Wednesday, 12 March 2014

TV Wednesday: My Love From Another Star Review!

I recently finished watching 별에서 온 그대, which goes by enough "Translated Names" to thoroughly confuse any watcher! This show is otherwise known as You From the Star(s), You Who Came From the Star(s), My Love From the Star(s), and even Man From the Stars. For any who might want to see this drama later, or are still watching it, this is all about spoilers!





The abbreviated version (no major spoilers): The drama was cute and fun, and though classed as a melodrama, there was never any point where I felt it was a melodrama, so much as say, Innocent Man was. The ending was somewhat slow, since this show was given an extension episode (added an episode to the series; this is often done with dramas that have really good viewer ratings). But even with the extra episode, I felt like they really didn't pay attention to what they were doing and left a lot of loose ends dangling. It had a happy ending though, and that rather helped deflect the ignored plots. The characters all interacted really well, the main couple had believable chemistry, and I highly recommend watching - it isn't a disappointment as the other two dramas I've reviewed on here were (Substitute Princess, Taiwan, and Big, Korea), rather the opposite! It's got a lot of good laughs, ET references, and witty comments to other dramas and how real life is for actors/actresses in the business these days. Though with its share of crying scenes, I didn't feel it to be a tear-jerker; the whole thing is decidedly light-hearted.


The full version!


Do Min Joon



Min Joon is our main lead, played by Kim Soo Hyun (Secretly, Greatly; Moon Embracing the Sun). An alien from a far off planet you cannot see from Earth that he names KMT184.05, his people are similar in appearance to human beings, but possess far different traits. Among these, he can stop time, affect objects using only his mind (turning on/off lights, moving cups, cars, rocks, books, etc.), possesses hearing and sight seven times the ability of average humans, can move with extraordinary speed, and is able to teleport through space. He also does not age in the same way that humans do, and seemingly eternally appears in the prime of his youth. 

The people of his star/planet see the life on Earth and wish to examine it more closely, and arrive in Joseon-era Korea, 400 years ago from the present day (about 1609). In futuristic black clothing, they take samples of plant life and watch human beings, while their shiny UFOs are reported in terror across the country by the Korean townsfolk - this is based on real-life historical records that tell us in the first year of Gwanghae’s reign during the Joseon era on August 25, a mysterious “round, shining flying object” was sighted; it zoomed overhead with “a thunderous noise” before disappearing into sparks, leaving the skies clear and cloudless. He has some weaknesses, the major ones being that saliva and blood can never mix. An interesting backstory of his life during the 70s or so, has a disgruntled co-worker spitting in his coffee as silent revenge, and he nearly dies from the reaction he has with it! Because of this, he insists on never eating with anyone.




Cheon Song Yi


Cotton, Mocha, what's the difference?
Our main lead is a famous actress, played by a famous actress (Jeon Ji Hyun). The character Song Yi is known for her great beauty and acting skills, though she is somewhat clueless, having numerous scandals all centred around her moments of stupidity. The 'pizza incident' is one such, where she asks her Twitter followers why she smells 마늘 (mah-neul, meaning 'garlic') on her pizza when she knows there is 'garlic' (using the English word) on it. The scandal, of course, is in her ridiculousness on not knowing that garlic and 마늘 are the same thing. Later, in her introduction to us on the show, she attempts a pun (consciously or not) on similar sounding words - taking a selca/selfie with a mocha coffee, she tweets thanks to a famous historical figure for smuggling 목화 (mok-hwa) seeds into Korea - 목화 meaning cotton seeds, not mocha seeds! XD This tweet leads to a full-on investigation of celebrity favouritism in universities, as her selca is proof that she's obviously not studying when she's supposed to be attending university.


