Story: It's the year 2029 and South Korea has its own space program. With the "Woori" the country wants to send the second man to the moon. The entire world is watching the mission because the country's first attempt five years earlier ended in a disaster: three astronauts died. Unfortunately, the new space-faring nation is again down on its luck. Solar winds have cut off communication with the Woori. When they manage to reestablish contact, the ground station finds out that the spacecraft has been damaged. During the repair, an explosion occurs, and two of the three astronauts die. Hwang Seon-woo (Do Kyung-so) is the only one to survive unscathed. The mission seems to have failed, especially since no one is able to regain control over the Woori. That's why ground control brings Kim Jae-gook (Sol Kyung-gu) into the team. At first, he doesn't want to help, but when he finds out that the astronaut is the son of his colleague who took his own life five years ago, he wants to bring Seon-woo back to Earth. Despite getting Kim Jae-gook's help, the astronaut decides not to abort the mission and instead wants to land on the moon and collect some samples. However, this is where a lot of difficulties and problems start to unfold. For instance, there is a meteor shower approaching the Woori and the USA is not available to rescue the astronaut...
Review: With its introduction, which is reminiscent of a documentary and takes us into a not-too-distant future, "The Moon" wants to make clear that, despite all the science fiction aspects, realism is important to the filmmakers. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the flick leans towards works like "Gravity", but also undoubtedly aims at incorporating enough Hollywood suspense. The first problem that arises here, though, is the fact that the latter cannot really be paired with a supposedly high degree of realism. But that's not the only negative point either, because as is typical for a Korean production, there also has to be some melodrama. However, the reason why this never really works all too well is the weakly written characters. In the end, there are only a few individual scenes that manage to be captivating thanks to the setting and a few good performances.
This is not the first time Korea has gone to the moon. For example, the Netflix series "The Silent Sea" was set in a research station on the earth satellite. Here, we are not that far ahead yet, though, because "The Moon" is about the prestige project of being the second nation on earth to send someone to the moon. And so, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the word "Korea" is mentioned quite often. With this level of nationalism that simply cannot go unnoticed, you just have to feel reminded of China - or even the USA, from which the filmmakers clearly adopted the outrageous and predictable story elements. "The Moon" certainly creates suspense, but more in a fast-food style. If you ask yourself during a docking maneuver whether there wasn't supposed to be a meteor shower, and then, of course, an impact catapults the hero away from his safe way home at the last second, this is hardly ... surprising.
Things like that happen all the time. Can you seriously call it suspense when the astronaut is almost home, but all it takes is a look at the run-time to know that a lot of things still have to go wrong? At some point, you don't feel seriously involved anymore, and that's also because Seon-woo, played by Do Kyung-so ("My Annoying Brother"), doesn't get a real backstory. In the end, he does have a connection to Jae-gook, but that doesn't help that much at that point anymore. In general, you have to wonder what the idea behind Jae-gook's character was. He is always gloomy, brooding, remembers the past in fragments and is plagued by inner demons, but we are hardly interested in him because there is actually a crisis in the here and now to manage. So, we get melodrama just for the sake of melodrama. Which is extremely irritating.
Towards the end, of course, the whole thing dissolves and Jae-gook's behavior makes more sense - but then it's simply too late. At least the characters become a bit more human with that. It would just have been nice if that had already been the case when we were supposed to be interested in whether they survive or not. At least, Sol Kyung-gu ("Kill Boksoon") is able to be convincing here and there. Nevertheless, some of the supporting characters are pretty flat, and with Jae-gook's assistant you even have to wonder what purpose she is supposed to serve. Often enough, she has extremely important information, but she isn't able to get it to anyone because she lacks perseverance. She is probably meant to represent the comic relief, but for that the movie simply lacks humor. Apart from that, the conflict between Korea and the U.S. is pretty far-fetched and only exists to build up a little more suspense. In any case, the entanglements are just not logical.
While the moon and the special effects on it are convincing, there are a few scenes in space that make it hard to see the realism that "The Moon" so eagerly wants to convey. Most of the time, however, the movie manages to live up to its name as a blockbuster. There are constantly new developments that get the adrenaline flowing, but the drama that is constantly interspersed only makes you yawn. Director Kim Yong-hwa ("Along With the Gods") knows what he wants, and he is also able to bring his vision to the screen. Still, this is not a sci-fi movie with documentary elements aiming for realism, instead it is just simple popcorn cinema with Korean peculiarities (= melodrama wherever possible). With its 129 minutes "The Moon" clearly is long drawn-out and sometimes you get the impression that the flick is just not good. Other times, though, the movie can be surprisingly thrilling, as long as you can get on board with the predictable elements. It's simply shallow evening entertainment.