Review – Descendants of the Sun

Review – Descendants of the Sun

In a way, this show was a big tease.  It promised to be epic and exciting and exquisitely romantic… and it took us out on a first date and flirted with us and opened the door for us and laughed at all our jokes, it sent us flowers, it held our hand and told us about all the wonderful places it wanted to take us, the things it wanted us to see and share together.  And then it ghosted us.  Just left us on the side of the road.  What happened?  I may be able to live on my fantasies alone for a few weeks and think back fondly on this drama, but after a while all I will remember is the odd case of misdirection and mixed feelings.  Like the movie version of Les Miserables when I thought we were going to see the Broadway Play.

It was a good show.  Beautiful, even.  Visually, at least.  And interesting too.  Exotic locations, a host of random foreigners speaking broken English, attractive actors playing unique characters with fascinating jobs.  And  yet… meh.  I was entertained and simultaneously underwhelmed.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10.  The Picture On The Menu Is Better Than The Meal.

More musing and spoilers and opinions….

So…

It’s almost hard for me to put my finger on… what keeps this from being a perfect drama.  I missed out on the initial excitement of this show – when everyone was swept up in the saga as it unfolded week to week.  Maybe it was better in that format, a little at a time drawn out over a few weeks.  As a binge show, it left a lot to be desired.

A lot of it has to do with the lead couple, in my opinion.  I demand quality romance from my romantic dramas.  I want chemistry and if you’re not going to give me that – you have to distract me so much I don’t notice (like in Master’s Sun, which I adore even though the romantic chemistry sucked… they still had dynamic-duo chemistry, so I had fun watching them).

Song Joong-Ki plays “Big Boss,” a young guy in the special forces.  I know, I know, the irony of the name Big Boss was not lost on me.  Song Joong-Ki is not a big man.  At all.  He’s a lean, muscled little guy with a silky smooth face and a flirty demeanor.  He’s like that beautiful guy in high school that all the girls loved, who flirted with everyone but never really had a girlfriend, and no one was terribly surprised when he introduced his handsome husband at the reunion ten years later.   Song Joong-Ki kills it when it comes to flirting.  He has the stares, the smiles, the smirks, the playfulness and the charm to be a world class flirt.   He looks right at home when he’s making people like him.

Unfortunately, once they do like him… he seems a lot less comfortable.

Ugh.  One of the WORST KISSES of all time in K-World.  The setting, the lighting, everything was there… and then… what?  Look at their awkward body language!  eeewww… it was like you asked someone to kiss their sister.  She didn’t seem that much more enthused, truth be told.

I had my suspicions that he was lacking real chemistry with the lead female since the beginning of the show, but wasn’t entirely sure.  Cause the flirting was that good.  But when it came time for the kill zone… it fell flat.  On it’s face.  And I just stared at the screen, watching these two smooch in the back seat of a pick up… and felt cheated.  Jesus.  Can’t you fake it?  I mean… you ARE actors.   Maybe they’re good friends in real life and just couldn’t muster it.  Or maybe Song Joong-Ki  is like Johnny Depp in almost every movie he’s ever made – charming as can be, winning all the hearts in every kingdom, but when it comes time for a kiss scene… please look the other way because it is ALWAYS awkward.  Even when he was playing the famous lover Don Juan DeMarco. Johnny’s great at the romance but eh… the follow through is lackluster.  It’s as if the actor just hates doing it.

Though  Song Joong -K put some good smooch on Moon Chae-Won in Nice Guy (Innocent Man)… so who knows with this actor.

It’s difficult to fall in love with a romantic drama when the chemistry is only so-so.  BUT… it was still cute.  Passionate, no.  But definitely cute.  The little gas station kisses and the endless flirting and the cute little banter moments… all enjoyable.

CUTE.

Song Joong-Ki is awesome, too.  I really, really, really like him as a leading man.  Even when he spends an entire drama not smiling (like in Nice Guy) or learning the basics of human decorum (like in Werewolf Boy), he’s a great actor and fun to watch.  I love watching him flirt.  His character in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, for example, is one of my favorite flirty charlatans of all time.  So I am not hating on the man.  At all.  I’m a huge fan.  I just think he’ll be better suited to roles that are more about character development and less about romance.

Song Hye-Kyo plays the female lead.  Love her!  She’s a great leading lady.  But in this drama, she’s also… dare I say it… a little boring.  She was definitely the plain card in the cast, the doctor without any funny quirks or character traits to define her.  I thought she was better as the isolated, somewhat bitchy blind girl in That Winter, The Wind Blows, or the zany house cleaning maniac in Full House, or even the harried drama show producer gal in World’s Within.  As a doctor… I don’t know.  She left something to be desired.  It wasn’t terrible.  It just didn’t work for me.  I didn’t believe it!  That actress does not strike me as someone who knows the names of various human bones.  I wouldn’t trust her to give me stitches, let alone open me up and dig around in my internal gushy parts.  She would have been more believable as a nurse.  Sorry, sugar.

So maybe it was casting?

But can we really blame the casting director when all the other characters were perfect?  (well, except the non-menacing bad guy, but we’ll get to him)

I have zero complaints about anyone else.  They were all marvelous.  And believable.  In particular the other special forces dude and his relationship with the general’s daughter.   Jin Goo was the perfect army guy.  And Kim Ji-Won, spitfire and sweetheart, won my heart immediately as the impassioned, tough lovelorn gal fighting to gain the attention of her lover.  They rocked.  They had it all.  So much expression with so few words.  And that subtle comedy made it so much better when they finally got together.  Swoon.  Now those two gave us some believable romance…

And the two older doctors who fall in love.  How adorable were they?  I’ve loved you my whole life!  I melted.

