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My Mighty Princess

"My Mighty Princess" is a 2008 South Korean film directed by Kwak Jae-yong.

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Mighty Princess

  • Apr 11, 2010
Rating:
+3

"We can communicate without talking because she understands my mind language. If you can hear me now, you will also be able to understand the stories I told between the masters using telepathy. I will tell you our story in my mind language."




Korean writer and director Kwak Jae-young has a gift for crafting romantic comedies intended for a mass audience. Even if you have never liked romance movies in the past, Jae-young draws you into his films regardless of your resistance. There are so many unique elements to his stories; the audience doesn't even realize it's a romance until the film is over! And so far, he has been delivering hits like My Sassy Girl, Cyborg She, and my personal favorite, Windstruck. Strong often sassy female characters paired with rather wimpy or overly romantic men is another staple in his stories along with some touching, bittersweet moments that magically work out by the end of the film. My Mighty Princess was no exception to his tradition; it had the same movie elements that mark his style.

The elements I attribute to Jae-young's style might be popular in many Asian films. Since I am most familiar with his work, I notice and compare those similarities solely to his movies. For example, he has a fascination with water, rain, and drowning, all concepts that were included in his previous pieces. My Mighty Princess was no exception. For example, there was one scene where So-hwi, the main character, is going to the library to work on a paper. Her friend Il young, who has been pestering her all week to train with him, follows her. They walk out from under a building and it begins to sprinkle. They quickly walk back under the building because neither one has an umbrella. Suddenly, the rain stops. When they walk back out again, the rain comes down in torrents. The pair gets soaked just like the lovers in My Sassy Girl and Windstruck. There are many moments like this throughout the film that will have fans of Jae-young recalling his other stories.

Other similarities to his previous films include the use of a Korean pop song from Windstruck. Unlike its predecessor, the song is overly used in My Mighty Princess. Almost every time So-hwi looks at Jun-mo, a motorcycle and hockey boy that she crushes on, the music is played. It's never fully understood why it's played or whether it connotes destiny like it did in Windstruck. The reason for the song confusion is because So-hwi and Jun-mo's relationship is never fully developed in the film. Thus, the significance of the music is lost on the audience. Despite being over played, I enjoyed the song and wish I knew its English phonetic name, so I could download it. 
In general, the music wasn't a strong collection as in Jae-young's previous films. The opening music that is used during the introduction monologue and during the play "Princess Mighty" were the best pieces. The first time the Korean rap song is used felt right and made me remember my favorite film Windstruck, but the overuse of it caused an awkward interruption to the flow of the story. Even the battle music felt a little off. Luckily, there were other unique quirks that drew away from the mediocre music score, such as cameo appearances by Gianna Jun and Tae-hyun Cha, the stars of My Sassy Girl. Can you spot them while watching the film?

Though My Mighty Princess had similarities to Jae-young's other films that range far beyond the inclusion of two of his favorite actors, one major difference was the inclusion of martial arts in a style very similar to Wuxia. One of the characters even mentions a dream where their life was depicted as a wuxia. Practically the entire cast are martial arts' experts with abilities that allow them to run fast or softly, jump from tall buildings or to areas of extreme heights, and counter attacks and situations with super human strength supplied and developed by their Chi. The four male martial arts masters had different styles that range from sign language to a dance/waltz form. Although much of the seriousness of the film is downplayed by its humor, it was still fun and exciting to watch the battle scenes.

Although the battle scenes were heavily featured, they were not the main focus of the film. This was the story of Kang So-hwi, played by Min-a Shin, and her fight against destiny. Min-a Shin has the perfect combination of an unusual look and quirky personality that adds depth to a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. She is a martial arts' prodigy on the brink of mastering her talents. At the same time, she's a troubled college student that wants normalcy. She desires to be like everyone else, so she rejects her super human strength because it isolates her from her peers. This is demonstrated at the beginning of the movie by a very cute play called "Princess Mighty" hosted by the Charyeok Club (a form of qigong). The Charyeok style for martial arts is where So-hwi and her father's powers lie. There is a lot of emphasis on their stances as well as the circulation of their Chi, which is where the family gets their incredible strength. After the play ends, the audience sits in silence refusing to cheer for the performers. It is later revealed that many of the audience members were confused and scared by So-hwi's abilities. They consider her a freak, an attitude and belief that So-hwi internalizes.

Two other main characters that compliment So-hwi are Il-yeong, played by Ju-wan, and Jun-mo, played by Geon Yu. Il-yeong is an old childhood friend. The two were considered martial arts prodigies, and she was the only one who could beat him. Meanwhile, Jun-mo is a current student at So-hwi's university. He's a motorcycle riding, bad boy, hockey player. He's actually everything that Il-yeong wishes he could be. Il-yeong is a comic relief for most of the film. He is as quirky as So-hwi and acts like a gay best friend. Il-yeong and Jun-mo are antitheses of each other and offer dynamic scenes of contrast that adds conflict to the complicated relationship So-hwi has with both. Min-a Shin, Ju-wan, and Geon Yu are stars who make the film worth seeing despite some of the story flaws. Their superb acting skills add humor, depth, and emotion to a light-hearted, feel good romance, which Jae-young Kwak crafts with the precision of an artist.

