This film is a sci-fi action adventure that will break your heart and leave you pondering your own existence. Seobok is not a hopeless movie, but there is a nihilistic air that permeates the latter half of the film. This brooding, moody atmosphere will draw in certain viewers more than others, but the dark tones are countered with dreamlike visual effects, cinematography and mise-en-scene.
Seobok: Project Clone pulls inspiration from many places, homaging sci-fi epics of the past while creating a story all it’s own. Director Lee Yong-Ju paints a beautifully tragic picture through his direction, guiding us through a world of naivete, confusion, false moralities and childlike wonder. And if that’s not enough to grab your attention, this Korean film is absolutely action packed. Bullets fly and bodies drop on multiple occasions, as Seobok and Min Gi-Heon (Gong Yoo) are hunted by a number of nefarious parties.
Seobok: Project Clone Is Directed By Lee Yong-ju
Seobok (Park Bo Gum) is a humanoid created through cloning and stem cell experimentation. He looks like us, he talks like us (albeit with childish, uncultured and provocative mannerisms, likely a byproduct of his rapid aging and life devoid of socialization), he walks like us, but is he “us”? That’s the question posed by one of the head scientists running the experiment. He would argue that no, Seobok is not a human, and as a new and separate species, he is not entitled to human rights.
This dark mindset is how he justifies torturing the creature and treating him as nothing more than a bipedal cow. Seobok is exposed to painful needles, numbing medications, and power inhibitors. His cells and DNA are brutally stolen, then researched so that other human lives can be extended. The creation becoming an “undying being” was not intentional, he was actually a clone of a child whose mother had lost him and her husband in an accident years prior.
Is Seo Bok Really “Human”?
In fact, the only way to keep Seobok alive was to give him daily injections, otherwise his cell division would spiral out of control, resulting in death. Through this affliction, Seobok became further tied to the facility that raised him as a super-cattle. Not only did he lack connections to the outside world, he physically could not survive in it.
As the cherry on top, Seobok’s unique physiology gave him the power to control “the pressure around him”. In other, less copyright-observant words, Seobok was able to use the force, except for some of the more gimmicky powers like force-lightning. What we have here is a Korean sci-fi action story inspired by X-Men (genetic inferiority in the eyes of the human supremacist) and Star Wars (cloning and the force) which may just be stronger than the latest box-office offerings from those lucrative franchises.
Seobok lives a thoroughly bleak, tragic life, and when he finally taps into his true psychic potential, he doesn’t lean towards the light side of the force. He demolishes buildings, vehicles, and enemies through his intensely focused telekinetic rage, and boy is it a spectacle to behold. There’s one moment in particular where his abilities are used on a massive flock of birds, whose flight pattern becomes unnatural, almost psychedelic in the most thrilling manner. Lucasfilm should take notes on this film, which is ironic because one would expect the situation to be reversed.
Seobok: Project Clone: The Dangers Of Playing God
The beating heart and soul of this story is the unique buddy-cop dynamic of Seobok and Min Gi-Heon. Seobok is experiencing a world outside of his cage for the first time, while fearing for his life and the life of his mother back at the compound. Min Gi-Heon is desperately fending off assailants hellbent on killing his psychic ward, because he’s bonding with the kid and because Seobok’s genetics may hold the key to curing Gi-Heon’s terminal illness.
Seobok: Project Clone is not a movie for the faint of heart, or for those looking for something upbeat and comedic. It’s a gritty, painful action epic that wants you to question the definition of “humanity”. The incredible performances of Gong-Yoo and Park Bo Gum bring the occasional moment of levity throughout the runtime, but the air is usually tense, and stressful.
As someone who tends to shy away from unfamiliar action pictures, I was absolutely surprised by how much I enjoyed Seobok: Project Clone. It’s an action movie that hit me in my heart, leaving me with philosophical questions and a desire for more. I can’t wait to rewatch Lee Yong-Ju’s clone epic, and I highly recommend you give this film a chance.
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