I enjoyed the amusing and heart warming (and sometimes tormented) stories of the various other soldiers and doctors and employees thereabouts.  Gah, that side story about the young doctor who fled the scene at the earthquake cave in… only to be tormented by the young man they pulled from the wreckage… my heart was BROKEN.  They dragged that story out a bit too long, but I didn’t even mind because I was so into it.  That boy can CRY too… another addition into the Pantheon of Male Tears.

I even liked the bit actors.

I think everyone liked the bit actors.

But for a show about the military… it was shockingly… un-suspenseful.  I never felt afraid for anyone.  They forgot to add the element of fear into this show… which is vital when dealing with international conflict, or so you’d think.  I blame the director for failing to make anyone look terrified or panicked.  And I blame the stunt devils being TOO GOOD at their jobs.  The gorgeous cinematography of fight sequences took all the spontaneity out of it.  Sometimes I just wish one of the actors would actually slap someone, just to throw off the delicate balance.  To get a real expression of anger or shock.

Think of it like this… imagine having a trumpet player just come to a stand still in a marching band procession -just randomly stop marching – and the other band members pile up in a mess behind them, confused and thrown off.  The crash of instruments, of people so focused on their music and their routine they don’t notice the disaster ahead until they’re smack into it.  While the ones ahead don’t know what’s happened until they hear the odd notes faltering, the noise, the crowd gasping.  That’s what’s missing in almost every modern movie or show.  The unplanned and unpredictable nature of a real disruption.

And sometimes, sorry, but the good guys need to get bloodied up too.  Remember Bruce Willis in Die Hard, dragging himself through an air vent, his feet bleeding out all over the place, cursing up a storm because he was frustrated and pissed off and really amped on adrenaline?  That’s why we still love that movie.  It’s still Hollywood, still over the top, still choreographed and full of special effects, but it also felt spontaneous.  Because the writers remembered that a fight sequence is more than just a fight sequence.  It’s screw ups and bruises and accidents and details.  Its having the actors look tired as hell and frustrated and nervous and even a little terrified.  Cause what they thought was going to be a nice show at half time just turned into a cluster fuck of crazy.

And NO the random shoot out at the end doesn’t count.  That’s just gurney-drama… surgery drama.  Will they wake up from the coma drama.  And sometimes they don’t.  K-Dramas can throw a good sucker punch at the end and knock your ass out.  And K-Dramas can scare the pants off you, and make you terrified and give you truly breath-catching fight scenes and intense situations.  They can also give you amazingly sinister bad guys that just overwhelm you with evil.  But this drama did not do any of those things.

This drama gave us  Argus.  Played by David McInnis.

How ridiculous was it that the bad guy is giving our lead female romantic advice?  All the time?  Break up with your boyfriend!  Men with guns are unpredictable!  Your honey’s job is dangerous!  Blah blah blah.  As if any villain in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD was interested in some random doctor’s love life… and wanted to take a few moments to further some stranger’s relationship by basically walking her through her own fears and prejudices.  Is the man a shrink or a villain?  Pick one!  So Very Dumb.  And forced.  And Dumb.  Did I mention it was dumb?

Tell me about your mother.

The actor wasn’t horrible.  He wasn’t great by any means, but whatever.  He was adequate.  They just had him do stupid things and deliver incredibly dumb lines.  He looked cool though.  I just feel like the director didn’t know what to do with him – so they had him mime the role of “generic villain.”  Not too menacing, just vaguely bad.  Cause… he’s got on a black suit and is pointing a gun at the good guy.  So… must be the bad guy, right?  Also, he explained his whole mission in front of a hostage… but didn’t kill that hostage.  Typical generic villain moves.  Also, his evil plan is all over the board – diamonds, child soldiers, sex trafficking, gun smuggler, insert evil agenda here and here and here.  He straps dynamite on someone… geesh, cliche cliche cliche.  Oh, and in his  disgusting basement hide out there is fine art on the walls.  Cause there always is!  Cause it’s one of those weird notions that got picked up somewhere… bad guys like art.  Let’s put some fancy art on the walls!  Sigh.  It was a mess.

Disney Evil Queens are scarier than this guy.

I’d be genuinely concerned about this woman’s agenda.  I couldn’t really figure out what Argus’s agenda was… meddling?

So… that’s Descendants of the Sun.  Some various romances between doctors and soldiers.  A foreign country.  Lots of slowly spoken English.  A natural disaster, a plague scare.  A disapproving parent of a budding relationship.  Eh.  It was pretty good.  I didn’t love it but I watched it all.

I swear it ended six times though.  There were so many episodes that felt like the finale… things wrapped up, everything was dandy… and then… it just kept going.  Remember the ending to Return of the King?  Especially the extended version?  Where it ended.  And ended.  And ended again.  And ended some more.  And just when you thought the credit would roll… another ending or two.  This show had a lot of that happening.  It’s like it got renewed several times in the making.  It’s a 10 episode show.  Now, a 12 episode show.  No, let’s make it 13.  How about 16???

Personally, I don’t like it when a character talks to the camera (audience)… unless it’s incorporated heavily into the show.  Like Spacey charming you with his wit and weirdness in House of Cards, or Ferris Bueller taking you along for the ride.  Seeing my cute little newbie doctor suddenly babbling away at me in the finale scene freaked me out.  I did not care for that ending at all.

Overall, it was underwhelming.  I was expecting a lot from this show.  It gave me plenty to enjoy, sure, but I felt like I was brought out the wrong order.  Like someone brought pizza when I ordered a nice steak.  Sure, it’s still good… but… you can order pizza at home.  And I got dressed up.

I leave you with this moment… my favorite scene in the entire show.  When our newbie doctor is finally forgiven by his patient… oh the sweet relief of this scene!

This little dude can ACT.  When will he get his own drama, I wonder?

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