One doesn’t need to be a student of Korean history to enjoy Hansan-Rising Dragon (한산: 용의 출현), the prequel to the 2014 movie, The Admiral-Roaring Currents (명량). This cinematic treatment about the historical Battle of Hansando during the last dynastic period of this country is epic. Those able to see it on the big screen in either IMAX or 4DX format are lucky. To witness the oceanic battles in the Yellow Sea must be quite the spectacle.
The tale here concerns figuring out what the next best tactical advance is. Admiral Yi is wounded, and his fleet is facing the might of the invading Japanese navy. His only defence is whether the turtle ships he has to command are fit to oppose. His advisors don’t want to see him in the field all the time.
I won’t spoil what this fleet commander does and instead say how gorgeous this film is, even upscaled to 4K for the home theatre setup. Even though this movie mixes up real sets with green screening, the illusion is very good! I think this approach is fair when considering it’s impossible to get perfect lighting when at sea. To get the look of the historical figures right, makeup director Cho Tae-Hee gets his own featurette to discuss how it’s all done. Another one that introduces all the key players is a great primer.
I wished there was another one about sound design. The orchestral score truly delivers that sense of urgency this presentation builds towards. It’s not like a chess game. As the Japanese continue to carry out in-roads to the west, Korea wants to push them back.
This movie honours who Yi is as a hero rather than as a tactician. I can’t say what part is historically accurate or not, but what I can reveal is that it’s an exquisite film. To truly appreciate the broader context, I’ll have to watch this and The Admiral together.
These two films make up the Yi Sun-sin trilogy, and the final movie about the Battle of Noryang is sure to be groundbreaking. Watching just one exposition about Korea’s long historical conflict with Japan won’t do. Unfortunately, there’s no info about the third film yet, but let’s hope the wait won’t be long.
3½ Stars out of 5