Everything was beautiful in this film. Even the title sequence for Prime Entertainment, the studio that produced the film, was amazing. I especially liked how the title for My Mighty Princess was drawn on the Green Destiny Sword, an important artifact that everyone is after. When I heard the name of the sword, I wondered if it was a common legend in Asian stories since it was also the name of the sword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Despite the amazing directing, acting, and beautiful scenic shots, the flaws of the film couldn't be hid. The major underlying problem: Jae-young tried to squeeze too much into one story. This created many confusing or weak subplots and scenes to rate the film higher than a +3. If there had been fewer subplots or maybe a sequel to the film, he could have "done it all." The side story that suffered the most was the romantic love triangle. The details were never fully explained or explored and the small snippets of flashbacks which hint at some of the reasons behind the romance are easy to miss if you are not paying attention. Even if you are following the film closely, the flashbacks don't always connect thematically and the viewer is left with many questions that don't resolve by the end of the movie. The most disappointing and weakest scene of the film was the ending. It could have been memorable and emotional if Jae-Young had cut some of the repetitious shots and explanations. He's done much better with the climaxes of his other films, so it was difficult to watch this one without comparing it to his other achievements. Part of the confusion and problems associated with the movie could be attributed to the two year delay in its release because of the weakening Korean film industry.

Despite the delay, I'm very happy to have the opportunity to watch another of Kwak Jae-Yong's works of art. His camera angles and focus on scenic shots add much to the character development and intense emotional scenes. Some of these moments include beautiful fields shot during the high moon, perfect for the martial arts battles, or city motorcycle rides that flash by as quickly as the slash of a sword. Jae-Young has a way of highlighting all the environmental and city landscapes that highlight Korea as vast and romantic. There were even moments when it felt like time stopped during specific close-ups of the characters. For example, there is a battle scene where So-hwi is trying to protect a boy she has a crush on. She doesn't want him to know who's saving him, so Il-yeong disguises her with some eye makeup and a hat. During the battle, the camera zooms in to highlight the different angles of So-hwi's face when she's fighting. The jerky pauses offer a full 360 degree facial examination of a not so crafty disguise. It's as if time stops for her. Both characters are lost in their own little world while the audience is lucky enough to glimpse their fantastical land before the action resumes. The entire scene added humor and an endearing modest quality to her character.


Overall, the strengths of the film are the actors, characters, original take on a familiar story, martial arts fighting scenes, and exceptional nature and camera angle shots. Despite these strengths, the weaknesses are major ones. There are too many subplots that are never explained or concluded, a repetitive musical score, and the failure to make the climax and ending as memorable and exciting as previous Jae-young's films. Despite these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie and the mysteries that are revealed as the characters' histories are explored through flashbacks. A lot of the actions and outcomes were unpredictable, which was another unsuspecting strength of the film.

It is the most light-hearted of Jae-young's romantic pieces. Don't go into the movie expecting grand revelations of life, death, and love like he explored in other films. Even without all of that depth and insight, the film can stand on its own with a simple but heartfelt final message: love conquers all. 

My Mighty Princess My Mighty Princess

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September 26, 2010
This sounds like something I need to check out, been a while since I have watched something like this. Excellent review.
September 28, 2010
Thanks for checking out my review, Alex! It was a fun film. I wish that it had a sequel, though, to tie up some loose ends. Still, it was lots of fun. Let me know if you do watch it, so I can check out your review too. :D
 
April 19, 2010
Wow, you certainly put a lot of effort into your review! I used to do that when I was on VirtualTourist.com. Then my friends all complained of having too much to read and told me it'll take them years to read my travelogs! Hence, now, I have tried to just give bits and pieces and not one full complete pictures. They are still not reading them... *sigh*... Anyway, back to the Mighty Princess. I think when it comes to songs, the idea is to condition the viewers. I used that technique myself (classical conditioning) when I went to Antarctica. I used one of Josh Groban's songs and now, whenever I listen to that particular songs, images of Antarctica automatically comes to mind. It's the way to keep my memory of a place. I first noticed it back then when I was in university. I used to play some songs (from those days) a great deal and now, those songs brought me back to those good old days! It's amazing! Try it especially if you want to remember happy times!
April 19, 2010
Thanks so much for your compliments, Sharrie. I do put a lot of time and effort into my reviews, which is why i don't get them up as fast as I would like. Even my reality television shows take too long to write! LOL! I'll have to take your advice on the music. Sounds like a fun way to remember happy times. Also, thanks so much for taking the time to read my reviews. :)
April 19, 2010
They are great. When it comes to writing though, ultimately, the enjoyment is yours. I think when you're older or in the later part of your life, you'd find your own thoughts and writings very interesting. I hope you save a copy of them on your own hard disk for future reference. As far as my experience goes, I don't consider myself a writer. And for most part, I don't even enjoy writing. But I do have lots to write and share, so write I did. The best part comes when I was amazed at what I came up with. It's a joy when I began to enjoy what I had written (despite not enjoying the writing process). Sounds strange, isn't it?
April 19, 2010
I agree with you about writing! I haven't been saving a hard copy of anything I'm writing here. I need to do that...it is a very good and important suggestion! I understand what you mean about not enjoying the writing process. You're not alone in that regard. :)
 
