This is one of those movies where it would’ve been really, really helpful if someone who’d seen it before me, had told me how best to enjoy this movie, before I watched it.
…Which is why I’m here to do precisely that, for you. Y’know, coz I’m just helpful that way. 😉
The bottom line is basically this: if you try too hard to make sense of this story, you’re likely to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you just send the ol’ brain packing on a 2-hour vacation, lean back and roll with The Pretty (and boy, is Yoo Seung Ho pretty in this), you might actually enjoy this one.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS MOVIE
What I knew beforehand
I went into this movie pretty blind. The only things I knew about this movie before I dived in, were:
- This is Yoo Seung Ho’s first project after completing his Military Service.
- Go Ah Ra is starring opposite him.
- They have a loveline.
- He’s a magician in this. And he rocks the mane of glory.
…That’s about it, really. I’d heard some positive responses to the movie, so I was optimistic.
What it felt like
Honestly, it felt like someone Very Important And Powerful had given instructions to writer-nim and PD-nim along these lines:
- This is Yoo Seung Ho’s comeback. Make him glorious to look at.
- Scratch that; make everything beautiful to look at.
- There has to be a romance. Make it feel epic. But don’t forget the cute.
- There also has to be bad guys. Bad guys make everything more exciting. Make it about revenge. Or something.
- Some blood is ok. A lot of blood is also ok.
- Be sure to sprinkle it all with some adventure and magic. After all, this is titled The Magician.
- I don’t care how you do it. Just do it.
…Which is probably how the movie ends up feeling like a hodgepodge mishmash of all of these elements.
To be fair to writer-nim and PD-nim in my imaginary scenario, they manage to check all the boxes above. Everything is beautiful to look at, and there is a main romance, and there are revengey bad guys and magic. The OTP chemistry is reasonably decent and there’s a fair bit of OTP cute. There’s even a Magical Revengey Bad Guy. How about that, for a creative combo?
The not-so-great bits
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a lot of cohesion at play among the various elements. And sometimes, there isn’t a lot of logic either. In trying to fit the various pieces together in my head in a way that made sense during my watch, I basically wasted brain cells and time, which could’ve been spent just admiring The Pretty.
Pacing is also a problem. Because it feels like Show can’t make up its mind on what’s more important – the romance, the tragic backstories, or the revenge – the available screen time is divided in a way that makes me feel like we get large chunks of everything, but no real focus on any one thing. If that makes sense. I literally got a little confused along the way, thinking that maybe the movie was a revenge melo instead of a romance, after all.
Stuff also happens at a mostly unhurried sort of pace, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se. But, because it already feels like the story isn’t sure of its main focus, the unhurried pace felt slow to me. I kept waiting for Show to focus properly instead, and that definitely messed with my ability to enjoy Show’s leisurely pace.
On top of it all, the way everything is knitted together feels rather random at points. Let’s just say that the narrative thread linking one scene to another was sometimes so obscure that I strongly suspected it wasn’t even there. Suspension of disbelief and the ability to quickly fill in narrative gaps, both required.
[SPOILER] Case in point, the scene where Bo Eum (Jo Yoon Hee in a very decent performance) dies in Hwan Hee’s arms (Yoo Seung Ho), which then cuts to Hwan Hee entering the performance arena for a final showdown with Magical Revengey Bad Guy Gwi Mol (Kwak Do Won). Given that Hwan Hee isn’t even supposed to know that Gwi Mol is the one who killed Bo Eum, I was more than a little puzzled that he knew to enter the arena for a showdown. [END SPOILER]
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
The ending, though happy, honestly made little sense to me. That leap – from Hwan Hee and Cheong Myung (Go Ah Ra) standing on the cliff ready to jump, to, time-skip later, a painting of them, alive and happy and doing magic – really felt rather weird.
Essentially, all movie long, we’re led to understand that Hwan Hee isn’t really able to do magic. All of his magic tricks boil down to sleight-of-hand and lots and lots of planning and stage trickery. To then imply that Hwan Hee really did do something magical, to take both him and Cheong Myung to Atlantis (apparently), well, that’s really out of the blue. (Well ok, maybe they didn’t go to Atlantis, but just jumped off the cliff and survived, but that’s also a little far-fetched, I think?)
Without any hints prior to Hwan Hee’s magical abilities, nor any explanation of how Hwan Hee and Cheong Myung survived, the ending feels conveniently, inexplicably happy.
Would I have preferred that they’d jumped off the cliff and died? Well, no. I definitely was rooting for a happy ending. But a little more explanation – or at least a hint of an explanation – would’ve been nice.
Clearly, my experience with this movie wasn’t exactly fantastic. I’d felt rather underwhelmed overall, but I really think that was because of my lens and expectations. I’d expected stuff to make sense, and I was trying to find the logic in everything, when that really wasn’t the point of the movie.
But just because I didn’t have a good time with this movie doesn’t mean that you can’t.
Going in, just think of this as a fantasy sort of world where not everything makes sense, but everything is pretty to look at, and love is sometimes enough, to create all the magic that you need.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Not bad if you don’t think too hard. Show is stronger on atmosphere than substance, but Yoo Seung Ho is Very Pretty.
FINAL GRADE: B-