23 comments on ““War of the Arrows” aka “최종병기 활” (2011) – Korean Martial Art/ Action

    • Hehehe…. Yes, it ended up being much longer than my usual reviews, thanks to Elpeevio’s participation. When you do get the chance to read it, don’t forget to take a peek over at his Blog too for even more info and fun with this one….. 😉

      Such fun doing a “team effort” for this one….

      • I finally read it yesterday 🙂 but couldn’t leave comment from my mobile because your link has a symbol on it.

        Anyway…what a detail post…great job Miyuki.
        I haven’t seen any Korean martial art before, I didn’t know it was also good. Too bad you mentioned here that the first part is a dragging a bit. I think I should start my Korean martial art from Musa as it is mentioned as your favorite one 😉

      • Oh yes!! “Musa’s” a very good film…. very epic and sweeping like some of the bigger Chinese swordplay films. I think that you would really like it, Novia. It’s definitely worth a look if you can find a copy.

        Symbol on my link?…. Ahhhh… I think that’s the Korean lettering for the movie’s tile in Korean. I usually try to put that in my review headers so that people from those places might find my review easier in search engine results….

    • Worth a peek when you get the chance, but not my all time favorite Korean action film…. that honor still belongs to “Musa”. 😉

  1. Wow, it is so odd seeing my words up there on your site. It has been a fun experience, and worked far better than I thought it might to be honest. Thanks again for doing this little cross-blog review Neko. My only regret that it was for, as you say, a rather minor film. I have an idea for something else we can do that might appeal, but let us leave it a good few months, if indeed you are interested!

    I was quite surprised about the length of the review on my side. I usually try and deliberatly limit myself to 800-1000 words (which always looks tiny when writing it, but then seems to fill up the screen when published), but this one got above the 2000 word mark!

    • It was really fun! I’d certainly be up for some more shared stuff… and whenever you are ready we’ll definitely give it another go. It’s amazing how our movie watching seems to synchronize at times… almost eerie in the coincidence of it.

      Hahaha!! I know what you mean about length…. my usual reviews run between 1400-1700 words and this one is over 2700!! 🙂

  2. I’ve been wanting to watch some Korean films since reading a couple of Korean books which really ignited an interest that hadn’t quite been there before. I didn’t really know too much about Korea at all beyond what it is now.

    So I’ll take your advice also and add Musa to my list. I haven’t seen many martial arts films… ok, really I’ve seen none as the one I did watch I fell asleep during so I’m not sure that counts!

    • Korean cinema is so modern as sophisticated…. I’m thinking there are probably lots of films you’d really enjoy there. “Musa” is a good one if you like those tragic melodramatic “doomed” love stories done with a Martial Art plot…. very “Crouching Tiger” or “House of Flying Daggers” in it’s feeling.

      • Oh dear, really? I think I fell asleep through both! That was a while ago though, I think my tastes have grown to be more appreciative of different genres.

      • For me… Martial Art films are like the American “Western” genre, with lots of similarities. Stories about honor, justice, love, and all the things that define a people and their history, with a little “larger than life” embellishment thrown in for fun.

        They aren’t always everybody’s cup of tea, but this wee Catgirl is a sucker for these…… 😉

  3. I’ll be honest, martial arts films were a bit snore-fest for me until relatively recently. I’m of the opinion you either dig them immediately, or they are something you eventually learn to respect as your mind becomes more open to the concepts of honour and sacrifice that are often at their core (there’s much more to them than the ol’ chop sockey).

    I’m not really sure that Korea is a huge hotbed of martial arts cinema though — but as a rule it’s korea that produces the most sophisticated and technically well made cinema in Asia. I’m intrigued Neko chose Musa, it’s not one of my favourites, though I can see its charms. I’d personally go for something a little lighter to start — ‘the legend of the shadowless sword’, or ‘arahan’ are great fun, and share the same strong female lead (yoon so-yi). If you are a bit more open minded and metaphysical, then “duelist” is one of the most amazing experiences I have had with Korean film — it is martial arts with so much more.

    And if it helps — I found CTHD and Flying Daggers utterly unbearable! The former is pretty enough, but merely a homage to better films, and the latter I have tried to watch 4 times and never once stayed awake!

    Ok, think I’ve taken over these comments enough! Though only because no one ever comments over at my site!

    • Replying to my own comment now! Just checked out Fiona’s two blogs… Hello fellow south of englander (not a word, but should be), and more importantly ‘in the mood for love’ fan 🙂

      Anyway, the point of this comment was that Neko and I have been discussing some other ways we can share some content between our blogs, and Fiona’s desire to try something Korean got me to thinking… What about a list of films from the main Asian territories that we would consider A good way to dive in if you wanted to explore this kind of film? A taster menu if you will. It doesn’t have to be the best, but more a gateway showing what is possible?

