A man and a woman are sitting on a bench overlooking a beautiful lake. But the view they enjoy is an illusion. And so is their relationship. Because hes a hard-edged soldier, and shes a cyborg with only three days left to live. Welcome to Natural City.
The biggest and most impressive Korean action movie since 2009: Lost Memories, comes in the shape of this Blade Runner inspired science fiction story, about a dark future where cyborgs are an integrated part of society, where the world still tries to recover in the wake of a great war, and where everybody dreams of being someplace else.
In this world we meet the moody R, member of an elite team of soldiers, known simply as MPs. His mind is preoccupied because the woman he loves is a cyborg. Her name is Ria, and she will expire in 78 hours...
Meanwhile a team of combat cyborgs, led by the villainous Cyper, attack the medical facility NEUCOM. They are searching through DNA records from the entire population. The MP soldiers are dispatched to deal with the situation. But the operation ends in chaos, and several soldiers are killed, partly due to negligence by R.
R spends all his money trying to find a way to save Ria. With little more than three days left of her life span, her mind is slowly starting to deteriorate, and Rs cool exterior slowly begins to crumple. He seeks the help of Dr. Giro, a disgraced genius, who has pioneered the field of cyborg technology. Dr. Giro has found a way to transfer cyborg memories into a human. But the catch is that a certain part of the DNA material, known af the L-sequence, must match between donor and recipient. Only one person matches Rias L-sequence. The girl Cyon.
R begins to search for this girl. Little does he know that his every move is followed by the cop Noma, who has been assigned to investigate the incident at NEUCOM. He also doesnt know that he has a part to play in Cypers secret agenda.
Natural City is an incredible film. It manages to be both large scale action movie, moody science fiction and intimate love story.
Sure enough, one could argue that it borrows a little too much from Blade Runner, because theres more than a few similarities in the stories. But in my humble opinion theres one crucial difference between the two films: While Blade Runner seems at tad cold, Natural City is not afraid to throw itself into a magnitude of emotions, and that gives it the upper hand. Dont get me wrong, I love Blade Runner to death, but I never have tears in my eyes when it ends. I cant say the same for Natural City.
The main character R is a strange person.
When people say they dont like the film, they usually mention this character as part of the reason, and I perfectly understand that. Hes clearly not a conventional hero (Im not even sure he IS a hero). Hes inconsistent, his motivations seem unclear, and hes a bastard most of the time! In other words, hes just like a regular person. And thats the whole point. When hes lying on that bench by the lake, head resting in Ria's lap, everything seems so clear, but once hes confronted with Cyon, he hesitates, and suddenly he doesnt know what the hell he wants. Thats an interesting situation to put your main character in, because you run the risk of alienating everyone in the audience. To me, its liberating to watch a character that isnt in any way clear-cut.
Theres also been some complaints about the cold nature of R and Rias relationship, but heres the thing: First of all her mental capacity is severely diminishing. She is close to being a vegetable, and secondly, R is in denial about whats going to happen. If he treats her as if hes never going to see her again, hell have to face that fact, and he cant do that.
Every frame in Natural City is a work of art. The beautiful production design alone is reason enough to watch the film. This looks like a $200 million Hollywood production, strike that... it looks BETTER.
The film only has three large actionscenes.
Fans of 2009: Lost Memories should lap them right up, but they should also be cautious, because its really not that kind of a movie. All things being equal, this is a drama. A rock n roll kick-ass high-tech future drama, but a drama all the same.
Still, the sight of SWAT-like soldiers mowed down by rapid fire in glorious slow-motion is a treat by any standard. And by the way, the film shifts in and out of slow-motion within the same clip, the same way Brotherhood of the Wolf did, and I just love that style.
But in the midst of this impressive future world, the high-tech gadgets and the violence, the film never loses sight of the characters and their tragedy. They provide the core of the story, and thats exactly why it works.
In the end this is about few people struggling to make sense of their lives. In that way its not that far-fetched after all.