April 16, 2010
I haven't seen too many Korean films although a great many of them on my list. Most of what I've seen are a combination horror/police procedural flix that appear on comcast. The only one I've reviewed is a really quirky thing called SAVE THE GREEN PLANET which had everything but the kitchen sink in it. Usually that's just the kind of flick I'm into but I must have been in a weird mood because it left me cold. I'm going to try it again one day. This film actually sounds appealing. I think I might check NetFlix out and see if they carry it or the other films by the same director that you mentioned. Great review by the way.
April 17, 2010
THANKS, Karen! I'm so glad you liked the review! I highly recommend the films by Jae-Young. My favorites go in this order:

1. Windstruck
2. My Sassy Girl
3. My Mighty Princess
4. Cyborg She

I can't wait to see what you think of them when/if you do watch them. It sounds like you usually watch more serious Korean films, minus the horror stuff.

I'm going to look for your review of Save the Green Planet now.
April 17, 2010
Not really. I probably have more horror on my list than anything else as you've probably noticed from the GREEN PLANET review, such as it is. But I would like to se more of their period pieces and their version of wushu.
April 18, 2010
I'm glad you are thinking about branching out! It should be fun to see your thoughts on some more light hearted films too!
April 18, 2010
I probably wouldn't review them because there are already a lot of people covering that area very competently. You never can tell though. If a film really knocks me off my feet I might.
April 19, 2010
Nods, I understand. Either way, shoot me an e-mail letting me know what you thought of them when/if you do watch them!
April 19, 2010
Will do.
 
April 14, 2010
Great review. Don't know if I'll see this one or not, but it looks pretty interesting. I still need to see those other three films by him, lol. I'll get around to that eventually, don't worry. :-)
April 14, 2010
Let me know when you do, Pard. If you like them, I can get you a copy of this one too. :) For me, it was about on the same level of Cyborg She. I have a feeling that you will like that one way more than this one, though.
 
April 12, 2010
Looks a little teeny bopper-ish to me (did I just coin a new term?) at least based on the quote and the photos. I prefer my romance stories to be laced with either ironic humor, tragedy, or a bit more realism. Happy endings just depress me.
April 13, 2010
LOL! I love it! Coin more terms! Definitely "teeny bopper-ish," so it's probably not up your alley. ;) Thanks for reading the review, though! It's been a while since I got an Asian Flix review up!
 
April 11, 2010
BRAVO! this review is just amazong! I am so...impressed that I wouldn't have said it better myself. I am so happy to have this review in the community! Truth be told, I had mixed feelings about this one, and sadly I haven't reviewed this yet. (now i don't have to since you've done a wonderful job!) Oh, check out "SAD STORY" and Lover's Concerto..yeh, I know a lot about Korean romantic dramedies LOL!
April 13, 2010
LOL!! I don't think its amazing...I've been so exhausted when I've been writing because of the long nights I've been staying up thesis writing. But I have been trying to play "catch up" with reviews and groups.

I got a little picture happy too because I couldn't decide which ones to keep and throw away. That's not me either, lol! Oh well! 

Yeah, the mixed feelings about this film were tough. I ended up rating it higher than a 2, which is where I was leaning toward, merely because I thought it was as good as Cyborg She, even though it was sillier. I will check out the two you recommended when I have more time. I love your film recommendations!
 
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Adrianna Simone ()
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Wiki

My Mighty Princess is a 2008 South Korean film directed by Kwak Jae-yong.

Kang So-hwi, a beautiful martial arts prodigy, is about to embark on a journey into adulthood. But her journey is like no other. Her super-human strength and martial arts prowess scares away her fellow undergrads and even the boy she has fallen for. Devastated, So-hwi decides to give up martial arts and takes a different path. Her father, a martial artist himself, is afraid of losing an heiress to the family’s martial artistry, and missions So-hwi’s old buddy Ilyoung to persuade her to stay in the field. Meanwhile, the evil Heuk-bong provokes a war to conquer the martial arts world with the legendary Fine Blade he stole in the past, killing every swordsman one after another. So-hwi’s father comes to a showdown with Heuk-bong, but the battle leaves him fatally injured. On the brink of her father’s death, So-hwi picks up a sword again with a burning desire for revenge
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Details

Director: Jae-young Kwak
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Romance, Asian Cinema, Korean, South Korean, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: June 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Jae-young Kwak, Shinho Lee
DVD Release Date: June 26, 2008
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Prime Entertainment
First to Review

"Mighty Princess"
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