As a movie about some sea monster driven to kill everyone for a heavy dinner in its stuffy playground, “Sector 7” does not break any new ground. Heck, it does not even know where the old grounds to drill are. The filmmakers do not seem to have any idea about why other exemplary ‘monster in a closed space’ movies work. They fail to build the ground for the story, the characters, and, above all, the monster they promised us to present. They do not even know how to thrill us even at its so-called climax. I can accept that time-honored cliché named “self-destruction device”(why does an oil rig need such a device?), but the movie is far less conscious of that device than me. There is no urgency on the screen while the clock is supposed to be ticking somewhere, and all we get are those bland actions with CGI monster rampaging around the ship to kill the heroine.
The filmmakers do not have any interest in its subject at all, as shown by one idiotic scene. One character, a scientist, explains about the new organism they have recently discovered from the deep sea below them. She says to others that these tiny organisms are from chemotrophic ecology existing in that dark, cold space, but all she does to explain the term ‘chemotrophic ecology’ is unbelievably simple. Draw a circle above the line – that’s phototrophic ecology; draw a circle below the line – that’s chemotrophic ecology; that’s all, folks – that’s the end of the lecture, Ha-ha.
What the hell, this could have not been a serious matter at all. As a biology major, I have frequently found the science in the monster movies preposterous, but I accepted their outrageous premises with amusement if they were entertaining. Although I made much fun of its science during the conversation with my colleagues after watching “Leviathan”(1989), another sea monster movie, it believes in its premise and, at least in my view, the movie has enough things to enjoy with sufficient thrills.
However, “Sector 7” has little explanation for its creature, let alone curiosity toward it. Come one, if the movie has a creature whose body fluid is so combustible that it will probably solve the energy problem in the future, shouldn’t it care about explaining its origin or its nature in a way at least plausible during the running time? Or, shouldn’t it be curious about how that tiny organism grows(or evolves) into something big, hideous, and slimy with tentacles in a short period? Or, shouldn’t it be interested in what it is really doing in its sticky private place?
Let’s talk about its bare-bone plot. Before the creature appears, we are introduced to the characters working at the oil flatform named Eclipse, situated at the Sector 7 in the middle of the sea south of Jeju-do. Despite so many trials, there has not been much success, so, as the company orders, the remaining crews will leave Eclipse soon, which is usually a bad sign for the characters in the monster movies. Hae-joon, played by Ha Ji-won with one-note sharp look, is so determined to find the oil that she cannot accept that, so, when Jeong-man(Ahn Seong-gi), a friend of her deceased father, arrives at Eclipse, she asks him to extend her and other’s stay. After starting their work again, they find the oil in few days, but they also become the main targets for the monster from the below.
The screenplay, written by Yoon Je-Kyoon, the director of the disaster movie “Heaundea”(2009), is pretty much horrible to begin with. Devoid of any characterization, the characters are mostly unlikable cardboards. They mainly exist for two things – 1) doing silly(and sometimes offensive) things for lousy gags in the first part, and 2) getting killed and (possibly) devoured by the monster in the second part. We do not care at all about whether they will die or not, and, actually, I was a little sorry for the monster having such bland, brainless, and tastless human beings as the main course. But every animal has to eat anything edible in its sight(or hearing range, perhaps – I am not sure whether it has eyes or not) when it is the matter of the hunger, isn’t it?
The dialogues, usually for filling the blank pages in the script, are stiff or awful, and you can see some talented actors struggling in the predicament they do not deserve. Even Ahn Seong-gi, one of the most respected and reliable actors in South Korea, looks like being at a loss while mindlessly wielded around with others. Though it is not entirely her faults, Ha Ji-won gives one of the worst performances of this year. I heard she did her stunts for herself, but I want to point out that the action heroine cannot be solely based on posing like a tough guy. There is almost nothing interesting about her character to draw us to the story. She always, raising her voice, emphasizes that they will find the oil no matter what happens, but, come on, as a professional technician, isn’t she supposed to have any clear plan for her ambitious goal?
At least, when the monster appears, the things get better – a little. I can say CGI was nice, but, to me, the monster pretty much looks like an overgrown tumor with tentacles and legs and teeth. It is as clever as run-of-the-mill CGI creatures; it moves fast, it hides fast, and it jumps fast. No wonder it looks exhausted near the end. In addition, the movie uses every cliché we have encountered in countless monster movies(“Aliens”! “Jaws”! “Deep Rising”! “Leviathan”!) while disappointing us a lot. Thanks to its transparent scene composition, we know every time when the creature suddenly appears before it reveals glorious ugliness to its victims. And you can see when the certain character will die within minutes, if you are a seasoned audience. The characters frequently make unwise choices of being alone, or walking along the dark, narrow corridors where they get lost; seriously, have they really worked for a long time at this place?
Along with the rampage of the creature, there are lots of bangs and crashes during the last 30 minutes, but the actions scenes as well as their backgrounds are as uncharacteristic as the characters. As a matter of fact, they are so unreal that you can see that the actors doing their jobs in front of the green screen. I bet the footage showing them working is more interesting than what I saw on the screen.
The director Kim Ji-hoon’s previous work was “May 18″(2007), which is about Kwang-ju Democratization Movement during the 1980s. It had lots of potentials, but, with cheap gags, unnecessary comic characters, and heavy-handed melodrama, it failed in presenting absorbing characters and story to us. Quite disappointed by its mediocre treatment of one of the tragic chapters in South Korean modern history, I joked that he made a disaster movie instead of a history drama. And then, two years later, what do you know, Yoon Je-kyoon made his aforementioned disaster movie in a pretty much same way. I do not think their approach works; I find it annoying and distracting. I am not against the humor mixed with serious drama, but their humors are mostly crude and infantile, and they do not fit well with the story they are supposed to tell.
But they earned a lot of money with their respective movies, and they probably believed they could make another big hit as long as they stuck to their guns no matter how lousy their story was without any improvement, so now here comes their disastrously collaborative work filled with unsincereness quite insulting to our intelligence. It is only one year after that horrible disaster at the Gulf of Mexico, and we all know it is important to focus on the alternative energy sources, but, as the final insult to its lousiness, this tepid monster movie sanctimoniously cries to the audiences in the end in the spirit of “Drill, Baby, Drill!”.
Oh, by the way, I heard the director frankly said at the press screening that he was not interested in monster movies. Excuse me, Sir, then why the hell were you at the movie set from the beginning, besides for getting a big fat profit?
1. The movie was shot in 3D. I watched it in 2D, but, as usual, there is nothing problematic with 2D. Besides, according to my acquaintance, 3D is totally unnecessary; this is another sorry case of wasting money on a pointless gimmick.
2. The running time was originally 112 minutes, but, after the bad responses from the screenings, it was shortened to 105 minutes. How sweet of you, but, folks, it could have been shorter for relieving our depression.
3. And there is already a much better monster movie from South Korea – Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host”(2006).