Nobody could have prepared us for Gyeongseong Creature being so average. The first part of this creature-feature medieval thriller, consisting of seven episodes, was released on December 22nd, and the second part, consisting of the final three episodes, will be released on January 5th. This drama did not need two parts. The entirety of Part 1 was about the rescue of the people trapped in the hospital, and the second part will continue with that, albeit with a few time-sensitive events in the making that we cannot reveal without it being a spoiler. On that note, this drama is strictly for fans of Park Seo Jun and Han So Hee. We consider them capable actors and were quite hyped about this drama because of their supposed ‘Midas Touch.’ Admittedly, we wouldn’t have been as excited about Gyeongseong Creature if these two actors had not been on board and if we had not had such strong faith in their abilities to pick a good story. But after watching these seven long episodes, the rose-tinted glasses have come off, and we are able to acknowledge that these two actors are prone to human errors.
Frankly speaking, it is their show throughout. Every frame is dominated by them, so a lot of the praise and criticism has to be borne by them. Starting with Park Seo Jun, his character Tae Sang needed him to carry himself with some swagger and recklessness, but he does not seem to have been able to let go of his previous characters, where he is often carrying the weight of the world. This is something we had noticed in the trailer itself, but we were hoping to be wrong. As for Han So Hee, we get that My Name is turning into a bit of a cult classic, but she should be given the chance to play other characters. There is no doubt that she looks like a girl someone would fall in love with at first sight, and she also looks enchanting while crying, which is a huge prerequisite for her character. But it is painful how her grief is her personality. This reminds us that Han So Hee’s Chae Ok is not alone in this. Korean dramas have never known how to write strong women, and they are guilty of making them painfully one-dimensional, usually with the crutch of some tragic backstory. Seriously, a man in a Korean drama goes through a tragedy and becomes sober, but he is allowed a sense of life outside of his grief. The women with similar pasts are not written that way, almost as if it is unimaginable for them to rise above what happened to them.
But moving on from that, after Gyeongseong Creature, we are questioning whether the actors, especially Han So Hee, have any range at all to begin with. It is like she came through one challenge, and everything she has done since is a carbon copy of that, so it is not our fault for thinking that it is the only thing she can do. Sadly enough, we are beginning to think the same about Park Seo Jun. He has a kitty full of stellar hits, but in hindsight, a lot of those roles were not very different from each other. Think of Fight for My Way, Hwarang, or Itaewon Class. We can see the similarities now. And nobody can convince us that What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? was his proof of acting range. That is the kind of role that every Korean actor has in his profile, and someone with Park Seo Jun’s experience would be able to manage that in his sleep. If only he had brought the necessary swagger to Tae Sang’s character, we wouldn’t have raised this question at all.
Coming to the rest of the story, couldn’t the mystery building have been better? The trailer already told us about the monster, so for the sake of the seven hours of runtime, shouldn’t the revelation of the monster or the horrors inflicted by it be more thrilling? Just killing random people with its tentacles was scaring no one, especially when the people being killed were the bad guys, so who in the audience was really scared for them?
What especially irritates us is that the audience was promised a ‘period piece.’ The visuals were NOT out of this world, and the inclusion of the Japanese angle is as forceful as Indian patriotic movies making Pakistan the enemy in every story. But in the case of Gyeongseong Creature, what was the relevance of the time period other than the two costumes we saw and the occasional use of the slur against citizens of Joseon? Wouldn’t this patriotic angle be more effective for today’s socio-political climate by saying that this is some sort of biological weapon? One could have said that the scientist had perfected the formula, and he made and killed these monsters at will as a weapon of the government. This is just one idea, and we are sure that if the writers had cared about doing something really original, they would have come up with a much better script. Additionally, why was an actor like Wi Ha Joon wasted? Couldn’t he have been given one scene to prove that he was a complicated person or something like that? Why was he written in such a simplistic manner? And who decided that the scientist just wanting to watch the world burn made him interesting and not cliche? Isn’t this every scientist in the Korean drama world, the most recent example being that of the one from Sweet Home 2?
To be honest, Gyeongseong Creature promised more than it could deliver. Now we get why Netflix was not overenthusiastically promoting this film, despite the actors on board. Unless you seriously love the actors, Gyeongseong Creature is a miss. Like always, we don’t blame a drama for being cliche, but we blame it for not using good cliches. Even low efforts should meet a standard. In the final days of 2023, Korean dramas are delivering such good content, and here is this drama reminding us that periodic excellence can have its hiccups and to never prejudge the quality of a drama because of the names associated with it.