A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Volcano High

January 11, 2011

Volcano High

We needed an antidote to the overblown pretension of the Matrix sequels, and both Amanda and I thought that this movie would be just the thing. The Matrix movies share some of the same visuals with this Korean effects-laden martial arts movie, but Volcano High is much more light hearted in nature.

This movie is all about a troubled teen named Kim Kyung-soo who has been kicked out of every high school he’s ever attended. As the movie starts he is coming to a school of last resort – Volcano High. Here he must keep his head down and find a way to fit in with the rambunctious student body that pretty much run the school. There’s the kendo team (entirely made up of badass girls) with their captain “Icy Jade” Yoo Chae-yi. There’s the weight-lifting team headed by “Dark Ox” Jang Ryang. There’s a rugby team and I’m pretty sure I saw students with field hockey sticks as well. All of these rival gangs are held in check by the most powerful member of the student body, the wise and aloof “Elegant Crane in a Pine Forest” Song Hak-rim and the kindly old principal of the school who has in his possession a legendary Secret Manuscript which brings great power to anybody who possesses it.

Things start to go wrong when Jang Ryang enacts a scheme to poison the principal and frame Song Hak-rim for it so that he can take over the school. If he can prove himself to be the most powerful student he hopes that his partner in crime – the vice principal – will give him the Secret Manuscript. So Jang beats down all the heads of all the other clubs and declares his love for Yoo Chae-yi, and there is only one person who can possibly stand in his way. Kim Kyung-soo has enormous hidden power, but he’s desperate to remain in the background.

We soon realize that Kim is not a bad guy. Maybe a little accident prone. He has been expelled from nine schools before Volcano High though because he has trouble containing his power. When it flares up people get hurt. So although he’d like to win the favor of Yoo Chae-yi and stop the violence that has overtaken the school he does not dare let himself go.

Then things get really bad. The vice principal, frustrated by the chaos overtaking the student body and his inability to contain it, brings in five unstoppable new teachers. Very soon these five teachers have taken complete control of the school using their dark martial arts mastery. There are also hints that the leader of the five teachers, Mr. Ma, has some history with Kyung-soo.

The entire movie is played for laughs. Everybody mugs delightfully for the camera and there are plenty of lighthearted bits mixed in with all the wire-work and CGI. There’s a decidedly anime influence throughout as well, from the extreme hair styles to the camera angles and editing techniques. It’s just a treat to watch.

My one complaint would be that the pacing and the way it is put together make it hard for a big dumb American like me to keep up sometimes. The subtitles hint at clever word-play and such that go completely over the head of anybody watching the film who doesn’t know Korean. Which I clearly do not. I feel like there’s a lot of subtlety that I’m missing, which is kind of sad.

Then again, subtlety is not really what this movie is about. It’s about pure unadulterated cool. From the effortless relaxes saunter of ice-cold Yoo Chae-yi to the wintery glare of the sinister Mr. Ma this movie is packed with awesome. How can it be goofy and awesome at the same time? Well, that’s part of its charm and part of what makes it such a treasure.

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January 11, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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