While I’ll concede that it’s probably taken me a few decades to figure out what he may’ve meant by that, I do believe I stumble across films from time-to-time that fit the bill. You – the happy reader – probably have as well, and I trust you know one when you see it. These are the kinds of flicks you can easily explain to other folks, easily discuss the merits or the drawbacks based on what was delivered, and maybe even fill in gaps where the screenwriter only pointed in a direction. I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that I’m wired a certain way; when something seamlessly ‘jives’ with my programming, I’m prone to appreciate what’s been accomplished and can thus easily pass it on.
Seobok: Project Clone is a novelty.
Just when I thought it was going to go one way, it went another. Because this new flight path was a bit unexpected, I was forced to reorient myself rather quickly to the experience … only to find that it was changing course yet again. While I can appreciate a bit of unpredictability to any premise, it still went almost exactly where I thought it was gonna go in the final scenes … only then it didn’t again … so now I find myself having an awful lot to say about its pieces but not a lot to offer on the whole.
Yeah. So was I.
From the product packaging:
“A former special agent is called for a secret mission: safely escort the world’s first human clone, whose body may hold the key to defeating death itself. But as the enemy closes in, the pair is forced to make an impossible choice.”
Whether this was intended or not, I’ll admit that Seobok is the kind of film I could probably go on about all day. This isn’t necessarily because I liked or hated it; rather, it’s because it was well enough put together that it made me think about what I liked and/or hated. I hope that makes sense. There were a few twists and turns I expected along with a few I didn’t, so I’m not entirely sure I can assure you what it’s all about in the final estimation. Instead, I think writer/director Lee Yong-ju delivered a weird road movie that just happens to be about the world’s first clone.
In fairness, Seobok traffics in some very familiar territory, so far as genre projects are concerned. Though human, this young man turns out to be a mutant (of sorts), and Bryan Singer’s stellar X-Men (2000) adaptation is the first that comes to mind (but there are many earlier efforts as well). A side effect of Seobok’s cloning has given him some abilities, and he spends a fair amount of time exploring and exploiting them in defense and offense. In this regard, the film easily draws comparisons to any of the other Marvel properties; while others might dismiss the feature as a wannabe imitator, the similarities really end there.
That said, I think it’s easy to suggest that Seobok isn’t so much about the science of human cloning (it’s really just a means to an end here) as it is about the psychology of human beings. (In fact, the clone science never gets any very clear exploration; so I’m not certain where all of these fantastical side effects come from!) The script tries to invent some additional layers – there’s more than a single instance of duplicitousness, some of this might be owed to some deviousness on the part of the U.S. government, and just who do these English-speaking mercenaries answer to anyway? – but little of that feels organic. Strip all of that noise away, and what you’re left with – a relationship between two fully detached males struggling with their lot in life – and it works on that level.
Still, director Lee manages to squeeze in some good scenes between the surrogate father and the prodigal son whilst they’re together. They both fit the mold of ‘fish out of water’ for differing reasons, and it’s only appropriate that they befriend one another. Some might argue that their growing relationship was a bit too formulaic, but no other evolution could truly fit the mold as designed.
Additionally, given their circumstances (Ki Heon harbors a pretty dark secret, and Seobok clearly can’t be long for this world), I found it a bit refreshing that both characters eventually developed into what I’ve called ‘self-made Frankensteins.’ Yes, they both were made into monsters by their respective backstories; but when the moment arrives that they have to ‘put up or shut up’ of their own accord, both follow through. Both choose what could be decided as an evil course of action. Seobok demonstrates even a clone can and will wreak havoc to extract an inhuman revenge, and Ki Heon will yet again ignore his humanity in the pursuit of justice … no matter the cost to his immortal soul.
That’s some pretty dark territory for something that looks like it’s going to be a rather conventional thriller, but Seobok succeeds in staying the course to the last scene.
Mashed somewhere between the film’s start and finish, there are a handful of conversations regarding life, death, and immortality; and these subjects have grown a bit too routine for genre films of this type. Seobok tries hard to be something a bit deeper and more meaningful than perhaps it should be, but better to have tried and failed than to have left some gas in the tank. The film works best when it sticks to the formula, even if you might know where that’s going to end.
Lastly … killer score! I loved the symphony work. There are some exceptional tracks in there, so viewers take note.
I’ve seen a handful of films like Seobok: Project Clone, and it’s likely you have, too. Though it’s not a superhero flick per se, it bears a heavy resemblance to some of what’s happened in any mutant storyline of the last two decades. In those waters, writer/director Lee’s film excels. When it tries to get all heavy and serious? While it may not be as effective, it still manages to deliver a gangbuster finish that’ll rock you to your X-Men core. That’s the only part of this that’s easily told, and it works. So enjoy vengeance because it’s best served cold.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Seobok: Project Clone by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.