The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] ‘Black Knight’ shows evolution of Korean dystopian flicks

By Kim Da-sol

Published : May 21, 2023 - 14:17

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Kim Woo-bin stars as a deliveryman “5-8” in “Black Knight.” (Netflix) Kim Woo-bin stars as a deliveryman “5-8” in “Black Knight.” (Netflix)

From “Time To Hunt” (2020) to “Jung_E” (2023), Netflix has worked on a number of Korean dystopian movies, but not all audience were so fascinated by it.

With “Black Knight,” which talks about a deliveryman in a violent desert wasteland in 2071, Netflix has pushed things forward, with strong characters and sophisticated CGI.

Based on the webtoon “Delivery Knight,” director Jo Ui-seok said he reorganized the list of characters to add dynamics between delivery persons -- also known as black knights -- and those who control the sale of oxygen in a society where limited resources are distributed according to hierarchy.

The plot is not too different from many other dystopian dramas. It follows an encounter between a young and talented refugee, Sa-wol (Kang Yoo-seok), with a legendary refugee-turned-deliveryman “5-8” (Kim Woo-bin) as they team up to fight against powerful oppressors.

But the episodes' excessive focus on the stories of these two bold young men slows down the story development, and leaves questions unanswered as to why Ryu Seok (Song Seung-heon) is so obsessed with having the hierarchical society under his control.

Song lamented in a recent interview with The Korea Herald that most of the parts about Ryu Seok’s past had been omitted in the process of editing.

“It’s a shame to see the detailed past of the Ryu Seok has been omitted in the final version. I told director Jo, who has been a close friend of mine for 20 years, that I understand that my part had to be cut due to the limited running time, but I do feel that a more detailed portrayal of my character may have enhanced the viewers’ understanding,” he said.

But else where, this propulsive action thriller does have good character development. Kim, who has reunited with Jo seven years after action flick “Master” (2016), exudes charisma as a legendary knight with upgraded physique and heavy-footed acting. Kim said he bulked up by 3 kg for the role, which has a lot of fight scenes with highway bandits and the armed forces who work under Ryu Seok.

“Black Knight.” (Netflix) “Black Knight.” (Netflix)
“Black Knight.” (Netflix) “Black Knight.” (Netflix)

Director Jo said that his CG team worked more than six months on graphics to perfect the image of a desertified Seoul, even flying over to Mongolia to shoot a sandstorm.

Netflix's entry into the Korean content market has brought with it significant investment in sets and visual effects, and “Black Knight” is a good example of this.

Kim and Song said most of their acting was done in front of the blue screen and the background was later completed with visual effects.

The final look is impressive. The depiction of a dusty Seoul where its landmarks such as Namsan Tower is torn in half by sandstorm and Jamsil Lotte Tower that has turned into a ruin are so immersive that it conjures up fears of what an environmentally devastated Earth may look like.

Netflix original series “Black Knight” began streaming on May 12.