A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Space Sweepers is a 2021 epic sci-fi movie in which a ragtag group of space pirates become unlikely heroes who must save Earth from nuclear destruction. There are some violent scenes, primarily fighting involving large and heavily armed members of an elite space police force who, in one scene, shoot up a dance club while trying to take back a missing child with extraordinary powers. Immigrants are shown getting killed by this space force. Beatings with punches and kicks result in blood and wounds, and there's fighting with high-tech weaponry and taser guns, plus a stabbing death and a shooting death. There is also the sci-fi violence of epic space battles between rival ships. One of the main characters drinks from a flask, and we see some drinking and drunkenness in the dance club. Constant profanity includes "f--k." It's mostly in Korean, with some English and other languages, and English subtitles.
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What's the story?
In SPACE SWEEPERS, the spaceship Victory has four down-on-their-luck crewmembers trying to survive a dying world circa 2092. Earth has now almost fully succumbed to the ravages of climate change, and while a select few now live in a new bucolic orbiting space home made by the giant corporation UTS, the Victory crewmembers -- Captain Jang, Mr. Park, Tae-ho, and the android, Bubs -- are barely making a living as "space sweepers": renegades who fly around Earth trying to collect space debris to sell for money. After beating out other space sweepers to an abandoned shuttle, they find a 7-year-old girl who was injected with nanotech android qualities. According to news reports, her name is Dorothy, and it's said that she was taken by a terrorist group, and now there is a large reward from UTS for her return. Desperate for money, the four concoct a scheme to return Dorothy, but it doesn't take long for these hardened pirates to warm up to Dorothy, who is actually named Kot-nim and draws pictures of each of them, restores the life to their tomato plant, and charms each of them with her childlike kindness. After failed attempts to turn Kot-nim over to UTS, they learn the real reason why UTS, led by the evil CEO James Sullivan, wants to reclaim her. Sullivan wants to re-create Mars so that it's habitable to humans, but only the most elite humans, and so Kot-nim must be destroyed by pairing her technology with a hydrogen bomb blown up over the Earth, thus killing the billions who still remain. After years of being broken by their lives and fortunes to the point where they have only been out for themselves, the crewmembers of Victory are now the unlikely heroes in stopping Sullivan and saving Kot-nim and the Earth.
Is it any good?
This is an excellent sci-fi movie. It isn't easy to pull off the balancing act needed to make an incredibly thoughtful, exciting, and entertaining epic sci-fi movie and then maintain that balance for over two hours. Space Sweepers does just that. It finds that sweet spot between action and reflection, commentary and space battles, character backstories and archetypal heroes. It's also a large-budget blockbuster Korean sci-fi movie that pulls out all the stops in terms of stunning special effects and detailed fight sequences, both hand-to-hand and in spaceship dogfights. Movies this long (or longer) almost always give the viewer the feeling that there's some down time that doesn't really need to be there, but there's nothing unnecessary here -- everything has its purpose and place in the overall story.
The structure, the pacing, the acting -- all of it's excellent. And while there are certainly some homages to the sci-fi classics of the past (Blade Runner being just one example), it never comes across as derivative. Unlike other epics or even sci-fi or fantasy movies of average length, there's never the feeling of getting a thousand things thrown at you at once about these characters and the world they inhabit. Like the best of science fiction, it's a movie that can be enjoyed on many levels, and should reward repeated viewings. If there isn't a sequel already in the works, there should be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Space Sweepers. How does it compare to that of other sci-fi movies? Was it necessary, or gratuitous? Why?
What are the qualities in this film that make it an "epic" movie?
Science fiction stories often are ways in which the creators try to communicate pertinent messages about contemporary concerns. What contemporary concerns are being addressed in this movie?
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