2 November 2016 | AppleEye2U
Sweeping Romance but Love Hurts
This is definitely one of the best k-dramas I've seen, but be warned if you aren't used to the Korean way of story telling. There are certain clichés in every k-drama, including this one, that may look strange to you at first:
1) Love Triangle: there is always a lover who sits and watches the love of his life fall for the lead actor; 2) Extended close ups: characters stare at each other for a very long time until the music stops; 3) The Wrist grab: they have all kind of meanings like ' just stop' , 'don't go,'you're mine'; 4) Drunkeness: usually a heartbroken character trying to kill the pain inside; 5) Accidental kisses: the lovers accidentally fall or bump into each other; 6) Raining or snowing scene: probably good for dramatic and cinematic effect; 7)Secrets & Lies: the lovers hide certain facts from each other, because they don't want to hurt each others feelings, making things worse; 8)Sickness & Health: characters nurse their loved ones personally back into health; 9) The back hug or piggy back: the male gives the female a heartfelt back hug or carries her on his back, when she's injured or tired, or just to be sweet; 10) Separations: lovers have to be separated, always one of them leaves, sometimes without notice; 11)Kissing Scene shot from several camera angles: sex is only implied,never shown in k-drama, all we get is The Kiss; 12) Cliffhangers: in order to hook you every single episode.
Are you still there? Then you will be rewarded with feisty girls, pretty boy actors (flower boys), excellent cinematography, catchy music scores and sweeping stories like Moon Lovers.
The plot: During a total eclipse of the sun, a 25-year-old 21st century woman, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji Eun), is transported back in time to Goryeo Dynasty. She wakes up in the year 941, in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo and there, she encounters the many royal princes of the ruling family. She initially falls in love with the gentle and warm 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul), and later with Wang So (Lee Joon Gi), the mutilated 4th Prince who hides his scarred face behind a mask. He's surnamed "wolf dog", because he had to fight wolves when he was still young and was treated badly as a hostage. Now he likes to foster his image as a fearsome beast. There's a fight for the throne going on. Hae Soo finds herself caught between it all. Thanks to her history lessons at school she comes to realize Wang So will win this battle finally. He'll become the future king of Goryeo, and a bloody tyrant at that. Soo loves So, but she also fears him. Can she change her lover into a better ruler in time?
The Good: The first meeting of the 'Moon Lovers', Hae Soo and Wang So, sets the tone for the whole series: old fashioned romance but a love that hurts. There's the black Wolf Prince riding his war horse, first endangering Hae Soo but saving her as well by lifting her in the saddle in front of him. Then there's the extended closeup of their faces, sitting opposite each other, bouncing up and down, having their eyes on each other while the music plays their love theme. The next scene he seems afraid of his own feelings and So drops Soo to the ground. Their love is painful, literally.
Leading man Lee Joon Gi is simply the best actor available for that kind of TV making. The minute he appears on the screen I am glued to his face and facial expressions despite his mask, that renders all kinds of emotions like joy, pain, embarrassment, hate. Notwithstanding his well performed fighting scenes, he's in danger of becoming a modern Rudolph Valentino, with female fans only. I hope he'll get the chance to proof himself in less romantic roles playing more tormented characters like the lead in Man on High Heels (2014)for example.
The Bad: Moon Lovers is a remake of the Chinese series 'Scarlet Heart' with 35 episodes. The original version could handle all the princes and their love interests. The Korean production however should have cut some story lines to flesh out the characters of Soo and So, who are the protagonists, giving them more time to develop their romance. Now we were misled thinking Wang Wook was Soo's Prince Charming. Kang Ha Neul gives a stunning performance, so it was no punishment to watch him stealing screen time from Lee Joon Gi. But the story lines became too difficult to tell, leaving plot holes until the very end. Also there are still questions unanswered: is this all about(moon)love? Or altering history? Who knows?
Nevertheless I would highly recommend this series. I was hooked for 20 episodes, hoping for a sequel.