Monday, April 22, 2013

'IRIS 2' Review - An Inadvertent Tragicomedy

IRIS2 Final Review

Time is money and money is precious. Since 'IRIS 2' shamelessly blew the biggest budget ever used for a Korean drama and precious time away on one of the worst series Korea has produced, I decided I will not use much time to make a huge final review as I had planned. Instead, I will use the formula I did for the Midpoint Review and explain what changed and how I feel about it. If you like my pain, you can also read this to see how my expectations were crushed.

In that review above, I said watching this was, up to that point, like twirling around yourself. You get dizzy, feel sick, but it's fun and it's at least exhilarating. So how would the second half be described then? It would be like tripping and falling on broken glass and nails. Then comes the manic laughing. You're ok, you made it and although you'll spend the rest of the day picking shards from your unmentionables, you're just happy it's over. "Never again", you say and this time, you really mean it.

Here come the SPOILERS and vitriol.

Story and Characters:

I was thinking I would have made my point by just removing this whole section, but I like words so I will use them. Let me find the words that can accurately describe how things turned out here then. Incoherent? Disjointed? Inconsistent? Shallow? Chaotic? I could go on and on, in 3 different languages and some Korean swearing to boot, but I think you get the idea.

Yoo Gun (Jang Hyuk) might have been boring and turned weird due to the badly written brainwashing of IRIS, but nothing beats the latter half. A magic bullet that turns a man into a calm and collected premeditated murder machine. Who, just at the very end, is suddenly cured of his violent urges and personality disorder, because it's convenient and they needed a heroic speech.

"Angst is not enough! Give him pain! Paaaain!"

Soo Yeon (Lee Da Hae) suddenly decides to be a professional after spending most of the series crying and bending rules over "oppa". Yeon Hwa (Im Soo Hyang) turns into a self-loathing joke who goes around like a cat, staying with whoever feeds her and pats her head after using her for his purposes. Choi Min (Oh Yeon Soo) had the most honorable treatment here and despite me disagreeing with her views, she was at least consistent. The only female character not used in a sexist way or as a prop.

The idols were ultimately only there to sell this series abroad and get their fanbase to feed the buzz, which is a shame, since they are quite bearable in terms of acting.

The characters that have been in previous installments were only brought over as an excuse to call this an 'IRIS' series, as was IRIS itself. They were all treated without the least bit of respect and thrown away when they outlived their usefulness in carrying the name over.

Cheol Yeong Death
The pitiful death of the franchise's most admirable and interesting character.

Joong Won (Lee Beom Soo), the most interesting person in the franchise along with Cheol Yeong (Kim Seung Woo), had the makings of a great and human character until the horrible writing ruined him as well. He was given two personalities without balance between them. One who is kind, knows there is no purpose in revenge, feels sorry for people and even apologizes for killing his enemy's mother by accident and one who wants to blow up Seoul and all the families in it because he somehow felt that would bring the Koreas together and be the best for the people.

When it comes to melo vs. action, both went down the drain eventually. Our main couple stopped being a couple a few episodes in, probably so that viewers would feel less sad about the death of the lead, yet again. The dad-son relationship was silly given the two were strangers up until a few weeks before the ending of our timeline and turning out previous villain into a goody two-shoes without adequate explanation was infuriating as well.

The second "couple" were taking turns seeing each other as a love interest and at other times a brother/sister and the bad writing or perhaps age gap between the actors (20 years + Kdrama prudishness) ultimately left the whole thing platonic. All Joong Won got for 11 years was some bickering and his own palm. That's when men need to compensate, girls. That's when they start playing with missiles and such. The chemistry between Lee Beom Soo and Im Soo Hyang and their acting skills are all that made their scenes interesting.

It's Something
The closest Joong Won got to intimate physical contact with her. She was mostly unconscious.

There really isn't much to say here, because analyzing the flaming mess that is the 'IRIS 2' writing is like falling face-down on cow droppings over and over. Probably useful for some science or other, but definitely unpleasant and pointless for most.

Visuals, Action and Sound:

The surface treatments are things that depend a lot on time and money. As a result, if you are lacking those and also lacking the ability to be creative when those are not available, things go downhill fast. From the quality of the CG and video editing to the sound editing, everything ended up a big mess here.

Transitions that make no sense, badly taken shots, music that cuts before the actual scene is over and the rapidly declining quality of the fight scenes make the best asset this series had up to the midpoint slowly disappear before our eyes and ears.

Baaaada Boom
Behold the killer graphics! Why, it's almost real!

While the ideas they had were sometimes good, the execution kept getting poorer. You can only be saved by and rely on the actors' action skills and charisma so much. Unfortunately, the actors seemed to be the only ones trying, after a certain point.

The songs used after the midpoint are also not really noticeable or memorable and 'Black Paradise' (only of the very few good things to come out of this series) was barely used and mostly in filler scenes, despite its catchy tune and good potential.

The product placement reached ridiculous and more obvious levels as time went by. We even had a random scene where Yeon Hwa finds a folded bike in a store and just rides it around the entrance like a 5-year-old while there is a spy chase going on in the vicinity. PPL and character abuse in one scene.

An assassin and her bike
"Look, replacement father figure! No brains!"

Last, but not least, the writer's cousin becoming an almost regular character was a good indication of how little they respect their own work's integrity. The guy needed some exposure and money, we get a useless filler character and many filler scenes created just to show him and his excellent acting skills (insert sarcasm tag) off.

Closing Words:

Perhaps the most unnerving thing about 'IRIS 2' is that it was financially successful, despite the bad ratings. This worries me a lot, because the last thing we want is that as a standard. If it succeeds, it's proof that enough PPL and sales work just fine, even if completely giving up on story, to the point everything turns into a joke.

How I imagine the producers reacted to the bad ratings and reviews.

I want Korea to have more genres and it's obvious they can do it well. But the Korean drama industry is one viewing their work as a means to cash in, first and foremost. Entertainment or even art come last, if there is room for them. When a series is novel in its genre and style, when it has the responsibility of setting an example for its type, I believe that it should not be done as 'IRIS 2' was. Not for quality and viewer satisfaction, at least.

Here's Ray, illustrating the excitement viewers felt after watching this.

'IRIS' was not my favorite show, but it at least had some dignity and left a legacy. 'IRIS 2' does not only rape that legacy by being a badly written and executed 20-hour commercial, it also used the talents working on it in the worst ways possible.

Talent, hard work and a lot of money went into this series. When something has been given so much, it is near criminal of it to produce so little. While I am sure the money and experience cast and crew gained are valuable, that does not make what the production did right. As a viewer, I cannot handle the abuse and loss of precious elements for such a pathetic result.

Viewers should let them know it's not ok to make such works and waste resources and personnel. If we will be getting more action from Korean dramas, more spy series, diversity in genres, 'IRIS 2' should not be the standard one should aspire to.

Lastly, perhaps the most important thing to close my final 'IRIS 2' review with is this: I did not get my topless oiled man-battle! That, I can never forgive...

Men's Health and Women's Loss of Sanity
So let us take a loooong and haaaard...... Where was I? Oh yes.
Let us take a long and hard look at what could have been, bid it farewell and move on.

Image credit: KBS and Taewon Entertainment, Men's Health (and Women's Loss of Composure)

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