Hui Kyeong/Hwi Kyung


Hui Kyung (Park Hae Jin) is the third and youngest son of a wealthy family, a happy-go-lucky sort that doesn't have a lot to do. He's working as a newbie in an office setting - though apparently 'stationed' there by his father, no one seems to realise who he is, thus not receiving the special treatment he would otherwise have gotten for being the son of such a wealthy family. He seems to want to work his way up as the average sort, but doesn't realize how to go about doing this resulting in some endearing blunders and funny moments in the office.
This second male lead is one of the least heart-pulling of the second male lead realm that I've seen. Unlike other dramas, such as Goong, Boys Over Flowers, and its type, where the SML is obviously a better choice of human generally, and is often mistreated by the oblivious main actress, Hui Kyung as a character never feels that way. He's loved Song Yi for 15 years when they met as kids in school, and has been chasing her ever since. He even proposes to her again in this
show, and has apparently done so repeatedly in the past. Even still, the feel of the show does not lean towards his plight as much as others, and he plays the kind big brother sort, always looking to give a friendly smile and helping hand, which he does in generous doses throughout. He gets an interesting subplot later when he delves into the mystery side of the drama and enlists the help of Min Joon.


Yoo Se Mi

Played by a favourite actress of mine, Yoo In Na (Queen In Hyun's Man), she plays the second female lead, and she's got quite a thing against Song Yi! She's loved Hui Kyung for all the 15 years that he's loved Song Yi, and has secretly hated Song Yi more and more as time passes. She, like the second male lead, is not the typical character, but has an intriguing character that slowly unravels. While at first she's just a supportive friend, later as the tables turn she reveals a more calculating side, and you get the feeling that she's a lot better at the business than famous Song Yi.



The story starts off flipping back and forth between Joseon-era backstory and modern-day Korea action. Min Joon's arrival on Earth brings massive wind gusts that knock people over. Some of these people are in a procession around a girl in a palanquin, all of them in white and straw and weeping over the fate of their poor mistress - apparently the young girl had just been married, then widowed directly after. Her lot now is to live on as a widow from her teens, shut away from others. As Min Joon's UFO blows by, everyone is knocked over and her palanquin goes flying over the cliff edge that so handily is nearby - but his ability to stop time freezes the world, while he pulls her palanquin back to solid ground and hands her out kindly.



 
Later while the others in his group are packing away plants and twigs in the forest, he goes traipsing through the towns dressed as an aristocrat, smiling as he stops time and wanders through the town centre as he wills. He interferes a little here and there but eventually lets time continue on. 
Later in the drama, we're told that the extent of his time-stopping-power is one full minute, after which time must continue again, though he could stop it again afterwards. The way he says that its extent is a minute, and that he had to play around with it to discover this limit makes me wonder if on his home planet he could stop time indefinitely. Obviously it's a talent he knows he has when he arrives on Earth, so it isn't something new. But as he refers on a few occasions to the 'long time' his home planet has, it makes me wonder why you would want to stop time at all. Since stopping it also halts everyone around you, it isn't as though you could stop time around you and actively continue a conversation with them. It's interesting that his powers have limits here, at least more so than where he comes from, but it's a story that never gets told. Why he has limits here is just something that's presented, take it or leave it.
 
When we return to the storyline concerning the young widow, she's been kidnapped and nearly hanged, but Min Joon rescues her again, teleporting her away from her attackers. As they later enter the village, they discover that word has been spread the girl hanged herself to follow her husband in death and preserve herself as a virtuous woman - her in-laws want nothing to do with her, and the fact that she dies a 'virtuous death' gives all involved a good image. O.o She and Min Joon set off for her parents house, the girl wanting to repay Min
Joon for helping her, but news again travels, and it reaches officials that her death was faked so that the honour given the couple was fraudulently gained. They speak at this point about an arch of virtue, something that made me think there was a physical marker of virtue made in their honour, rather than just giving the couples a good image, but that part was really muddled for me.


Reaching the house of the widow's parents, the couple are astonished (in a bad way) to see their daughter alive, especially as she returns out of the countryside unescorted save by an unknown young man. Dishonour is about to fall hard. 



