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South Korean "Top Gun" Lacks the Afterburners to Really Take Off

  • Mar 23, 2013
While I really got into the “Korean New Wave” because of directors Kim Ki-Duk, Park Chan-Wook, Lee Chang-Dong and Kim Ji-Woon, lately it seems like Korean movies also have their share of what they see as ‘mainstream’ movies much like what we’ve come to either love or hate with a Michael Bay film. Such as the 2012 film “R2B: Return to Base” (original title: “Soar to the Sun”, American Dvd title: “Black Eagle”) directed by Kim Dong-Weon seems to try to emulate. I am not sure why the original title had been changed since it would have given the film more sense.

The film begins with a hotshot stunt pilot from the Black Eagle team named Tae-Hun (pop star Rain, Ninja Assassin) who gets kick out of the team after performing an illegal maneuver in an air show that could’ve endangered civilians. Tae-Hun gets transferred to a combat unit and because of his cockiness, he develops a rivalry with the team’s ace pilot, Cheuol-hee (Joon Sang-Yoo). But because of his friendly demeanor, he also develops friendships with other members of the unit as he also becomes enamored with a beautiful mechanic named Se-Young (Se-Kyung Shin). But things are not exactly working out in the North Korean side, as unrest seeks to sever the truce between the South and North Korean sides that may cause nuclear war. Tae-Hun must learn to work with Cheuol-Hee to try and stop the crisis.



This is the kind of film that I usually try to steer clear of when I see a film from Korea. It is the kind of film that botches everything that could’ve been good and instead serves up cheesy melodrama, pretty predictable devices and serves up homage to previous other films. While the core plot is all about its characters and just how everything plays out with their duty and sense of camaraderie, it feels shallow and forced that it overplays those devices that surely overstays its welcome.

It borrows elements from “Top Gun“, uses a homage to Michael Bay‘s “Pearl Harbor“, even one scene looked ripped from “Behind Enemy Lines“ and then tries to pitch a missile crisis ala-”Iron Eagle 2“ and “Crimson Tide“. It would’ve been wise to ditch the lovey-dovey cheesy side and corny comedy since it appeared to belong in a separate film, and instead used the time in the first half to develop the growing political tension in North Korea. The screenplay just leaves the bad guy shamelessly undeveloped, and the stakes feeling more of a gimmick than actually what it tries to pitch into the second half. I do have to admit that the film tried to charm its viewers with the connection between its characters, but even when it does, it opts to settle for the perfunctory love thing with Tae-Hun and Se-Young (despite their looks, they failed to connect with me). Yu-Jin (Hana Lee) and her relationship with another pilot would’ve been a more interesting device, but instead it focuses on character interplay that I did not care for. They aren’t characters but people who are acting on-screen, and the transition between the first and second halves of the movies proved to be a little too clumsy for my tastes.


Be that as it may, the film does have some very good aircraft sequences with the use of CGI effects. Also, once the film starts to pick up with the second half, where it picks up its pace, the dogfights and air maneuvers can prove to be intense and fun to look at. I do have to say that the dogfights were superior to “Red Tails”, but so stylish and CGI-dependent that it lacked the feel of the real air maneuvers in “Top Gun”. “Stealth” had the superior CGI effects when it comes to dogfights, but the film does have its own set of charm when it came to the air battles. They were quick and rather cool-looking, the MIG attack on a South Korean populated area was well-shot despite its lack of narrative impact because of its undeveloped elements.

Perhaps the film wanted to show a side of the Korean air force that wanted to be more human, but really, the screenplay could’ve used a lot more polishing up and definitely having their central areas more defined would’ve helped the film. “Soar to the Sun” is what we can see as a replicated Michael Bay film, all style, loads of boom with a screenplay that makes me want to roll my eyes. The devices that required a suspension of disbelief and the flow of the film was incredibly cheesy There were two movies here that did not belong together, they would’ve better served in different movies. The first half was horrible but the second half was watchable all joined together with a messy screenplay that loses its focus even before it defined what it wanted to be. Korean movie fans can see it out of curiosity, but those discriminating film fanatics had better stay away. I guess it is a bad sign when a movie's title gets changed numerous times. Rental [2+ Out of 5 Stars]



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March 27, 2013
I will have to see this, it is a must.
March 27, 2013
I guess my 2/5 rating did not turn you off? LOL
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