Memories of the Sword (2015) – Movie Review

memories_of_the_sword-p1So, Memories of the Sword is an attempt to put an entire twenty episodes’ worth of plot and drama and twists and emotion and grandiose sets and elaborate costumes into a two-hour movie. And it’s actually mostly successful. At least, it held my attention all the way through. Or at least, held parts of my attention from the background whilst I was, well, doing whatever it was I was doing that day.
(What day is it, anyway?)

Plot? It’s impossible to discuss, even in brief, without SPOILERS.

There’s this swordsgirl, and there’s her not-mother swordswoman who raised her as an instrument of vengeance to kill her father, oh wait he’s not her father (except that he totally is and her identity is faked down to the distinguishing scars on her back) and that is also her mother. She bumps into a handsome young swordsman who happens to work for not-Dad and they spar. I mean, with kung fu. Anyhow, why not-Dad has incurred the wrath of not-Mom is about eight episodes worth of plot in and of itself, and it’s really a mark of great skill and also enormous restraint on the filmmakers’ part that they restricted it to as concise and brief flashbacks as they have. Why he deserves killing in the present is mostly because he’s taken the “then let me be evil” path and is gunning for the throne itself. One of the things that could derail his plans–is the reappearance of a few people from his past. So Swordsgirl, as things proceed along their path, has a set of choices to make. Will she carry out a revenge in which she really has no part? Will she kill the woman who raised her or will she turn her back on everything she has been taught? Will she choose freedom, or will she choose duty? And what the hell is your duty, anyway, under circumstances like this?

Personally, I feel that killing absolutely everyone, setting the palace on fire, setting the city on fire, and walking off into the sunset with the flames at your back and a sword in your hand is a fine idea, but that might just be my biases speaking.

What I liked:27550676_memoriesofthesword_still3
– The fact that the young heroine was actually able to keep up with and inflict damage on the (conflicted and distraught and unarmored) villain, even after their connection was uncovered. Usually you don’t see girl heroes being able to actually win Fights To The Death For Vengeance. Vengeance is usually men’s business.
– I didn’t see the final twist (an actual spoiler): that Hong-yi the dead swordsman’s daughter is actually Sul-hee the live swordwoman’s daughter, just because the logic behind it is bonkers but, y’know. Kdramas.
– Actually the heroine was quite good, both from the characterization standpoint–starting out as a happy-go-lucky swordsgirl to whom Bad Things Happen, but who manages to a) retain her personality, b) stay consistent within that personality, c) accomplish her goals–and from the fact that she starts out quite badass, continues her training and becomes more so, and then fights the villain on almost equal footing and ends up defeating him. Oh, and she outfights her putative love interest, too. Oh, and the young-love story was kept to a minimum and did not overpower the rest of the plot, which was nice.
– I did like the villain, surprisingly enough. Most Kdrama villains are Evil with a capital Moustache Twirl. This one was just conflicted and self-hating enough to be sympathetic, effective enough to be admirable (well, aside from killing random craftsmen and their familes), and he was charismatic enough that it made sense people (such as Love Interest Kid) would prefer to work for him rather than Other People In Silly Hats. And also, pretty badass.
And also good-looking.

Note: Effing WordPress will not allow me to insert the effing picture where I freaking want it to go. You’ll have to take my word for it on the last one.

– Oh, and the colors/shots/scenes were very pretty.

What I didn’t like was:
– The Koreans just can’t do fight scenes all that well, or at least they’ve been severely not up to snuff in the last few movies and all of the dramas I’ve seen. They rely heavily on slow-mo and have very simplistic choreography and fixed cameras. The pace of the movie tends to slow down around these scenes, too, which are too-obviously intended to show that the hero Is Cool, watch him kick ass (very, very slowly). That said, the other cinematographologic (or whatever the word is) fixation with pretty faces and pretty costumes and pretty colors almost makes up for it. Not quite, though.
– That’s about it. It’s not half bad.

Rated: Blood on the snow. Lots of blood on the snow.

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