      • Hmmmm? Now that’s an idea… Sort of our own “Must See” list of films. I can see that as a great post possibility.

        Say to make it more challenging, we limit the choices to 3 films from each country/ region with our reasoning as to why you just have to see it for yourself.

  4. Yeah – that kind of thing. Not so much a ‘best of’ or ‘my favourite movies’, more a list of films for those wanting to make the leap into such films, but unsure or even scared to start. I’m thinking 3 HK/PRC, 3 Korean, 3 Japanese, and then one from somewhere else (though depends on what you consider Taiwan to be). I’ll write something, and mail you it tomorrow probably 🙂

  5. Hello, I’m from Korea. ^^
    Your post was very impressive and well analyzed.
    When reading your post, I found some your questions to request.

    I think I have some answers to your questions ^^

    your questions
    1 : Here we get acquainted with a fairly stupid law set forth by the Koreans that declares any citizen of Chosun a traitor if they cross that river into China… even if they are taken across unwillingly. To return means execution. No exceptions. How stupid a law is that? At first, my sweetie Carolyn couldn’t believe we were reading the subtitles right on this one. Grrrr…. stupid Korean Emperor.

    2 : It was not just Carolyn who was a bit confused about this. It is mentioned a couple of times – cross the border and you cannot return. I mean really – how would anyone know? It is not as if there are passports and border control is it? And no lines marking where exactly Korea ends all around the country. Of course, dramatically it does up the sense of danger!

    These two questions are correspondind each other, I think.
    The “stupid law” you mentioned didnt exist, neither in this movie nor in real history, as a conclusion.

    Maybe this misunderstanding came from the mistakes of English subtitle of some scenes. This may made English user audiences confused. In my memory, the scene which is making misunderstandind is when the Korean interpreter was forced by Manchurian soldiers to interpret Manchurian lang into Korean, before they were taken across the Yalu river border. There, he said like this : “If you cross the border river, you will be traitors of country!”.
    In my opinion, the reason why he interpreted(actually he said as he likes regardless of what Manchurian general said) like that is he wanted to make Joseon captives be alert. He is also one of Joseon citizens. The destiny of Korean captives was clear, he knew that. They will be slaves under Manchurian masters or be sold to international slave markets. If they once cross the river, they cannot come back to Korea. That means, they cannot be Korean king’s people anymore. It represents “disloyalty” to the king, even if they were taken across the border unwillingly, from the view of confucianism. So that’s why the interpreter said like that to explain desperate situation of them, to make themselves be alert, before being taken to foreign land.

    I can say with confidence that there was no such a law made by king, to excute or expel out the returned his own people. In fact, he had nothing to do but to surrender to the Manchrian king, Hong-taiji, even if he wanted to take his people back to Korea. (Korean king, In-jo, had to bow down upon his knees humbly toward Manchurian king, after Korea was defeated in the war, and had to send his prices including his crown prince to Manchuria as the hostages… This event is the only case that Korean king himself was forced to do like this to foreign king in all Korean history, even though Korea has been invaded many times…)

    Kidnapped Korean people in this Manchurian war were more than 200 thousands during this Manchurian war. Kidnapping Joseon people was something like the cost of the mercy(?) of Manchurians to conserve Joseon dynasty and the territory of Korea, from the sense of Manchurians. Manchurain Qing nation grew bigger ad bigger and conquered many Chinese lands in early 1600’s. Manchurians were small in numbers, so they needed labors to agriculture vast lands they conquered. Most of all, Manchurians were half nomadic people and didnt have good agricultural skills, so they took solutions to kidnap Koreans who had good farming skills into Manchuria during war time.

    Then why did Manchurians first invaded Korea, before they conquer mainland China? Because they wanted to make their rear side stable and safe before they conquer China. At that time, China was Ming empire, Han Chinese country. Manchurians were not Chinese at tht time. They were just northern nomadic barbarians to Han Chinese. Manchurians’ final aim was to conquer mainland China and establish non-Chinese empire(Qing) in vast land of China, like their ancestors, Jurchens accomplished in the 12th century(Jin).

