Oldboy - what's the appeal?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Max Knight, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. Max Knight

    Max Knight Supporting Actor

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    Warning - spoilerish material will follow, and this is a long post!








    I just watched Oldboy this weekend, and I have to say I was very disappointed. I was really looking forward to this film. The premis is wonderful, I really wanted to see where it was going to go.

    After finishing the film I was very let down. The movie felt disjointed, full of cheap tricks and without sufficient motivation. Until the very end, you have no idea why Mido would be interested in Dae Su. Once the explanation comes, it's the lamest of plot devices. Hypnotism? Give me a break! And why wouldn't she at least remember her father's name?

    As to the engine of all this revenge, it all boils down to a minor schoolyard incedent? No matter how I try to suspend my disbelief I can't imagine why Woo-jin Lee didn't just go punch the young Dae Su in the eye once the rumors started rather than build a grand 25 year long revenge plan (remember, he had to wait until Dae Su grew up and got married before he could even start!).

    Lately I've felt that many Asian films get an automatic "pass" from the internet community. Throw an asian director at something, make sure it's got a good helping of blood, torture, and sadism and you've got a guaranteed internet darling.

    I find this troubling because I've been watching Asian films for many years now, long before the advent of DVD and the popularization of the internet. People have gotten so fanboyish over any new director from Asia that they are ignoring the actual quality of the film. Place this film in the US, give it a gun toting hero instead of a knife/hammer wielding one, and people would be complaining about the massive plot holes:

    Why did the private prison warden have his hand cut off? What motivation did Woo-jin have for that?

    Just who is super hypnotist lady?

    Why didn't this lame rumor get put to bed earlier? Why didn't Woo-jin confront Dae Su when the first rumors started swirling?

    Why doesn't Mido remember Dae Su at all?

    So much of the movie is predicated on the "love" story between Mido and Dae Su, and there is never a convincing explanation for this. The viewer is expected to chalk it all up to a spectacularly effective case of hypnotism.

    This all smacks of sloppy filmmaking to me. I'm astounded as to how a film of such mediocrity can garner so many positive reviews. Did anyone else feel this way about Oldboy? Is there something huge and redeaming that I'm missing here?

    I did enjoy the hammer fight sequence, as well as Woo-jin's high tech closet.
     
  2. Hal F

    Hal F Stunt Coordinator

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    Warning: Major spoilers of a great classic revealed below!
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    And there was once a king and queen in the city of Thebes who had a baby boy. It was prophesized that the boy would kill his father and marry his mother when he grew up. So the parents had his ankles pierced and tied together and taken out to the wilderness to be killed. The man assigned this task took pity on the child and decided not to kill him. The child ended up being adopted by another king and queen and he grew up believing he was their son. Upon reaching adulthood he learned that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. So he fled his home. While travelling he encountered an old man blocking the road. They argued and in a fit of road-rage he killed the old man. After some more travelling he made his way to Thebes and by answering the riddle of the Sphinx he was made king of the city. He married the queen whose husband had been killed a short time before while travelling on the road.
    A plague hits the city and the new king learns from the gods that a great crime has been committed and that is why the city is being punished by the plague. So he attempts to solve the murder of the king. When the truth is revelealed he learns that he has killed his real father and married his mother. His mother hangs herself. He pokes out his own eyes and takes off wandering again to atone for his sins.

    Why didn't his mother notice the pierced ankles? Why didn't his adopted parents inform him that the prophecy couldn't come true as long as he remained in their kingdom? Why couldn't a man who was smart enough to solve the riddle of the Sphinx not have any suspicions that the man he killed on the road was the former king of Thebes? How could he fall in love with and have children with a woman old enough to be his mother? Didn't it occur to him that she might really be his mother? Etc., etc.

    Guess some stories are going to be loved by people now matter how implausible or how many plot holes they contain.[​IMG]
    Loved 'Old Boy' and would recommend it to anyone wanting to see something new and different.
     
  3. Max Knight

    Max Knight Supporting Actor

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    I would argue that there are quite plausible explanations for the actions in Oedipus. People are more than willing to blind themselves to the truth when it is inconvenient (one of the points of Oedipus in many interperetations). That's part of what makes it a tragedy. We know what is wrong, and we suffer watching the oblivious characters screw everything up.

    Oldboy is simply sloppy in many places, and falls back on a "magical" hypnosis to solve inconvenient ares of the story.
     
  4. Hal F

    Hal F Stunt Coordinator

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    Oedipus didn't 'screw everything up', he did everything he could (given the info he had) to comply with the will of the gods. The tragedy inherent in the work is a result of the fact that no matter how much he tried to do the right thing, he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. And the reason he was fated to commit these horrible crimes is never given.

    Sorry, I still have not seen you provide any rationale for some of the "sloppy" plot holes in Oedipus that scholars and readers have noticed and tried to explain away over the last couple of centuries. And despite that, Oedipus is still considered a great work of literature.
     
  5. Ike

    Ike Screenwriter

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    I think you are supposed to chalk them not recognizing each other up to hypnotism. Woo-jin says something at the end of the film to the effect that it is easy to get people to fall in love, which I took to mean there had been little manipulation. Their feelings were genuine, just confused, obviously.

    I didn't really feel the film had plot holes, I'm just not certain I liked the payoff. I need to watch it again, but I definitely thought it was interesting.
     

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