Woochi: The Demon Slayer (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus magics up an early review for this Korean fantasy actioner. Ta-Da!
Woochi (Kang Dong Won) is a wizard in training and with his sidekick, former dog Chorangyi (Yu Hae Jin) in tow, the pair haphazardly find themselves in the middle of an ancient search for a magical pipe that goblins and evil magicians alike are desperately trying to obtain in order to take control of our world.
Now for the first forty minutes or so, Woochi (a massive hit in Korea by the way) is everything we’ve come to expect from Eastern fantasies. Set in a period of ancient times, there are wizards and monks with long white beards, there’s wire work and hand maidens and all that you’d expect. However what keeps Woochi a whole lot more entertaining within its genre is all of these characters are actually a blast to be around. There’s a great sense of humour to the movie, there’s playfulness to the characters' relationships and despite the story seemingly wandering around aimlessly for a while, when the actual plot kicks in it takes hold pretty effectively.
The reveal of the “goblins”, (one's a rat man and the other a rabbit girl) should come off as goofy but for me at least, there’s something pretty damn cool about the designs of these things and while the special effects are not always entirely effective, the designs are used incredibly well and really reminded me of great anime movies where there are no boundaries to what can be thrown at our hero.
So, Woochi manages to beat the rat and rabbit goblin combo only to be faced with uber-bad wizard Hwa Dam (Kim Yoon Seok), who kills Woochi’s master and then turns his attention to the apprentice.
Anyway, that’s only the first forty one minutes and after Woochi gets trapped in a painting and the movie cuts to modern day, guess what, those goblins are back and the three goofy unaging gods who trapped him in the painting all that time ago decide to set him free in order to stop those goblins again.
It’s here that Woochi: The Demon Slayer really becomes a great movie. Putting this sort of playful fantasy figure in a modern day city and having him fight goblins and evil wizards, all while trying to fit in with modern fashions and romance the girl of his dreams makes for a fantasy movie that shakes off the burden that the heavier themed modern fantasies seem to relish in of late and brings back that good old sense of adventure. Yes, there’s the world at stake and yes people could die but Woochi keeps reminding us to go with it rather than have our characters progressively get darker and all broody, they grow over the course of the movie and when the pending world disaster comes to a head our characters are ready to face off against evil without getting an emo fringe and dark eye make up to show us their inner turmoil.
Now, I can’t leave this review without mentioning the action set pieces. Arguably the editing could have been slicker but the playfulness of the characters really translates well into the action. There’s a great subtle approach to the CGI work. Magic is simply happening without the director making a big deal out of it. For me this makes it a whole lot cooler and when this is happening in amongst cars being thrown about, characters disappearing into smoke clouds (Nightcrawler style) or having wizards face off against each other, the drama is kept with the enjoyable characters rather than lost in a cloud of CGI overkill.
Transfer wise it’s okay, but it never really pops. There’s the odd spurt of impressive colour and the image is generally warm but the standard definition of DVD struggles to really lift the fantasy to the visual delight it feels it might be on Blu-ray.
That said, the image overcomes its murkiness and is fairly sharp in places, especially in the later city scenes. Details are well presented, though mainly in close ups and while the transfer never really has deep blacks to show off, it still looks pretty good in the darker scenes and Woochi’s leather jacket and hat combo towards the end of the movie look quite impressive against some of the lighter backgrounds.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track fares much the same as the transfer. It does a good enough job but it never really lets loose. The track is balanced with the score, sound effects and dialogue, though I felt that some scenes called for more oomph from some of these elements to sell the action better.
There’s the odd impressive swoosh of a staff or whoosh of a talisman spell and really there’s nothing all that wrong with the track overall, it’s just a bit bland and typical as opposed to being used as the extra element to sell the visuals.
Disc one comes with a commentary from experts Bey Logan and Mike Leeder. Once again these expert tracks come loaded with info and are a must-listen for fans, but this one struck me as a little bit ‘Sunday radio show’ with the two bantering. It made it an easy listen but not a very engaging one.
Also on disc one is the trailer gallery (original trailer, teaser trailer, 30 sec TV Spot, 20 sec TV spot and the 15 sec TV spot), 12 deleted scenes (in pretty raw form) and the usual Cine Asia trailer gallery.
Jumping onto disc two, we have ‘The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie’ (05:49) a fairly quick EPK style featurette introducing the cast and characters.
The making of (24.17) lots of on-set wire work footage and the filming of the key scenes. The ‘Interview Gallery’ has a compilation of interviews with the cast and director (05:20) as well as an interview with the director, key staff and cast on pre-production (10:55).
The ‘Production Featurettes’ offer up more insight in the selections ‘The Training Process’ (03:48), ‘The World Outside the Frame' (08:54), 'Production Design’ (14:33), 'Action and Special Effects’ (16:08), 'Shooting and Lighting’ (06:23) and ‘Post Production Sound and Editing’ (06:02) all of which add up to a pretty in depth look at the making of the movie and its many elements.
‘The Magic of Computer Graphics’ is split into ‘Visual Art (CG)’ (15:17), 'CG Scenes in the Pre-Production stage’ (26:05) (this one is a collection of pre-viz reels), 'CG Mixed in The Final Stages’ (10:39) (a compilation of the movie's CG shots) and 'The CG Process- The Before & After’ (02:39) (this one is a short completion of the CG layers in key scenes).
‘Woochi: The Premiere’ (04:25) is Cineasia’s usual look of the movie's opening night with the cast and press interviews and ‘Woochi: The Press Conference’ (04:19) adds a bit more to this. Lastly ‘Woochi: The Showcase' (04:23) adds a final look at one of the launches of the movie and a quick intro from the cast as the screening.
All in all, Cine Asia provide one hell of a package here with extras that cover pretty much every aspect of Woochi’s making of in varying levels of detail. Fans should eat this stuff up.
Woochi: The Demon Slayer is an action packed fantasy adventure full of exciting characters and wild comic book visuals. Its mish-mash of period and modern day settings really works wonders for the flick and it was great to see a well handled hero’s journey take place in one movie as opposed to the more drawn out approach a lot of the modern fantasies serve up. For me, Woochi was the enjoyably bright antidote to over heavy bleakness that a lot of big budget Hollywood fantasies throw at us and it was great to see a fun action adventure play out so well.
Cine Asia has created a two disc edition that’s literally overflowing with extras about the movie's entire production, so anyone wanting to get caught up in the world of Woochi really couldn’t ask for much more.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 25th April 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital 2.0 Korean
Extras: Commentary, Making of's, Featurette's, Interviews, Trailers.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dong-hun Choi
Cast: Gang Dong-Won, Kim Yoon-Suk, Lim Soo-Jung & Yoo Hae-Jin
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy and Romance
Length: 114 minutes
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