Seen in Jeonju

Lifting King Kong (2009)

20th January 2010

lifting king kongIn the summer of 2009, Take Off opened and quickly proved itself to beone of the surprises of the season. That film, about Olympic ski-jumping, followed not too far behind Forever the Moment which dramatized the true story of the Korean Olympic women’s handball team… But during the course of the summer, a second movie based on an Olympic team was released–Lifting King Kong (which was erroneously called Bronze Medalist by the Korean Times).  It is the story of the coach who trained the athletes of Korea’s Olympic women’s weightlifting team. But this film was far less successful than either of the other’s previously mentioned.

One of the reasons for this may be the sport itself. Handball can be exciting and ski-junmping is breathtaking. Weightlifting is a static in comparison. It is truely difficult to thrill to someone lifting a barbell.  I think the director realized this and spent much more time on the training process and the relationship between the young athletes and their trainer, 1988 bronze medal winner Lee Ji-bong.

However, the movie differs from Take Off in another aspect. It lacks the humor that was injected into Take Off’s story and what humor there is seems extremely forced. Without that added touch, Lifting King Kong comes off a little weepy. Each of the students has a burden to bear and their coach is chock full of problems guarenteed to tug at the heartstrings–perhaps too much.

Yes, I had tears in my eyes several times during the film, so the movie successful if that was its purpose. However it fails in a key area.  It lacks any sort of tension. In other Korean sports films, (Champion, Superstar Mr. Gam in addition to the ones mentioned at thebeginning of this review), I knew the end of the movie before it started because they are based on well-known events.  Yet somehow these films managed to generate suspense. But that was not the case with Lifting King Kong which, although is also based on an actual event, I did not know how would end.

While Lifting King Kong is not a bad film, it is not the best the genre has to offer.

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