Thursday, July 24, 2014

Warrior Baek Dong Soo Review (2011)

Drama Rating: **
Personal Rating: Decent

Baek Dong Soo, who lost his father and mother, was saved from the clutches of the evil Minister of State Hong Dae Ju by his father's sworn brothers and raised learning martial arts. Under their guidance and tutelage, he strives to become the best swordsman in Joseon to protect the future King Jeongjo and the people he loves.

*Spoiler warning*

Screenwriting: F

Having watched a number of sageuks and historical dramas from other countries, this particular script merely kept the boat afloat but fell far short of the standard set by dramas like Queen Seon Deok or Tree With Deep Roots. In not just one but several instances, major plot resolution sequences were poorly planned and executed. The rationale for some of the characters' actions were not well justified and felt quite contrived to move the story along. There was also a lack of realism in those scenes in favor of 'emotional' close-up character interactions which sometimes made the scene rather laughable (despite its seriousness). The side thread development of Yeo Woon was particularly weak and very unsatisfactory. There were so many holes in his story that it seemed the screenwriter had no idea what to do with his character or how to develop it aside from requiring a rival for Baek Dong Soo. And I have to say, from a storytelling point of view, the developments of the final episode were totally uncalled for from a storytelling perspective. Perhaps I'm being too harsh as the overall plot/script was fairly reasonable but these problems clearly held this drama back.

Ji Chang Wook was a pretty suitable Baek Dong Soo. His youthful exuberance was a highlight for his character and he executed that well. Yoo Seung Ho's acting as his friend/rival Yeo Woon was somewhat weaker as it was difficult to to observe his inner battle between good and evil. I know that was the intent of the screenwriter (to make it seem like he was battling his inner demons) but he just simply did not convey this and seemed to drift aimlessly (as opposed to portraying a conflicted character). Most of the supporting cast did a reasonably good job with their characters although again, there were holes and weaknesses in the script with regard to some of the decisions made by those characters (an issue more to do with the screenwriting staff than with the actors).

I'm going to have a hard time getting this soundtrack out of my head. Quite honestly, this drama grossly overuses its themes. Especially for a drama with a length of 29 episodes, re-using the same themes over and over made it annoyingly repetitive and gag-worthy by the end. It would really have helped if they had created more background material as accompaniment to inject some freshness and variety into the viewing experience.

Several weaknesses pervaded this series and severely limited the heights to which it aspired to reach. I had a hard time getting past the resolutions of the major story arcs due to the implausibility of the characters' actions and their unexplained rationales. Yeo Woon's drifting/directionless character also made for a tough pill to swallow. And lastly, the repetitive music just made me want to barf. So despite the reasonably decent acting performances from the rest of the cast and the attraction of the overarching storyline, I was quite disappointed with this series.

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