22 September 2012


Arang vs. Faith, Part I: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on September 22, 2012
When these two shows were announced, I was super-excited ... in the case of Arang because the story (or rather, the folklore) inspiring it sounded intriguing, because it was Lee Jun-Ki's comeback drama after 2yrs of military service and because Shin Min-ah is one of the Korean actressess I admire (I admit I have a slight bias towards liking Korean actors more than their female counterparts) - and in the case of Faith because of the fantasy twist, the time-travelling and Lee Min-ho, whom I simply cannot not like, even though his acting is ... well ... more on that later.

And then, the trailers ...

Hell yeah! 

And then, they even started in the same week, and I just knew it was going to be KDrama heaven; two shows = Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays = weeks and weeks of bliss ahead. 

Now, we're 12 episodes or 6 weeks into both shows and the truth is that Arang delivers everything it ever promised and much more, whereas Faith isn't at all what I expected. It isn't an outright disappointment, but constantly frustrates me because it could have been So.Much.Better; and I don't mean the other Faith that could have been (with Kang Ji Hwan) but this Faith right here. The story is halfway decent, there's surprise, there's beautiful men, there's a smart villain, there is romance, there even is mystery ... If only there was some decent directing and if only the show didn't look ... cheap. 

The difference in directing becomes most apparent in the fight-scenes. While I rewatch every Arang fight-scene at least 20 times (and still want mawwwwwwwr), I close my eyes when there is one in Faith. Yes, it's that embarrassing. In terms of production value, everything on the Faith set looks brand-new and newly painted (classic mistake in period drama) and the costumes (particularly the Woodalchi armour) look like costumes from your average costume shop. Poor Woodalchi are wearing plastic! The lighting is totally off at least once in every episode. The music is grand and I've caught myself whistling the tune, but it's not much more than a Pirates of the Caribbean remix. 

In Arang, on the other hand ... everything is beautiful: the overall choice of color, the set, the scenery around the village (the river!), the Hanbok, Lee Jun-Ki, the music (MC Sniper!!!!), the flowers, and did I mention Lee Jun-Ki? His acting in this show is simply otherworldly. No, Arang isn't perfect ... but it's fast climbing the ranks to become one of my all-time-favorites.

Nonetheless, I'll keep watching Faith - because it is halfway decent, becaues the story keeps surprising me, because I want to know who Hwata is and how the Doctor will get back to modern-day Seoul AND because watching Faith means watching Lee Min-ho. 

Lee Min-ho ... who is supposed to be the leader of the best of the best, a 'General', a leader of the King's elite bodyguard ... just looks and feels so young, so proper, so boyish, so ... totally miscast. And yet, strangely, he is one of the main reasons I'll continue watching Faith. I've seen every drama he's been in since Boys over Flower - and his phlegmatic acting never fully did it for me. The funny thing about it is that I never cared that he just ... isn't that good. And it's not because of his looks only, though they certainly don't hurt. No, I think it's because of how earnest and hard he tries in each and every drama. He might not even have half of the gravitas his current role would actually require - but without him, Faith wouldn't be special, it would just be a bad drama.

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