The first Korean film to be shot in 3D for IMAX screens, Sector 7 is a movie that bends over backward to give the viewer bang for their buck. The 3D is deep and extreme, the CG spectacle frequent, and the finale is just plain over-the-top, with -- seriously, literally -- more explosions than I remember in Transformers 3 packed into a span of 10 minutes. Of course, when "more" is your only creative mandate, it's shouldn't be surprising that the film lacks any sort of narrative consistency, and drags on a good 15 minutes past a seemingly obvious finish line.
On a rig several miles off the coast of Jeju island, a team of drillers and scientists are struggling to find oil at their latest dig site. The company sends Jeong Man (Ahn Sung-kee) out to tell them to pack it in, but he caves to the determination of his niece Hae-jun (Ha Ji-won) that there is oil to be found, and with a renewed energy from a second chance, the core team (seven drillers, three scientists, plus Jeong Man) finally strikes black gold. Unfortunately, success is accompanied by a mysterious breed of tiny sea creatures, which turn out to be only a hint of what's about to board their ship.
Once the movie begins, Sector 7 powers forward with a checklist mentality, including every trope it can think of, then ditches most of them a few minutes later for something else. Characters include the two guys who bicker constantly but are ultimately inseparable (Park Cheol-min and Song Sae-byeok), a creepy crewmember (Park Yeong-soo) who won't give up his courtship of a cute scientist (Cha Ye-ryeon), a dopey rookie (Min Seok), and a stern captain (Park Jeong-hak). Plot points include science gone wrong, unresolved father-figure issues, loyalty, and family secrets. A key character chickens out in the face of danger, a couple of others make noble sacrifices. The crew compare scars. A throwaway decision made out of fear in the first half is revisited at the end. Kim Dong-soo (Oh Ji-ho) is set up as potential boyfriend material for Hae-jun, but nothing more than a playful rivalry ever develops, so he ends up just delivering exposition and looking confused. Yawn. The only thing the film really has going for it here is that the crew members are all memorably different and easily distinguishable, which is a relief when the alternative is trying to remember a slew of Korean names.
In the director's chair, Kim Ji-hoon is trapped between his non-existent production budget and seemingly unlimited post-production budget, which forces him to shoot crucial sequences on green-screen and results in a film that looks like the SyFy Original Movie approximation of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He shows an exhausting reliance on slow-motion to milk several of the 3D effects, and very little ingenuity elsewhere (major 3D sequences include a ton of random jellyfish, the creature's whiplike tongue stabbing through a head and out through a window straight into the lens.
Still, even a messy film might be a fun rental for those willing to stomach a thick layer of extra cheese, but Sector 7 finally goes too far by blatantly overstaying its welcome. A natural stopping point blows by in favor of an exhausting extended finale that's 15 minutes too long despite being 10 minutes shorter than the 112-minute running time listed on the box, with the director topping things off with a serious political message for good measure. Sector 7 blows its dough on a number of expensive visual pyrotechnics and exhausting thrill-ride sequences, but none of it pops out as far as the production's collective flop sweat.
Sector 7 arrives with bland art that replicates the Photoshop-heavy poster art and adds a wall of text to the back cover. A thin cardboard slipcover that slides over the package is identical other than dropping the three tiny photographs from the back to give more room to the text. The movie's billing block is visible inside the case, and there is no insert.
The 3D Video and Audio
The Blu-Ray of Sector 7 includes the 2D and 3D versions of the film on a single disc. When the disc is inserted, the player automatically determines which version the viewer wants to watch (not my favorite method, honestly; to compare and contrast, users will have to disable the 3D in their player set-up menu).
Aesthetically, Sector 7's 1080p, 1.85:1 MVC 3D presentation is not so much "best 3D" as it is "most 3D." Shot mostly on greenscreens and featuring CG in nearly every shot, it's easy for the filmmakers to add depth and dimension between "objects" (say, the plate of the actors and the digital backdrop) that never occupied the same space to begin with. It provides plenty of depth, but personally, exploiting a loophole provided by a limited budget isn't what I really want out of a 3D movie. Sector 7 is also absolutely a "character in 3D movie uses cane to gesture at things" kind of movie: when you see a grid of pipes on the deck of the rig, you know it's there so characters can hide in the pipes, the pipes can fall down, etc. Other implementation ranges from clever (a glass "whiteboard") to iffy (there are surely flecks of matter in the ocean, but, again, the mere existence of depth without any meaning or style is not really my idea of great 3D). There are also some minor issues with the image that may have to do with the 3D process, including heavy aliasing during most of many long sweeping shots that fly in from the sea and pan around the platform (look at the railings on the rig) and a hint of edge enhancement. The image also looks a little 120hz Motion-y. (A comparison check of the 2D version doesn't show the same aliasing or the edge enhancement.)
Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is strong but not phenomenal. Just as the film shows its visual seams, I felt this mix was more "by the numbers" than "exceptional," providing the expected action surround pyrotechnics when the creature starts rampaging through the rig, and plenty more during an explosive finale. Dialogue is sharp as a tack, and well-balanced amongst the chaos (well, when anyone is talking instead of just running and screaming), and the music is nice and filled out. English subtitles are provided, of course, as well as a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and an English 2.0 dub.
A small gallery of promotional featurettes are included: "Making Of" (5:26), "Teamwork" (2:00), "Workers" (3:09), and "Actress" (2:03) are non-anamorphic, standard-def, clip-heavy interview snippets that feel like they were probably produced for an official website. It's all perfectly decent, and none of them are dull or slow like many foreign EPK material can be.
No trailers play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Sector 7 is also included.
Sector 7 gets an A+ for effort and a D for execution, fumbling a collection of seemingly simple exploitation elements and then refusing to get off the stage before even the most forgiving audience member gets fed up. Once the movie hits the bargain bins, a few scenes might make this a fun technical demo disc for 3DTVs, but that's about it. Skip it.
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