That’s a pretty massive number. But if you’re like me, numbers floating in from the ether, even ones so impressive as to have decimal points and multiple sixes, don’t do much to construct a reality. And so, we revise and supplement our initial observation:
As per the Korean Film Council’s electronic KOBIS service: Kim Han-min’s local epic Roaring Currents has sold 10.266 million tickets. As per a 2013 population census, there are approximately 50, 219, 669 people in South Korea. Roughly 20% of the country’s population has seen Roaring Currents.
And the film is only fourteen days old.
In its ten day lifespan, the film is within shouting distance of dethroning Disney’s Frozen (10.295 million sales to date) as the top-selling film of 2014. And while Avatar still holds the record for the top film of all time (13.3 million sales), it’s not blasphemy to think Roaring Currents might reach or surpass that humble number: it’s already staked out the record for largest opening day (680,000 tickets sold), biggest weekday (980,000) and largest single day score (1.25 million).
That a film as gargantuan as Roaring Currents should be so handy at smashing records is no fluke. The film, directed and co-written by Kim Han-min (2011’s War of the Arrows) details the remarkable naval victories of legendary Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin’s thirteen ships against a Japanese fleet of nearly 330. The film is garnering praise for its massive scope as well as work in humanizing the until-now larger than life figure of Sun-sin: “We all know that Yi Sun-sin is a great hero, but the film depicts him less as a hero and more as a human being with fear and weakness,” says film critic Jeon Chan-il.
That portrayal is undoubtedly aided by the performance of Choi Min-sik, the actor who proved his mettle and swallowed a few tentacles in 2003’s Oldboy. With the overwhelming box-office performance of Roaring Currents coupled with his first appearance in an English-language film in Luc Besson‘s Lucy, we can only hope Choi’s profile continues to blaze. In the meantime, I’ll retreat to my cold coffee and imagine a Kim helmed, Choi-starring version of Macbeth set on celluloid and be grateful that the monolithic epic film continues to be made world-wide.
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