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Original Title:
Moorimyeo daesaeng

South Korea 2007

Comedy, Romance, Wuxia

Kwak Jae-young

Shin Min-a
On Ju-wan
Yu Geon
Im Ye-jin
Choi Jae-seong
Kim Hyung-il
Lee Dae-geun
Dion Lam
Park Chan-dae
Jeong Ho-bin
Ho San
Park Hwi-soon
Oh Jeong-se
Kim Kwang-gyoo
Cha Tae-hyeon

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My Mighty Princess

Story: So-hwi (Shin Min-a) is the descendant of a very special lineage of martial arts masters. Her extraordinary skills made her the most promising talent among the youngest generation, but nowadays So-hwi just wants to lead the life of a normal high school girl. She gives up her training and tries to make the icehockey player Jun-mo (Geon Yu) get aware of her, as she has fallen in love with him.
At the same time the four masters of the old generation, among them So-hwi's father, meet and talk about what to do about the youngest generation, which seemingly has no interest of taking part in the annual martial arts comepetitions, anymore. It is decided that the son of one of the masters, Il-yeong (On Ju-wan), shall get So-hwi to resume her training. So-hwi and Il-yeong once were good friends and after their reunion it seems as if the chemistry between the two is still just about right. But their skills are soon put to a serious test, when the fighter Heuk-bong suddenly shows up, gets the magical sword "Green Destiny" in his hands and spreads fear and terror in the martial arts world.

Review: Kwak Jae-young is known for having a weakness for mixing different genres, at the latest since his blockbuster "My Sassy Girl". Oftentimes he succeeds in doing that quite well, even though there was a certain incoherence already apparent in his work "Windstruck". But this time it makes the whole movie go to waste. "My Mighty Princess" offers some casual moments of fun, but no part of the puzzle fits into one another, so that the fun is always just a fleeting one, which is replaced by an inevitable feeling of dissatisfaction at the end. Kwak doesn't seem to know himself what kind of a movie he wanted to deliver and so the fact that this film had been put on hold for two years after the shooting until it was finally released should have already been considered a bad sign.
"My Mighty Princess" begins as a decent comedy with a little bit of romance interspersed, but then loses itself in the wuxia genre with flying swordfighters everywhere, which just doesn't fit to the rest. Since Kwak over and over again works in elements of wuxia movies into his works, we wonder why he doesn't finally muster up the courage and actually shoot such a movie?

So-hwi has a problem getting along in the "normal" world with her extraordinary skills. That's all quite funny and at times depicted over-the-top style, which reminds us of "Arahan" every now and then. But what made "Arahan" work out so well was that it never took itself and its story too serious, but on the contrary made quite some fun out of it. In "My Mighty Princess", however, the director uses clichéloaden elements of the wuxia genre without doing anything worthwhile with it. A good example is the "Green Destiny", which is clearly taken out of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". Except of the fact that this is one hell of a fine blade with which you can master a certain martial art move, this sword is never really used for comedy purpose. Simply a small wink to Ang Lee's wuxia entry, but nothing more. That the movie takes itself so serious especially towards the end when it comes to the sword fighting, makes things even worse.

Moreover, it's very difficult to keep track of the events, as the several stories get shuffled until they become an imperceptible mess. For once, there are the many flashbacks that show our two heroes in your typical traditional wuxia world, so that we are lead to believe So-hwi and Il-yeong are reincarnations of their former souls. But far from it, these are actually the same characters and these flashbacks seperate us from the present only by a few years! Most likely, the purpose was to show, that there is some secret school of martial arts masters, which still instructs its students according to traditional teachings, but when it comes to it this impression isn't getting conveyed and nothing seems to fit after all.
What purpose the insertions of the icehockey player serve, who, by the way, is portrayed incredibly wooden by Yu Geon, or what his love story with a police woman is about, all remains written in the stars. Other than unnecessarily keeping the running time going up, these story threads have no purpose at all.

Most likely you could edit "My Mighty Princess" differently and it wouldn't make much of a difference. That's sad, because the lacking focus destroys all the strengths the movie might have had. Which would be the humor, that can score some points here and there. At other points, though, there are even flaws to be found concerning the jokes. It's the same with the soundtrack. Director Kwak seems to know how a good soundtrack can add to a movie, but sometime throughout he uses some of the tracks one time too often. There is one scene where this becomes especially annoying, which is during the final battle, when a good amount of drama is brought into play, also. Just when we are getting moved and enthusiastic by the sad sword dance of the two flying warriors and the intoxicating pictures, suddenly frustration kicks in as Kwak doesn't seem to know when he has reached the peak and should stop, which leads him into destroying everything he build up during the last minutes of the movie. Too much lengthy repetition and bad dialogues leave us with a bitter taste.

The fights itself are ok, but nothing more. Shin Min-a surely is no fighter and it shows. It doesn't help that her moves with the sword might seem graceful, because it's pretty apparent that her thrusts and sword acrobatics are played in double-speed at least, in order for it to look as if it was something decent. However, the wire-work is really nicely done and the illusion of flying warriors taking a walk over tree-tops is perfect. Only in the city the wire-work somehow looks artificial and inelegant. That's also where we see that there has been worked with computer-enhanced pictures, too, computer graghics that aren't convincing most of the time.
Shin Min-a ("Madeleine", "A Bittersweet Life") can bring some charisma to the big screen, but more compelling is On Ju-wan ("The Peter Pan Formula"). Nevertheless, in general the characters remain pretty shallow, so that even they cannot serve as a red thread in the movie. "My Mighty Princess" is simply too inconsistent and changes the tone one time too often, so that at the end the only question remaining is what kind of a movie we just watched. A romantic comedy, a wuxia film or a funny action flick? We surely don't get an answer to that, and it's even not easy to decide if it is a good or a bad film. However, despite its entertaining value you surely can't call it "good".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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