‘Jung_E’ delves into human nature behind AI

SEOUL– “Jung_E” is a dystopian sci-fi movie about artificial intelligence (AI), but after all, it is a story about humans behind robots and a family tale.

The Netflix original movie directed by Yeon Sang-ho, who showed his dark world views in Netflix series “Hellbound” (2021) and hit film “Train to Busan” (2016), deals with the intriguing subject of AI and military robotics development, pulling viewers right into the heart of what it is to be human.

The story takes place in outer space, called “shelter,” where humans live in the 22nd century after Earth becomes inhabitable following drastic climate change.

A civil war breaks out in the shelter due to revolts by some groups, and a military AI company begins a project to develop the combat AI by cloning a legendary warrior, Yoon Jung-e (Kim Hyun-joo), who was killed in action.

Yoon’s daughter, Seo-hyun, (played by late actress Kang Soo-yeon), takes charge of the ambitious project named “Jung_E” to help end the four-decade war and make her late mother an eternal hero.

In the lab, Seo-hyun tests the robots that look just like her late mother, which engage in the simulated battles over and over again.

The AI lab director Sang-hoon (Ryo Kyung-soo) is ruthless as he orders researchers to shoot at the humanoids or cut off their body parts to figure out ways to upgrade their combat capabilities.

Seo-hyun, however, feels uncomfortable when the mother-like robots are brutally treated and easily disposed by researchers.

The plot takes a twisted turn when the company decides to scale down the project and Seo-hyun secretly frees one of the humanoids from the lab.

While some Hollywood movies give nightmarish warnings about the danger of AI, the film focuses more on the daughter-mother relationship with human-like robots and questions the human intentions behind the latest technology.

The big budget sci-fi movie, rare in the Korean movie scene, heavily uses computer-generated imagery to create realistic AI characters and settings of a futuristic society.

The story, however, could make some viewers teeter over the “uncanny valley,” which refers to eerie, unsettling feelings toward robots that seem “almost” human, and find it hard to sympathize with the robotic character.

Kang Su-yeon adds warmth to the cyberfunk flick, mostly featured in a sheen of cold blue and gray, with her emotional acting. It became the internationally acclaimed actress’ first film in 10 years and the last work before her death in May 2022 at the age of 55.

Kim Hyun-joo successfully portrays multiple characters — a brave warrior, a warm-hearted mother and a humanoid — and stages agile action scenes with robots.

“Jung_E” will be available on Netflix on Jan. 20.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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