Monday, April 26, 2010

K-Drama Battle : Chuno vs IRIS

After a long hiatus, 2010 may be the year I start to watch Korean dramas again.

Just finished two big Korean dramas almost back-to-back, firstly IRIS, followed by Chuno a.k.a Slave Hunters. I also noted some similarities in both dramas hence I thought why not presenting them in a different view (though I won't try too hard to compare apple-to-apple).

Without further ado, here's the ultimate battle - IRIS vs Chuno!


Firstly, a summary on both dramas (credits to D-addict's Drama Wiki)

Kim Hyun Joon and Jin Sa Woo are best friends who were brought into a top secret organization known as NSS by analyst Choi Seung Hee and Park Sang Hyun. Hyun Joon and Sa Woo both fall in love with Seung Hee when she first profiles them. Their lives are changed forever when Hyun Joon is given a solo mission in Hungary. Hyun Joon later tries to find out who set him up and to figure out what IRIS is and wants.

Chuno follows the story of Lee Dae Gil, a man of high birth whose family was ruined when Won Ki Yoon, a slave, burnt down his house and escaped with his sister, Un Nyun, who was in love with Dae Gil. Driven by his desire for revenge, he survived his harsh years on the street and made his name as a slave hunter, dedicated in his pursuit to find Un Nyun, his first and only love. Song Tae Ha is a General of the Army who became a slave after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and finds himself on the run from Dae Gil's relentless pursuit. Both men become entangled in a love triangle with Un Nyun, who is no longer a runaway slave, but Kim Hye Won, a nobleman's daughter.

1) Star Power

The Actors

Lee Byun Hyn is the leading man in IRIS, and that itself is already the main attraction to this drama. LBH is one of the biggest names in Korea entertainment, and just recently became more popular due to his stint in G.I Joe. I've seen LBH in All In, and no doubt that guy can really put in his emotions in any drama. In his role in IRIS, he certainly did not disappoint.

Going head-to-head against LBH and none other than Chuno main actors Jang Hyuk (left) and Oh Ji Ho (right). I'm not too sure how established are both of them in Korea, but they have appeared in at least one big drama to draw my attention.

Jang Hyuk first caught my attention in one of his earlier dramas, Successful Story of a Bright Girl with Jang Nara back in 2002, and subsequently the comedy Please Teach Me English with Lee Na Young. While I haven't watched Thank You (2007), I heard it was a great drama as well. With his stellar performance as Dae Gil, Chuno will definitely his most significant drama to-date.

I came to know of Oh Ji Ho in Super Rookie (2005), and later Fantasy Couple (2006) with Han Ye Seul. Apart from his Adonis looks, he didn't really appeal to me as an established actor. However, with his role as Song Tae Ha in Chuno. I'm sure he will have more big projects coming along his way.

The Actresses

Adding to the star power in IRIS are two established actresses, Kim Tae Hee (right) and Kim So Yeon (left).

KTH was the stepsister I loved to hate in Stairway to Heaven, alongside Choi Ji Woo and Kwon Sang Woo. She also acted with Kim Rae Won in Love Story in Harvard, and I remember seeing her kissing session with him, and thinking how lucky she must be, getting kissed by all these famous actors! I guess now she can add LBH into her kissing list. Haha.

KSY was also the ultimate villianess in All About Eve, her acting just totally impressed me. It seemed after that she was like the most hated person in Korea. KSY also acted with KRW in Gourmet, which I didn't watch. In IRIS, she played a North Korean agent with a torn in heart between serving her country, and falling in love with LBH.

Lee Da Hae (right) is the main actress in Chuno. I only watched one of her dramas - My Girl, which she acted with Lee Dong Wook and Lee Jun Ki. My Girl was one of my favourite dramas which she was the habitual liar who fell in love with LDW. It was also a big break needed for LDH to establish herself in the entertainment industry. For me, it is a different side type of character she is portraying, which she did very well in the drama. I love how she transformed from a frightened Un Nyun to a more confident Hye Won.

