SECTOR 7: A Big Fish Story, 3-D Korean-Style

As many critics have noted, Sector 7‘s plot line can be summed up as “Alien on an oil rig.”  From the tough-chick heroine to hints of corporate intrigue to a big monster chasing people through an industrial environment, all the key elements are here.  It also gives a nod to contemporary big-budget film trends by slathering the proceedings in multiple layers of CGI.  Unfortunately for monster movie fans, everything goes awry in this movie – and the end result shows the viewer how one shouldn’t make a blockbuster monster movie by failing on multiple levels.

The title Sector 7 refers to a distant stretch of ocean where an oil rig is struggling without success to bring up oil from the depths of the sea.  The group’s driving force is Hae Jun (Ha Ji Won), a snarling tomboy who has personal reasons for wanting this mission to be a success.  It seems the corporation backing their efforts is about to shut things down until Jeong Man (Ahn Sung Ki) shows up.  He is Hae Jun’s uncle and a good company man who makes everyone happy by talking the corporation into giving them a few more months.

Unfortunately for everyone, they are about to bring up something more valuable and more dangerous than oil.  A giant monster appears aboard the ship and begins working its way through the rig’s small crew as the survivors try to figure out how to stop it.  Before all is said and done, there will be more than one chase through the rig’s corridors as well as some unexpected stunts involving a motorcycle… and explosions.  Lots of explosions.

The plot, though highly derivative, is serviceable enough.  Unfortunately, the script that utilizes it is a mess.  The characters are all cardboard cutout-style archetypes (the tough chick, the unlikeable boss, the nerd, the nice-guy love interest, etc.) and none of them are ever developed in any interesting or unusual ways.  The plotting is similarly messy, fumbling plot threads like the corporation’s interest in the monster running around the ship and the tragedy that made the heroine so tough.  Much to-do is made of the monster having flammable blood but no rules are ever established to explain how this can be used to defeat it.  Elsewhere, the script includes bizarrely botched scenes like a moment where one character heroically sacrifices himself for a teammate… only for that teammate to get killed seconds later.

The performances don’t help:  Ahn Sung Ki is the only one gives a subtle performance here, with everyone else tackling their stereotypical characterizations by either camping it up or running around yelling at the top of their lungs.  Ji-Hun Kim’s direction makes things worse by going for the most cliched, shrill, mock-Hollywood presentation possible for the story.  The end result tries way too hard to be a big, clattery blockbuster in the Michael Bay mold – and that choice negates any of the atmosphere or suspense the story could have had.

That said, the film’s biggest mistake is its extreme reliance upon CGI effects.  The publicity for Sector 7 proudly trumpeted that 80% the film involved the use of CGI effects, with a heavy emphasis on green-screened effects.  Unfortunately, the quality of these digital effects ranges from barely passable to howlingly bad.  Memorably awful moments include a “romantic” motorcycle race atop the rig with the kind of rear-projection effects not seen since the Studio System era and exterior shots of the rig that look like something from a cheap video game.  The creature effects are competent enough but the design of the creature is another in a long string of blah, unmemorable-looking CGI monsters.

In short, Sector 7 takes a simple monster movie plot and tries to blow it up into blockbuster territory with no success.  As a result, it looks and feels like the world’s most expensive SyFy T.V. Original.

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