Space Sweepers

Park Ye-rin in Space Sweepers.
Park Ye-rin in Space Sweepers.
Photo: Netflix


Space Sweepers




4/5 Stars


Set in the year 2092 and follows the crew of a space junk collector ship called The Victory. When they discover a humanoid robot named Dorothy that's known to be a weapon of mass destruction, they get involved in a risky business deal.


Strap on your magnetic boots and hold on for one hell of a ride with Space Sweepers - one of the funnest space epics I have ever had the privilege to watch. If you're an old Firefly fan or obsessed with K-dramas, this Korean space opera is everything that you could have wished for.

I'm only upset that there isn't more of it.

Space Sweepers is set in 2092 where Earth has become an unliveable habitat, and only the elite live in luxury in space while the rest of humanity struggle to survive. This has created a market for space sweepers - Earthers that make their money clearing dangerous space debris for peanuts. One crew comes upon dangerous cargo in an abandoned ship, and while trying to make money off of it, they stumble upon a nefarious plot orchestrated by a dangerous mega-corporation.

It's an absolute joy of a film, blending the space cowboy schtick of Firefly and old Star Wars with Korea's famous soapie dramas to create a grand epic. I low-key wish it was a series instead of a film - although with a two-hour running time you luckily get to see a lot of this dystopian future.

The main crew is your traditional band of misfits complete with a bad-ass captain who I want to be in real life (Kim Tae-ri), a jaded ex-military man on a mission (Song Joong-ki), a former gangster with a heart of gold (Jin Seon-kyu) and the sassiest robot to have roboted (Yoo Hae-jin).

They aren't exactly unique characters - and I wish they spent a little more time on the back story for most of them - but they remain very endearing, and you can't help falling in love with them. The crew's hardiness is melted by the sweetest, most adorable little actress Park Ye-rin as Dorothy, whose cuteness you wish you could just put in a bottle to whip out whenever you're feeling down.

As for the space battles and fighting, it's very reminiscent of the anime style of action with jaw-dropping CGI effects. The best scene is quite early on when the space sweepers fight over some scrap - it's not that important to the story, but it's clear that the CGI artists put a lot of love into that battle making it a great spectacle to watch. It's a shame to waste that on a small TV or laptop screen and would have been epic to have seen in IMAX. If you can, try to organise with someone to watch it on their big TV if you don't have one.

While the main cast speaks Korean, it's one of the most diverse, multilingual films I have seen and much more representative of a globalised future than you would see in Hollywood movies. Writer and director Jo Sung-hee weaves incredible world-building in a short space of time, quickly explaining how everyone understands each other with universal translators. It's interwoven with mostly Korean and English, but many other characters speak their own languages to each other - although it does take a while to get used to switching between subtitles and listening to the English villain. For an international platform like Netflix, it could provide a blueprint for future collaborative multinational content.

The story might not be perfect, and it's filled with clichés and predictable plot points, but it's been a long time that I've been so excited about a movie such as Space Sweepers. It shows what flops like Elysium and Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets should have been, and I only hope we get to see more of this kind of sci-fi content from Korea in the future. This film has cemented itself into my top favourite sci-fi films and I will be rewatching it a few times.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24