Writer/director Park Hoon-jung’s The Witch: Subversion is a remarkable sci-fi thriller, taking the coming-of-age tropes we know and blending them together with supernatural-like covert forces, culminating in an adventure that feels familiar and wholly unique. Just before the film ends, though, Park leaves the audience with the kind of cliffhanger that implies another story is on the way, a truth that took several years to make realized. This follow-up, The Other One, goes in a different direction from the first, dispensing with the general mystery aspect and leaning harder into the superhuman dramatics, while also focusing on a new character and not Kim Da-Mi’s original protagonist Ja-yoon. Fans of Subversion may find aspects of The Other One a step backward, the total narrative less engaging as the world barely glimpsed in Subversion blows wide open, but the possibilities for what’s to come will leave audiences clamoring for a Part 3.
Seeing as The Other One is a direct follow-up to The Witch: Subversion, feel free to head over to the spoiler-free review of Subversion for a refresher on the world of The Witch.
In a hidden compound, a blood-covered girl (Shin Sia) emerges with nothing but carnage and debris behind her. Walking barefoot through the nearby snowy forest, she’s picked up by a van of criminals in the middle of a kidnapping, thinking her to be a possible witness to their crime. Their hostage, Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin), tries to get the men to let the girl go, an act which is Kyung-hee’s saving grace as this girl is powerful enough to take out the van full of men with incredible ease. Unsure who the girl is and grateful for the aid, Kyung-hee takes her home, not realizing that this decision will place her and her brother Dae-gil (Sung Yoo-been) in the middle of a clandestine war between transhumanists and those who would weaponized them, each on the hunt for the girl.
Right off the bat, it’s difficult to analyze The Other One without comparison to Subversion. The central narrative of The Other One is not directly connected to the events of Subversion, but the forces in motion around in are intrinsically linked. The other issue is that, because The Other One seeks to fill in gaps of the world that couldn’t due to the methodology of the narrative structure, the central narrative is only a tiny part of the entire runtime, thereby sacrificing meaning in the events of The Other One in order to propel the larger tale. Unlike Subversion, which told Ja-yoon’s story with her as an active participant, much of The Other One is Shin Sia’s girl, dubbed Ark 1, reacting to others as she tries to understand the wider world outside the confinement of the compound she was kept in. The events that led to her freedom are meant to be a larger mystery except it’s not one she’s interested in finding out; same with learning her identity. That she is “kidnapped” by the criminals is mere happenstance, an action that gives the script a way to focus on Ark 1, to give her something active to do, that helps the audience understand her gifts and see how she engages with normal humans. The issue is that, where Subversion’s entire script was a flip on the typical coming-of-age tale, there’s no space for such trickery in The Other One, forcing the film to jump straight into the enhanced human action. In so doing, this also means juggling the larger concept of the war between Ja-yoon and the project that developed the transhumans (the end of Subversion) with new characters serving as goons for the government agency, and then Kyung-hee’s story. Strangely, rather than narrowing things down so that the audience gets more from the Kyung-hee/Ark 1 relationship which serves as the emotional heart of the film, much of The Other One feels like the worst parts of John Wick: Chapter Two (2017), a film that also used its sequel to answer questions that didn’t necessarily need answering, slowing down the action and reducing stakes. Especially when Ark 1 is presented as a force more powerful than Ja-yoon, there’s already an up-hill battle to have us concerned about her well-being, so if the script is going to try to insert a human angle, the least it could do is structure it so the audience gets more than the bare bones of Kyung-hee’s own troubled situation before all hell breaks loose.
This isn’t to imply that The Other One isn’t a worthwhile watch. It’s got a few decent action sequences and, when Ark 1 is allowed to let loose, one’s anticipation starts to grow for the inevitable next chapter. When Shin is allowed to be expressive as Ark 1, the audience can see some personality eek out, making the otherwise stoic character someone we can root for. Unexpectedly, though, it’s two new characters, Seo Eun-soo’s Sergeant Jo-hyeon and her partner Tom (Justin John Harvey), government agents tasked with taking out Ark 1 that are themselves transhumanists, who pick up the action and engagement when the film is forced to move away from the Ark 1 plotline given how little it has to work with. Both Seo and Harvey are more than up to the task. Both are engaging actors whose on-screen partnership, cliché as it may be, delivers the goods on the odd-couple bit just enough to make them a pair we’ll want to see more of, should they survive their mission. Sadly, everyone else is such a caricature or is otherwise little more than a cut-out that the audience will find themselves glossing over the abundance of new characters, waiting for Ark 1, Jo-hyeon, or Tom to get in on the action.
Whether it’s your first watch or your umpteenth, the home release edition only comes with one featurette worth exploring. The four-minute behind the scenes featurette is comprised of on-set footage and cast/crew interviews off set, a mix of candid footage with marketing-centric explanations. There’s not a lot to go on in terms of understanding the making of the film and we never hear directly from Park himself, but we are offered thoughts from the interviewees regarding the wait for the sequel, the approach to Park’s direction, and how the cast feels about this new story, all while watching what appears to be scenes shot under the protections of COVID-19 guidelines. The remaining on-disc materials are a single theatrical trailer, three preview trailers for upcoming Well Go USA releases, and a new English Dub track, for those who prefer that over the original Korean audio track.
The Other One may not be as original as Subversion is in its reinterpretation of various genre tropes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun watch. If all you’re interested in is watching super-strong individuals battling for supremacy using firearms, melee weapons, or just the power of their mind, you’ll get exactly that and enjoy it. Frankly, as much as I enjoy a writer/director getting to create their own worlds, there’s a fight sequence between a transhumanist and a similarly amped government agent that made me wonder what it would be like if Park got to handle a live-action version of notable manga and anime series My Hero Academia, considering the overlap in themes of how one uses the power they possess. In any case, while The Other One isn’t as memorable as Subversion; it’s narrative a little too unfocused on its central character and too busy building worlds to really care about her. That said, where the film ends could make for the start of a solid trilogy.
Only time will tell.
The Witch 2: The Other One Special Features:
- Behind the Scenes (4:17)
- One (1) Trailer (1:47)
- Three (3) Well Go USA Previews
- English Language Available
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital November 8th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Well Go USA The Witch 2: The Other One webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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