    But Joseon Korea was firm ally of Ming China. Manchurian Qing tried to break the ally deplomatically, but failed. Korea was very stubborn. It had no attention to break ally with Han Chinese country, Ming empire. Korea had been looking down on Manchurians as non-civilized barbarians. Among Korean leading confucious elites and nobles at that time, they even had worshiped Han Chinese culture and ideologies for centuries like frantic, because Han Chinese culture was the most advanced and sophisticated standard in east Asia at that time. So keeping ally with Han Chinese Ming empire and fighting against Manchurian barbarians were regarded as “justice” for international order, regardless of international power reality. Manchurians knew that Korea will take side of their enemy Ming China, so they finally decided to invade Korea first, and humiliate Korean king entirely not to help Ming empire when Manchurians fight against Ming.

    That was really stupid work Korean leading groups and king had commited. Even they always insisted fighting against barbarians, they didnt prepare the war, only saying no actions, even though they could easily expect Manchurians will invade. They relied very deeply on weak Ming empire psychologically, and this kind of illusion made blind of Korean international policies at that time. There is no assumption in the history, but…. if Korea had prepared for the war, the damage could have been minimized, and kidnapping of Korean common people have not occured…….

    Anyway this movie describes well how traditional Korean archery is.
    The director of this movie, Kim Han-min have learned Korean traditional archery, and famous for this field.
    I’m also learner of Korean traditional bow for many years. So if you have questions, I wanna talk with you more any time, Thanks

    P.S. Archery was main weapon in Korean war history. Korean bow had been proteted the Korean nation from foreign invasions. Korea has had small population compared to China and other countries, so Koreans has endeavored to improve long distant missile weapons. When foreign invasion occured, Koreans abandoned cities and moved(refuged) into strong and high mountain fortresses, not leaving any food for enemies, fighted firing long distant weapons, until enemies retreat. This was the basic strategy of Korean people in the past.
    And…. Korean composite bow is well compared with Long Bow of England.

    • My goodness… Nice to get such a long comment from one of my Gentle Visitors! 🙂

      Ahhhhh…. your explanation of the history behind the film is truly appreciated. Being an American I always feel a bit like an outsider looking into a strange fishbowl sometimes when I’m watching these. That sort of subtitle translation problem happens quite a bit for me when I’m watching my foreign film goodies and some help from a native fan to clear things up is wonderful.

      You do traditional archery? That’s soooo neat! My wife and I practice Tai Chi sword (although I’m still just a clumsy novice…) and it’s such a fun and relaxing pastime. Please feel free to drop by the Litterbox and talk some more sometime! 🙂

  6. Oh, I wanna delete my 1st post. there are some mistakes… But I cant delete it… How can I…?

  7. Wow, you are learning Taichi art of China ! Wonderful ! You are learning Asian martial art~!
    Is Tai chi popular in US?

    Thank you for the nice reply ^^
    I read my post again just now , but there is still some mistakes in spelling, grammar, so on…. sorry, haha

    I’m a mania of epic history films regardless of country and era, including my country’s history ^^
    So I d like to share must-look film list especially dealing with Korean history ^^

    Have you enjoyed another film(2014) made by same director of “War of Arrows”?

    This one : The Admiral – Roaring Current 명량 (2014)

    This film deals with one of famous naval battle in Japanese invasion of Korea(Imjin war 1592~1597)
    This Japanese invasion was just before the Manchurian war(1630’s~40’s).
    End of 16th & early 17th centuries were tough time to Korean people…. Japanese invaded from South, 30tears later, Manchurians from North…

    And… main character of the film is Korean admiral “Yi Sun-shin”, who is the most famous hero in Korean history. He is the 1st hero to be acknowledged in Korean society. Even some Korean kids who have no interest in history select him as the “Hero” of our history.
    During Japanese invasion, he made the “complete victory” legend (36 battles 36 wins, no loss) in the sea until his death. He protected seas of Korea firmly from Japanese navy, so he cut supply lines of Japanese army during the war.

    The naval battle in this film is the most legendary naval battle. 13 Korean battle ships vs. 330 Japanese battle ships. And he won this battle. This is true in real history.

    In this film, you can see the private character and pains of admiral Yi. Private anguish how to protect country with destroyed navy, and how to overwhelm the restrains from the king (At that time, admiral Yi was already hero among common Joseon peoples, so the king who abandoned capital and fled to north when Japanese invaded felt jealous against him…)

    I think you can enjoy it. I strongly recommend this film ^^

    • I have always wanted to learn a Martial Art since I was a girl, but the more combative arts have never been something I felt comfy with. Luckily for me the college where my wife works has lots of people who do Tai Chi so when the opportunity came up to take classes I was all for it. 🙂

      “The Admiral – Roaring Current” is actually already out here in the US on DVD and I picked it up already but haven’t gotten to watch it yet…. my “To Watch” pile of DVD’s always seems dauntingly high. It’s definitely one I look forward to watching though… with luck maybe by the week’s end.

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