Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
I’m biased, there’s no going around it. I watched Bu Bu Jing Xin, the Chinese version while it aired and loved it. BBJX is not without it’s flaws but on the whole it’s a pretty solid Chinese historical with predominantly great cast and a story that somehow managed to make palace politics interesting. I did hope that the Korean version would have it’s own flavour while at the same time keeping the parts that made BBJX so engeaging. Alas, that was not to be. I agree with just about all of the criticism Moon Lovers has been garnering around the internets.
I could live with the questionable BGM choices and extreme closeups so loved by the PD but I couldn’t get past how they dumbed down so many of the characters. Ruo Xi was smart and knowledgeable about the history of the period so she was able to navigete the tretcherous and often deadly waters of the palace life. Hae Soo just comes off as a silly airhead. I didn’t find her antics engeaging nor funny. Same goes with the younger princes. Why do they act like silly (modern) teenagers? Yes, they are in their teens but in those days you pretty much became an adult once you hit a certain age and was expected to act accordingly. These boys are way past that age. One could argue that at this point Goryeo is a newly established kindom, so the court etiquette wasn’t as rigorously followed as later on, but I don’t think that floats. Goryeo was a direct decendant of the earlier three kingdoms and should have inherited many of the customs of it’s predecessors. I don’t think juvenile behaviour was part of that package.
I also found the lack of proper ‘sageuk speak’ a serious misstep. I don’t expect a totally faithfull recreation of past in historicals, but I do want to see at least some of the more common characteristics one expects to find in a historical drama. Like proper conduct and speech patterns that reflect the era. Fantasy historicals are an exception as those can have all sorts of non authentic bits inserted as a rule.
As far as acting goes, only LJK and KHN get a pass, the rest are mostly cringe worthy or just plain bland. Baek Hyun and Ji Soo especially stick out like a sore thumb, both are pretty awful in the roles. Appart from Lin Geng Xin (the 14th), the princes in BBJX were depicted by mostly mature and established actors, who are no strangers to historicals. This gave the characters quite a bit of the gravitas needed. All the princes had their own, distinct characteristics, which made them feel like real people. The way they interacted with each other, the subtle undercurrents in the relationships and all the different ‘factions’ were quite fascinating. I also had no problem in keeping them appart despite of the hairdo that made everyone look very similar. I was all new to Chinese dramas at that point so I didn’t know any of the actors either.
Both the story and the characters of Moon Lovers left me totally cold, I’ve no interest in finding out ‘what comes next’.
Moonlight Drawn by Clouds
Cute, fluffy and fun with some darker undertones. A very easy watch that resembles SKKS quite a bit in tone and execution. Great cast who fit the parts effortlessly. Some may find Moonlight juvenile, others youthfull. I guess it depends on your preferences.
The story seems to be quite simple with nothing really new to offer but the main characters are so engeaging that you don’t mind the seeming thinness of the plot. Well, I don’t mind. As long as they keep it fun and breezy with as little manufactured angst and boring palace politics as possible. Which probably is too much to ask for, ha. I’d really love to have even one kdrama on my roster that is not weighted down with overly heavy themes. What’s wrong with just having some fun?
Life is really busy these days so Moonlight will have to wait until it’s done and I’ll hopefully have more time to tackle it.