They poison Min Joon with the food they offer their daughter's 'saviour' and her own mother attempts to strangle her that night as she sleeps. Luckily the parents are good people and the mother was only doing it for show. The moment her husband is out of hearing range, mother hands daughter a bag of money and begs her live in hiding. Hubby later tells the mother that he could not have killed her either, and was glad she had helped the girl. But poisoned Min Joon hasn't died the way a normal human would have - and as he lays in the storeroom, he sees in the sky the UFOs leaving. He's stranded on Earth.

Sick Min Joon and girl run out of town, Min Joon learns to speak Korean all of a sudden, seeming to have heard it enough to have internalized the entire language fluently, and they are followed. Officials surround them and back them up against a cliff (a different one than before), but as they prepare to shoot, the girl dives in front of Min Joon and is shot with the arrow instead.

From here Min Joon lives quietly on Earth for 400 years, amassing land, knowledge, and wealth, becoming an expert on law and medicine, moving about and not getting close to anyone. Every now and then he attempts to make a friendship with someone or save someone from danger, but whenever his powers are revealed, they turn on him as some monster and he is left alone again. Enter modern day Korea, and he's living in one of the most expensive apartments in Seoul, and is one of the 'youngest' professors at the same university Song Yi is supposed to be attending. I have no idea what the guy teaches - one day it's about fly mating rituals, another day it's about the chemical reactions that people mistake for love, and how that should be overruled by the human brain, and overall sounds like the sort of class you'd hate to have to take.


Song Yi is a famous actress, but as detailed above isn't the smartest when it comes to certain things. She's had a rocky past with her family: her mother wants her in the acting business so she can earn lots of money, and basically leeches off of her daughter to finance her enormous spending habits, but doesn't even know when her daughter has moved house. Her younger brother is constantly 'running away' (read, spending days on computers in the game rooms), and her father was estranged from the family because he lost his money and his wife didn't want him around anymore. Song Yi, like Min Joon, doesn't have any close relationships outside of Se Mi, and as we see more and more, turns out to not be that close of a relationship. Min Joon has a closer relationship to Lawyer Jang, whom he has enlisted to aid him in forging death certificates and the like so Min Joon can continue living on Earth without others questioning his non-aging.
Random Metal Handle in your dress there. . . .
Where Song Yi decides to wear a leather couch
Song Yi is interestingly acted. At points it feels odd, but the rest of the time, it feels like a well-done character. Having not seen this actress in anything else, I don't have anything to go on, though I did see a clip of her in a previous work where she acted nearly exactly the same - so perhaps not the character, but the actress? The character tends to talk 'to herself' a lot, though in a way that everybody hears and knows it's about them, and favours reeling off lines quickly - both of which she also did in the clip I saw, which is what I mean by not the character but the actress - playing the same role rather than different ones in separate films. She's stick thin and they dress her terribly in this drama - I've seen a lot of reviews that loved her style, but there were many, many times when I just had to stop the video and beg 'What is that?' There are a lot of drapey coats and capes - I get that it's winter. But honestly, there was nothing else that flattered her a little better? I much preferred the styles Se Mi (Yoo In Na) wore. The bad wardrobe effect didn't seem to extend to other characters, aside from the weird ahjumma/chaebol mom look that Song Yi's mother attempts to pull off. My favourite one to laugh at was the weird separated-turtleneck thing she wore for about two episodes:


This. This right here. What the. . . . ?
Because this feathery thing says I'm rich, somehow.
Except for Se Mi's mom, who has elected death by fur strangulation

Through a series of scandals, Song Yi's fame is somewhat tarnishing. Enter the bad habits of Hui Kyung's elder brother, Jae Kyung, the second son who runs the family company - and by bad habits, I mean awful. I mean murder. This dude is sufficiently creepy for any
melodrama, crime, or spy film he'd ever want to try his hand at, and this character oozes madman with power. Apparently he's put some away in years past - either in mental hospitals, or in the grave. We get a murder mystery that involves Song Yi's rival in the business, and Song Yi's implicated in the woman's death. This scandal is too great, and Song Yi's contracts are severed. In an attempt to save face, Song Yi goes around breaking the contracts herself so that they won't have the chance to do so first - but this means paying enormous severance fees to the company she's signed under, and is left with very little money. She's facing leaving her nice apartment - which just so happens to be next door to Min Joon's - and she sells many of her expensive bags for cheap just to keep going. This is sort of shunted to the side for the rest of the drama until her contracts are renewed again - they make it out as if, at first, she's destitute, about to be thrown into the streets, but then she just keeps on living in her fancy big apartment and still (occasionally) attending her university. Obviously she's still got something put away.

