The jokes were so obnoxious and the villain's mannerisms make little sense by the end of the movie. The dubbing was distracting. Maybe some audiences won’t be able to tell the difference, but stick with the subtitled version on this one. At least in animation, the mouth movements are less precise and lend themselves better to syncing with the replacement dialogue.
The most compelling element of the movie is what happens to the rights of your likeness when you pass away or when you’re so desperate that you willingly give them up. The world-building was one of the more interesting aspects as the climate is destroyed and society is split up into factions, but there is a company working to advance robotics in an effort to fight the war. These plans turn sinister in the most delightful way. There’s enough here to chew on to make the viewing experience worthwhile.
Overall, JUNG_E is a standard science fiction movie that audiences have seen a hundred times. It’s not a bad movie, but there’s nothing to put this one over the top. It has some good action and world-building, but it's easily a passable movie. It would’ve been interesting to see this movie get the exposure of a theatrical release. Nevertheless, this is sure to get lost in the endless catalog of Netflix content.
JUNG_E streams on Netflix beginning January 20.