Movie Review: ‘Space Sweepers’ Is Action Sci-Fi, South Korean-Style

February 14, 2021 Topic: Space Sweepers Review Region: Americas Blog Brand: Techland Tags: MovieReviewActionSouth KoreaEntertainment

Movie Review: ‘Space Sweepers’ Is Action Sci-Fi, South Korean-Style

This movie has been touted as the first blockbuster space film to come out of South Korea.


The new movie Space Sweepers, which debuted on Netflix earlier this week and spent some time Monday and Tuesday on its Top Ten-most-watched list, has been touted as the first blockbuster space film to come out of South Korea.

After another South Korean film, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, won the Best Picture Oscar last year, Space Sweepers, while very different from Bong’s scabrous satire, is another film from that country that’s proving to find a large audience in the United States. The pandemic has also led to a dearth of action blockbuster movies being released, as most of 2020’s summer movie lineup was pushed back to later this year, so there’s a good chance the film is connected with audiences starved for that sort of story. 


The film, while it assembles most of its plot parts out of many of the expected influences—Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and every movie ever made that’s included a wisecracking robot—features some impressively creative visuals, and a story that’s ultimately compelling. Space Sweepers is overlong, with a bit more plot than necessary, but it’s nevertheless very entertaining.

Space Sweepers was directed by Jo Sung-hee and produced by the production company Merry Christmas. The film is set in a dystopian future after the Earth has become mostly uninhabitable, and a corporation has created an orbiting spaceship where humanity can live. The corporation is led by villain James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), a corporate philanthropist who might as well be wearing a name tag that says “Elon Musk.”

There’s also a ragtag group of the titular “sweepers,” who collect space junk. The group is led by ex-prodigy Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri, from the drama The Handmaiden), and also includes Bubs, a funny talking robot. A crew member named Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki) is looking for his daughter in space, while the crew also discovers a young girl (Park Ye-rin) who appears to be an android, and may contain a world-annihilating weapon within her. 

The film manages to get creative when it comes to depicting space tableaus, and also introduces some cool-looking locations like a space nightclub. And the action sequences are well-mounted. 

Space Sweepers is part of an increasing push by Netflix to not only showcase films from South Korea but to make them there, as the company recently announced plans to lease nine stages at two production facilities, after spending an estimated $700 million on production in that country in the last five years. The version of the film that I watched on Netflix is dubbed into English, although some viewers might prefer to watch it with subtitles. 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Space Sweepers