The young-widow line is resurrected as Min Joon discovers photos of Song Yi as a child in her wallet, where she looks exactly like the girl he knew 400 years ago. He questions her as to who she is, but she's got no idea what he's on about. Later, he takes her to a museum, where the hairpin (binyeo, a stick of metal or wood and gems that was worn by married women in ancient Korea) the widow once wore is on display. The moment her eyes land on it, Song Yi remarks that she suddenly feels sad and doesn't know why, but this is never again explored. We are repeatedly informed by in-denial-Min-Joon that he was only ever interested in Song Yi because of her resemblance to the girl he knew in the past, but we never actually discover if there is any tie to this girl. Is it her reincarnated? Is there some other family tie? Is it really just some coincidence? You just have to pick one you like and stick with it, because it's never concluded.


As I mentioned above, this is classed as a melodrama. I don't know if perhaps it was just the website I watched it on (DramaFever). There it's classed as a melodrama and as a romantic comedy, and actually does incorporate plenty of both genres, though elsewhere it's simply classed as a rom-com (Viki classes the drama as Romantic Comedy and Sci-Fi/Fantasy). Seeing that it was classed as a melo made me hesitate a bit, since I've watched a good deal of that type recently - dark plots, more tears than the usual drama, usually a couple of deaths or at least disappearances, loads of obstacles and moral dilemmas - but it never really felt like a melo. In all the darker scenes, where the evil baddie Jae Kyung is phoning his henchmen and planning murders (of which a few occur in this drama), they have bubbly, lighthearted music playing in the background! It's really odd; the music would rather suit a frenemy phone call with loads of backbiting comments, rather than the arrangements to off someone. This man murdered his older brother just to get his business, and nearly kills off Hui Kyung, attempts to kill Song Yi (multiple times), and tries to off Min Joon as well. All the while, happy-go-lucky music burbles along, and these things don't jump out at you as they might have done otherwise.

Through the usual lines of K-Dramas, Song Yi and Min Joon come to like each other despite not really liking each other at all at first. But there's a problem - three months after meeting Song Yi for the first time, the comet/asteroid from deep space is returning. It's 400 year orbit is nearing completion, and it's time for Min Joon to return to his people. As the show progresses, we get hints that maybe he was intended to stay, as he says aloud in his bedroom one episode, addressing his grandmother that he's finally learned love as she had wished for him to.

His powers begin to fade, ability to affect other objects disappears, and teleporting takes him far from the places he had intended to go. His time stopping ability hangs on most, but it's tenuous at best. Unlike the previous centuries he's been on Earth, he's able to feel cold, and though his kisses with Song Yi have previously made him seriously ill (since he can't mix saliva. . . . um, oops. . . . though honestly with the 'peck' kisses that smother dramas, Song Yi had to have some sort of licking-lips-constantly-problem for this to have ever actually been an issue), he now reacts less and less.

Hui Kyung holds on admirably to Song Yi and continues to ignore Se Mi, even after she confesses to him, thus rocking their friendship nearly to the breaking point. The drama ends as typical with the second leads, neither of them reaching a romantic relationship with anyone in the whole of dramaland, though Se Mi makes her peace with Song Yi and seems to no longer hate the older woman.

