War movies are for the most part serious and bleak without as much as a hint of comedy but not so in this case. Pyongyang Heroes manages to weave humor and slapstick into a war narrative and does so with gusto. The historical backdrop is explored for all it is worth with lavish armors and the whole ensemble of epic battles expertly produced in the best tradition of the genre.
The conflict erupts between Korean warring Korean kingdoms and the Chinese forces that are patiently waiting for a chance to invade the weakened peninsula. Diplomatic screen smokes are thrown around to serve complicated power manipulations that would surely add to the serious subject theme in any other movie but Pyongyang Heroes revels in being the exception: the Koreans often foil the Chinese by acts of clever obfuscation that including playing the part of the fool and at times being nothing short of clueless.
As a result every strata of character is involved in showing the absurdities inherent to war: from the reluctant peasant turned soldier who finds love on the battlefield to the wise sage who appears slumber through most of the war councils without forgetting the petty bickering within the strongholds themselves.
The comedy is supported by very competent action scenes that can be rather original including such tactics as covering up the enemy with honey and then releasing teeming hives of hives on the sticky soldiers. It is a situation that lends itself to mockery despite the destruction of lives.
Which is not to say that the movie is morbid. It invests in silly antics but not so much at the expense of horrible carnage as despite of it. And there are plenty of serious moments that gather momentum at the climax. In fact the movie ends with an exordium that can even been seen in the light of the contemporary situation if the divided Koreas.
Pyongang Heroes is an oddity in the way the tackles the subject of war and for that it is refreshing and worth watching.