Starring: Haruka Ayase, Keisuke Koide
Director: Kwak Jae-young
Category: IIA (Japanese)
By basing Cyborg She on the relationship between a wimpish geek and a wacky, physically overwhelming girl, Kwak Jae-yong seems to have no qualms about plundering the ideas of My Sassy Girl, the 2001 film which propelled him - and with him mainstream South Korean cinema in general - to global prominence.
But Cyborg She is no simple repeat of a proven formula: Kwak reaches beyond his romantic realm to deliver a film that mixes rom-com and sepia-toned melodrama with elements drawn from Superman, Sinking of Japan and even the guardian-from-the-future manga of Doraemon.
The film's first 20 minutes are somewhat misleading as an indication of what follows, as nerdy protagonist Jiro (Keisuke Koide) reminisces on his birthday about a meeting he had a year before with a feisty, eccentric young woman (Haruka Ayase, right), with whom he spent a fun evening out. But just when the film seems set to slip into the mould of a conventional love story, Cyborg She reveals its true colours: the woman appears to Jiro again, this time as an android sent by Jiro from 61 years in the future to save him from being paralysed in a shooting.
What follows is light drama that flits between Jiro's newfound domestic bliss with his partner (including predictable gags about the cyborg's physical attributes), the extreme ways she reacts to Jiro's bullying teacher and sexually predatory friends, and her repeated rescues of people from deadly catastrophes.
And after a tear-jerking segment in which Jiro revisits his earthquake-ravaged hometown with the help of a time warp created by his robot-girlfriend, Cyborg She shifts gears again, moving into CGI-heavy disaster movie mode before a twist which, unfortunately, stretches to the limit the logic behind all the time-travelling.
Kwak's ambitious attempt to draw elements from the widest array of genres possible finds him overreaching himself and making a sprawling monster out of what could have been an entertaining film.
Cyborg She opens today