Item is a 2019 South Korean television series based on the Kakao Page webtoon series of the same name and set to be a mystery fantasy drama. It stars Ju Ji-hoon, Jin Se-yeon, Kim Kang-woo and Kim Yoo-ri. It aired on MBC from February 11 to April 2, 2019.

Synopsis

A prosecutor and a criminal profiler work together in their attempts to decipher the secrets behind various mysterious items which have special powers.

Fantasy crime thriller drama about items with mysterious magical powers and the people who wield them.

Review : by txc_vertigo (link)

The Good:

(1) The opening works great as a hook to get the viewers invested in the show. It shows that they spent a fair bit of time and effort on getting the opening to be polished and eye catching.

(2) The set design is actually really cool for the most part. There is a good blend of physical sets and CGI backgrounds which make for intriguing scenery in a lot of scenes. This is great as many of the places throughout the drama become memorable and recognizable so that the viewer is aware of where the scenes are taking place without needing many establishing shots. There is one glaring exception that comes to mind and it is this abomination of a magic castle that looks like it is straight out of a Playstation game when seen up close. Otherwise, the creators did a good job with the sets and the backgrounds.

(3) I never thought I would make a parallel between these two series given the difference in quality, but the profiling scenes in the show are really cool in how they are shot and visualized, and it reminds me of the profiling scenes in Stranger (2017).

(4) Some of the special effects themselves look really good. All the particle effects they use for face swapping and sucking someone’s soul out look really good for drama standards.

(5) Some of the acting performances are pretty good. Kim Min Kyo who plays the inmate Bang Hak Jae only has a minor part but radiates more charisma than anyone else on the show. Lee Jung Hyun who plays the gangster Go Dae Soo also shows off some acting prowess. Everyone else is decent except for the the first and second female lead whose acting is really dull especially when they have to play against each other in the same scene.

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(6) The soundtrack is pretty good and fits the series well. It’s by no means the best soundtrack of the year but it definitely gets the job done.

The Bad:

I’m going to be completely honest. This is the worst drama I have ever seen. As I didn’t want that to be a baseless accusation, I tried to go to the bottom of why I really cannot stand it.

(1) This drama is a very good example of a production being in way over their heads. The premise is really cool but the project is way too ambitious for what they are working with. I actually took the time to sit down and read the original webtoon also called “Item” that the drama is based on to find out if it is any better. There is no translation of it so it took me a while since my Korean could definitely be better, but I got through it. I can confidently say that the story is more suited to the pages of a comic. This didn’t need an adaptation and the adaptation does not do the source material justice.

Usually, this type of a story is usually a bit of an adaptation nightmare. Just look at how many superhero movies have been complete trainwrecks for Hollywood productions to adapt from the comic books. Yes, there are movies from the MCU and Nolan’s Batman that are excellent, but there is also a fair share of Fantastic Four, Affleck’s Daredevil and plenty of other misses. This is despite Hollywood’s astronomical resources and budgets. Now imagine having to make an equally difficult adaptation, but needing to produce a 16 hour long series, in a shorter timespan, with less resource. That is how you end up with a product like MBC’s Item.

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(2) This show starts off decently, albeit a little slow, but soon goes off the tracks really quickly as they just keep introducing more and more magical items with different effects. The powers of some items are extremely inconsistent and suddenly do something completely different from what has already been established, simply because it is convenient.

(3) The conflict between the hero and the villain is poorly written. The antagonist is just way too overpowered. At the same time he is also poorly developed. A properly developed antagonist character has more character depth than being extremely strong and a more complex motivation than being really mean. Good thing the protagonist has the strongest plot armor ever. He can be bleeding out of his mouth due to damaged internal organs and not go to the hospital and walk around like nothing ever happened a couple of hours later. Seems legit. Most of the time when he is in a sticky situation he gets out of it through a deus ex machina; for instance, someone completely unintroduced showing up with powers that haven’t been established in the middle of nowhere on a country road no matter how unlikely it seems.

(4) The editing and direction of some of the action scenes is really rough. It’s hard to follow character positions, what is really going on and who is doing what due to poor planning in either the form of choreography, storyboarding and direction as well as poor execution in either camera work or the editing process.

For a fantasy series with a lot of potential for cool battles with mysterious magic, there is very little of that and a lot of gunfights. On top of that, there is a lack of understanding how guns work, resulting in some poor looking gun-firing scenes. For one, they rarely add a muzzle flash for when a gun is shot. The choreography of the people being shot looks quite clumsy and awkward as they just kind of stumble backwards. No one ever cocks their weapon as they apparently all run around with their weapons with the safety off. We never see shell casing pop out off a firearm even though multiple shots are fired. On top of that, we see the usual problems that film encounters with firearms. The weapons barely have any recoil. Ammunition is never a problem. Everyone fires non-suppressed guns without ear protection. I don’t expect full realism, I just want the filmmakers to try somewhat when they make a action series involving guns. In this drama, they just didn’t care and there is no good plot reason for the guns to be completely unrealistic like for instance being in a computer world, such as in The Matrix (1999).

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(5) Some of the special effects are a bit poorly executed which results in them breaking the immersion quite a bit. The largest problem regarding the special effects is with lighting and shadows. Things that are computer generated that emit light should act like a real light source and spread light on the surroundings and make objects cast shadows. It isn’t enough to just generate the object you want on screen digitally, you also have to generate the effects the object has on its surroundings.

Score: 2,0 / 10 – This drama ended up being pretty terrible as the show makers tried to create a show that was way too difficult to execute for what they were working with.

5/5 - (3 votes)

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