Taking on the role of Seol Hwa is relatively new comer Kim Ha Eun (left) . I had never seen her previous dramas before, but her portrayal of Seol Hwa moved me, especially in the last episode of Chuno.

Verdict - IRIS certain win hands down for ultimate star power, which was the drama's biggest draw. I, however, felt that Chuno gave the opportunity for its main stars to rise up even more. Hoping to see more dramas featuring Jang Hyuk!

2) Lights, Camera, Action!

Both IRIS and Chuno features tonnes of action and fighting scenes, from the bomb blasts and gunfire in IRIS, to the hand combats and sword fights in Chuno. Basically if you are looking for action, I reckon you won't be disappointed.

Verdict - I somehow always prefer combats rather than bomb blasts and guns, as fighting scenes then to require more skills and choreography. You will get that aplenty in Chuno, with its accompanying OST, making the viewers anticipate a fight anytime soon.

3) The ultimate bad boss

Whoa, you have two different kinds of bad boss here. Baek San from IRIS (right) works for the NSS but is the ultimate traitor as he serves his bosses from the secret society IRIS, which he gains privileges to data and even recruits people to join him there. He killed Hyun Jun's parents in the drama, and also tells Hyun Jun that his life is being designed according to what Baek-san wants him to be like.

Left State Minister Lee Gyeong Shik (left) is one of the high ranking ministers serving the Choseon King, yet he will use all means to get what he wants without his name being tainted. He offer positions, rankings, money, yet is willing to turn his back on them once they bring him what he needs.

It is ironic that in IRIS, Baek San chooses to die for the sake of the organisation he served, but was spare death, much to his dismay. Minister Lee died from a gunshot on his head, shot by an enraged escaped slave who was doing much of his dirty work without realising the instructions came from Lee himself.

Verdict - Both bosses are bad enough for me, can't ask anymore from them! But if you ask me, it would be Baek San, coz he is willing to do the dirty work at one point of time.

4) Bad-ass assassin

I'm not sure if it was just pure co-incidence that both dramas also had assassins, but it was worth a comparison.

VICK (right) is a truly bad-ass assassin in IRIS. He barely spoke more than a couple of sentences throughout the series, but when he's real mean when he kills. The most heart-breaking scene was when he killed Mi Jung after getting into a relationship with her to obtain some key information from NSS. The twist of her neck, and she was gone just like that. And his expression? Nothing.

In Chuno, we'll meet commando Hwang Chul Woong (left), son-in-law of minister Lee, arch nemisis of Song Tae Ha, cold-hearted killer. The only person to whom he still love was his aging mother. Commando Hwang was bent on a personal mission to eliminate Tae Ha, not just to gain acceptance from his shrewd father-in-law, but also to pay back for what he has done in the past as compeers. In the process of his pursuit, he killed many innocent people to the extend he found pleasure doing it. However, it was in the final battle with Tae Ha and Dae Gil, he was 'saved' by Dae Gil, having found back a piece of humanity.

Verdict - 101% Chuno.

While VICK can be somewhat regarded as cool and eye-candy, there's nothing deeper reflected in his character other than he is a cold-blooded killer. Perhaps the producers wanted to retain a mysterious element in him.

Chuno, on the other hand, developed Hwang's character pretty well. We had a glimpse into his past, his humilation of marrying minister Lee's daughter with palsy condition, his jealousy of Tae Ha during their army days and wanted to be better than him, his final battle and how he said he 'won', perhaps figuratively to indicate that he won over himself, over his dead father-in-law, and over his past with Tae Ha. It was time to let go.

5) Breathtaking scenery

This is interesting.

Both dramas have seen their characters travelling all around. However, IRIS has film locations in Hungary and Japan, Chuno's filmings focuses mainly around the different areas within Korea itself.

