‘The Moon’ (2023) Review: Emotion Overwhelming, Impact Underwhelming

While I truly appreciate a compelling Korean ‘melo,‘ there are times when the drama becomes overwhelming, hijacking the plot’s integrity. My anticipation for The Moon was sky-high, and with its stellar cast, including popular actors, and my high expectations from the Hallyu industry, I entered with excitement. The realms of space and the future have been thoroughly explored in Korean media, with works like Space Sweepers and The Silent Sea finding success. Personally, I encountered similar concerns with ‘Space Sweeper,’ starring Song Jong-Ki, as I did with The Moon. Both films are excessively lengthy and strain for an emotional impact that ultimately falls short. I understand that this is a cultural denominator, similar to what we have with Indian films, but the criticism still stands when the film becomes tedious and feels overstretched.

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The Moon details a space expedition to the moon conducted by Korea’s very own Naro Space Center. In their pursuit to plant their flag on the lunar surface, Naro aims to be global number 2 after the U.S. Following an initial failed mission set in the near future, they embark on a second attempt five years later, which is almost successful until an accident leaves a lone survivor in the orbiter. Sun-Woo has to fight for his life while simultaneously carrying the weight of his nation’s expectations. The story revolves around his determination and explores his and Naro’s desperation to bring him back to Earth. Exo’s Do Kyungsoo, or D.O., plays the protagonist, Sun-Woo. Disappointingly, he isn’t able to capture the essence of a lost traveler very well. I am in awe of his other performances and have enjoyed He has been an actor for a considerable time, but perhaps there was an incongruity between this particular role and his performance. Kim Jae-Gook, Kim Hee-Ae, Park Byun-Eun, and Jo Han-Chul do the best they can in their respective roles to convey a heightened sense of emotion in order to emphasize the continuous onslaught of disasters striking their mission.

Because there is such an emphasis on the nationalism of it all, even as someone who doesn’t concern themselves with the science of sci-fi, I was left wondering, Where is the science?. Additionally, for an astronaut to be in space with no idea what to do at all makes absolutely no sense, considering how much training one must go through for such missions. Andy Weir manages to do this excellently in his work. I’ve read both The Martian (yes, the one adapted with Matt Damon in the lead) and his latest, Project Hail Mary. Of course, there are fantastical elements that don’t have to be believable because if those things were true, space would be very different today, but there’s some believability in all the science that makes you excited for the astronaut and their mission. Here, Sun-Woo is treated almost as a nobody, when ironically, he’s the one everybody is trying to save. There’s also a particular scene that evokes a specific moment in ‘The Martian.’ While the latter was extremely memorable, I couldn’t say the same for the former. There’s no denying that it takes hints from other space films like Gravity or Apollo 13 as well.

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Given that this film is about space, we must talk about the special effects and the moon. In this department, everything is wonderfully done, and everything on the Moon looks very believable. I definitely cannot say the same about the particular animal that gets CGIed for seemingly no reason. It is in terms of story, pacing, and continuity that the film fails us as an audience. There are an irrational number of unfortunate events that keep attacking Sun-Woo one after the other, giving him no time to breathe and making us feel overwhelmed, not in a positive way. The third act is significantly stretched out, and the film could’ve been cut short by at least 30 minutes for a more compelling ending.

There isn’t much Moon in The Moon, and that’s the biggest takeaway from this film. It should’ve been called Sun-Woo or Lone Survivor or something along those lines because the focus is all about getting him back to safety. The film clearly strives to captivate American audiences, leading to a sense that everything is superficially added for show rather than carefully considered. It’s a shame when you think of how many original works come out of this industry and how they find success when they’re true to the stories they need to tell rather than putting together a mix of Hollywood films. At the end of the day, the film attempts to convey a certain message that is far from delivered and leads to eye-rolling rather than smiles.

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The clunky direction, political messaging, and heightened drama do not pair well with the melancholic music that accompanies it all. I do think if it weren’t for this review, I might have left this film halfway because it quickly misses its mark after the first 20 minutes or so. The two cameos at the start of the film might as well be the best parts. Well-known director Kim Yong-Hwa really took a misstep with The Moon. His films have always been entertaining and amusing at the very least, even if unserious, but The Moon tries so hard to be serious even when some parts are very laughable. I would recommend watching his film Along with the Gods instead, as it offers a more captivating and unique storytelling experience along with a compelling narrative. There’s no profanity, a few action sequences with blood, and no sexual content. I give this film 2.5 stars, which may also be a stretch for the special effects alone.


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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There isn't much Moon in The Moon, and that's the biggest takeaway from this film. It should've been called Sun-Woo or Lone Survivor or something along those lines because the focus is all about getting him back to safety. 'The Moon' (2023) Review: Emotion Overwhelming, Impact Underwhelming