Eventually Min Joon himself begins to fade. He sees a vision of himself completely disappearing one day, and makes his farewells with Song Yi in case he won't be able to when the time comes. Jae Kyung makes a final attempt on Song Yi's life, as the mysteries surrounding him and the murders of the past are revealed hinge on Hui Kyung's, Min Joon's, and Song Yi's efforts, and he decides poisoning her is his best bet to get out of being handed over to police. Min Joon easily (too easily) saves Song Yi by treating her himself in a hospital and then teleporting out in front of a crowd. The world goes insane. People who knew Min Joon in the past few decades come forward to say he looks just like colleagues or friends they once knew that they thought had died (Min Joon faking his death every decade to keep others from realizing he never ages coming back to bite him at last), and videos of his teleporting are posted all over the web.

This becomes yet another problem that isn't quite fully dealt with. All the people in control - police, Lawyer Jang - repeatedly tell the world that they 'saw wrong' or that it was somehow faked, but the whole shock of it blows over really quickly. Jae Kyung is put in prison, his father (who thought Jae Kyung could do no wrong finally getting conclusive evidence that Jae Kyung killed his elder brother for the company rights and wealth) letting him rot there, and Hui Kyung sits on the sidelines rather shattered. Both elder brothers are now gone. Daddy plans to hand over all Jae Kyung's assets to charity and hire a 'professional CEO' to run the company.

Finally, Min Joon just disappears from the world altogether, right as UFOs from his home planet arrive on Earth. Song Yi is devastated, and her mother finally stops being a loser and starts caring for her daughter, rather than for her daughter's money.
We arrive now at the end of the series, which calls for the nearly obligatory time jump - this one for three years rather than the usual one year leap ahead. Min Joon is still absent, though Song Yi and Lawyer Jang (and later, Jae Kyung as well) see 'flashes' of him about, though they all rather think they're hallucinating. Song Yi's career is obviously back on top, and in the middle of a red carpet walk to a premiere, time freezes. Min Joon has returned! Unlike any other time-stop in the show, Song Yi is left out of the time freeze and is able to move about and talk, which is odd given the past 20 episodes of 'rules' that we've seen rather consistently applied. Saying that he's returned, he gives her a kiss in the middle of the frozen scene and then time unfreezes - obviously still limited here on Earth - and the world is shocked. But then he disappears again.

In an interview scene, like so many others peppered throughout the show, usually either at the very start or at the end with the credits, the happy couple are together, and explain that Min Joon is not on Earth permanently. He has to make periodical returns to the home planet. Each time he returns, he is able to stay longer - at the time of this interview it's been a year and two months on Earth. He also explains that he was sucked into a wormhole that took him back to his planet and his powers were restored, but that he continually tried to return to Earth - the flashes Song Yi, Lawyer Jang, and Jae Kyung all saw were real, and not hallucinations. He explains that he prefers the short time here [on Earth] over the long time there [his planet], but gives no further explanation.

This bugs me. It could be taken to mean that he has, like Arwen from Lord of the Rings, managed to give up the long life span of his people for the shorter life on Earth with Song Yi, so that he will age and die as she does. But it also could simply be taken as that he prefers to live on Earth for the time being. Will he actually age and eventually die? Song Yi had a perfect panic attack about this earlier on in the show, immediately attempting every age-reversal procedure in the book (and out of it) in hopes to stay younger, longer, and asked if there was any way Min Joon could 'change' her so she would not age. As with the moving-around-periodically theme, we run into another Twilight-esque worry that the handsome love will stay handsome and young forever while the girl ages and dies without him. But unlike Twilight, this one is not fully closed, and leaves you wondering what actually will occur.
 
Even with the left-out plot lines, the rest of the drama was pretty happily wrapped up for me, and it was really a good watch. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it didn't seem to get as repetitive as other series do. As I wrote above in the abbreviated review it lagged minimally at the end, considering, which was nice, and the couple really clicked together. The acting was overall good, and I wouldn't mind seeing another drama with any of the main cast in it. Unlike two of the other dramas I've extensively reviewed here on the blog - Substitute Princess (Taiwan) and Big (Korea) - this one is excellent all across the board, and I highly recommend watching it.

On to the next!