One of the highlighted location in IRIS is Akita, Japan. It was where Hyun Jun and Seung Hee first travelled on their own, and spent quite a lot of romantic moments there too. There was this scene of which the two lovers spent some time at Lake Tazawako, of which the Golden Statue was featured in the backdrop. It was reported that after these episodes were filmed, there was a surge of Korean tourist in Akita.

As for Chuno, the first half of Tae Ha and Hye Won's journey brought us to fields, mountains, and finally the kissing scene at Jeju Island.

Aww, that has got to be the most scenic kissing scene ever. What else could Un Nyun ask for at that time?

Verdict - I think IRIS has more international locations, and I did consider visiting Akita during winter to try the onsen. To give credit to Chuno, it was probably my first time to notice that Jeju Island isn't quite developed as I thought it would be, there is still lots of nature elements in that island.

6) Secrets
Both Seung Hee and Un Nyun had their own secrets. Seung Hee was invited to join IRIS, which she declined. Hye Won used to be a slave who goes by the name Un Nyun, she paid to have the slave marked removed so she can have a better life outside.

Verdict - Un Nyun gets my vote for bearing through the pain of a burning charcoal scorched into her skin. The price one pays to get out of slavery.

7) Stellar Supporting Cast

There's a whole truckload of supporting cast in both series. In IRIS, there is Hyun Jun's best-buddy-turned-baddie Sa Woo, north Korean agent Park Chul Young among others. Don't mess with this people as they are good with fighting, and they got guns.

We are constantly treated to loads of scenes of Wang Son and General Choi, Daegil's best friends and sidekicks. With their toned physique, awesome fighting skills and great charisma, I'm certainly not complaining. I like it how Chuno writes try to put in a bit more story and background of each character so it won't feel like we are watching a popcorn drama.

Verdict - I rather have General Choi and Wang som as my companions anytime, as compared to those scary guys with guns.

8) Death of main character

Okay, this a major spoiler alert, don't say I didn't warn you earlier.

In both dramas, the leading man dies. Hyun Jun, after capturing Baek San, and foiling the attempt assassination of Korea's President, he and Seung Hee resigned from NSS. On his way returning to the hotel where he and Seung Hee stayed, he was shot on the head by an unknown accomplice. The last 5 minutes focuses on his final memories with Seung Hee, as he watched her from a distance (she was waiting for him outside), dying.

Dae Gil, in attempt to save an injured Hye Won, Tae Ha and the young prince, took on the epic battle against commando Hwang and the soldiers. He was not killed by Hwang, but as a result of his severe injuries in battle.

OK, when I first saw the last 10 minutes of IRIS, I was like "WTF???????" The end did not do any justice to this drama, and it really reminded me of the last drama I watched Money's Warfare. Why must Hyun Jun die this way? Who is the culprit? Seung Hee? Baek San? Someone else from IRIS? No one knows.

Chuno, on the other hand, shows us that although Dae Gil died, he finally redeemed himself. He found peace with himself at last. Not only that, he 'saved' Commando Hwang by telling him we may resent the world, but not the people. He saved Hye Won and Tae Ha by fighting so they could escape. He saved General Choi and Wang Som by planning for their future and buying land so they don't have to worry. In a short scene after the credits, Dae Gil was seen shooting an imaginary arrow towards the sun, happy and contented.

Verdict - 101% Chuno, not only it was meaningful, I like the last scene where Dae Gil was happy in afterlife, assuring viewers he is actually ok. IRIS was just plain stupid.

Whoa! Super lengthy post! I had to write it down before I forget. I love both, but of course my heart swayed towards Chuno if I needed to choose. Not sure when will be my next time writing on a Korean drama posting :)

I hope this will put these two dramas into some perspective. Of course opinions are just my own, feel free to discuss if you wish!

You can find drama recaps for IRIS and Chuno via Dramabeans.


pilocarpine said...

wow... very interesting comparisons..

Samah said...

tribute Chuno music video to Eop Bok the hunter