The curtain has come down on Disney’s answer to Squid Game, the smash-hit Korea YA superhero drama Moving. After becoming Disney+ and Hulu’s most-watched Korean drama of all time after just seven days of release, the series released its three-part season finale on Wednesday.
Moving is an adaptation of a popular webtoon created by the influential Korean graphic artist Kang Full, whose works have been adapted into numerous Korean films. In his series-writing debut, Kang wrote the screenplay for every one of Moving’s episodes. The show stars some of the biggest names in Korean film and TV, including Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell No. 7), Han Hyo-joo (20th Century Girl) and Zo In-sung (Smugglers) in his long-awaited return to the drama series format. All episodes of Moving’s first season were directed by Park In-je, best known for helming Netflix’s hit Korean zombie series Kingdom.
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Moving tells the story of a group of South Korean spies working to protect their super-powered children from harm and exploitation at the hands of malicious government agencies. Initially recruited because of their extraordinary abilities including flight, instant healing and enhanced senses, the spies disappeared without a trace after being tasked with carrying out increasingly dubious missions. Now with their children exhibiting similar abilities and a dangerous assassin rapidly picking off super-powered individuals, the parents must leave their peaceful lives behind to become the “monsters” they once were.
Across much of Asia (Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and Taiwan), Moving is also Disney’s most watched series of any category, meaning more viewers in the region have consumed the show than Disney’s core franchise series like The Mandalorian. The series has been nominated in six award categories at the Busan International Film Festival’s upcoming Asia Contents Awards & Global OTT Awards.
Shortly before Moving’s finale dropped, The Hollywood Reporter connected with series director Park to discuss the inspirations behind the hit show and where a second season — still unconfirmed by Disney — might take the story.
What were the creative origins of this project for you? And what appealed to you about the original webtoon as material for a TV series?
Well, first of all, I’m not of the webtoon generation. I’m more used to reading graphic novels or Banpo, as we call Korean cartoons in the published format. And so I didn’t really actually read the original webtoon for Moving. I first came across the work through the format of it being already a live-action script. And at that time, actually, my daughter had just been born. So, I was really moved and drawn to the story’s relationship of love between a parent and child. And it was right after I had wrapped up directing Kingdom season two for Netflix, and I wanted to take on a new challenge in a new genre. I was planning to do something on my own, but that’s when I got the script for Moving. As you know, it has a mixture of genres, including teen romance, action, superhero — and very VFX-heavy elements too. So I thought it was worth giving it a go and taking on the challenge. You know, I was born in the 1970s and the films that my generation grew up with were movies like E.T., Back to the Future, Superman. So, in some way, those were all sort of a part of the creative origin of this project for me. I was influenced by those films. And at the same time, I wanted to differentiate what we were creating from the current Marvel films.
That’s interesting. Could you share a little more about why and how you differentiated Moving’s superhero-like elements from the Marvel Universe that everyone knows so well?
Well, basically, the first obvious thing is that compared to the huge blockbuster budgets of Marvel, we had a relatively small budget for these episodes. So, our main mission — within that smaller budget — was to create a set of heroes who were convincing even though the audience is so used to seeing superheroes in the Marvel form. So, we had to be more creative and couldn’t simply lean on technical effects. And we tried to create more grounded heroes because that’s in line with the story of the original webtoon. They are innately different from the Marvel heroes. We wanted them to be more everyday, realistic people. Marvel heroes always act in a certain way, so there was an established superhero style that we could steer away from. You know, they wear suits, they have a certain posture, and they even stretch out their hand in a dramatic way.
In Black Widow, the sister character played by Florence Pugh says to Black Widow, “Why do you always have to land that way, in that pose?” I saw that as a sort of clever self-satirical poke at the way Marvel always depicts its superheroes. There is a consistent style, which even the Marvel Universe itself has acknowledged.
As you mentioned, Moving, like so many great Korean films and series, has remarkable dexterity with genre. There are moments of coming-of-age high school drama, teen romance, conspiracy thriller, superhero movie and even some impressively violent action scenes. Was it challenging to get all of these elements to fit together so smoothly? Or was it simply fun to be able to work in all of those different registers with one project?
I’ll answer your last question first. Yes, this project was a lot of fun as a director. When I choose projects to work on, or when I write my own, what’s important to me is that it’s something I haven’t done before. For example, my first film was about journalism (Moby Dick, 2011). The second film was about a politician (The Mayor, 2017). My third project was Kingdom — zombies. Moving is my fourth work. I’m always very interested in trying different genres. For Moving, the genres were related to how the show was released. We released episodes one through seven as a batch, and then two episodes per week. One of the biggest reasons for doing that was that we wanted it to seem like the audience was watching a film of a different genre each week. If you look at episodes one to seven, they’re all about high school teens and youth romance. Episodes eight and nine are about the romance between the adults. Episodes 10 and 11 got a little bit more in a gangster direction, more for the hard-core action fans. Further episodes go back to the romance between the adults. So that’s how we approached it.
The most challenging genre for me, I think, was melodrama, as we like to call it in Korea, or romance. I’m personally not much of a fan of watching romantic dramas and it wasn’t a genre on my radar as something I wanted to work on.
So and because it’s so much, you know, not within my usual radar, I had to really debate within myself about how to go about portraying those aspects. But you know, having worked on it, it was actually a lot of fun. I tried to portray sort of the classics or films that I had working titles for it before.
You mentioned how you became a parent yourself just before undertaking this project. Do you feel the show has something to say about the nature of parenthood and adolescence — any deeper metaphoric meanings you might want to share?
Well, Moving is not an art house drama, right? (Laughs.) So, as for the themes and the penetrating message, it’s up to the audience to interpret it on their own. But I will say that the thematic message that penetrates the entire story — which is a big part of the last episodes — is definitely the theme of love within the family. It’s the love between parents and their kids. It’s about the sacrifice you make as parents and the growth of the children as a result of that. You know, rather than having a very deep thematic message, I was coming from a place where, as a parent, I am just now learning how to look at my kid in a way where I allow them room to grow on their own in the way they should. So, I hope the feelings of this learning process of being a parent is something that takes place within the audience as they watch the show, too.
One thing that’s striking about the show is how rich the character development is. The plot seems to function by virtue of the character development in a very cool way.
Yeah, I think that’s definitely true. Some viewers have said that the story is a little bit too slow-paced because there’s so much focus put on each character’s development. This is a story about the growth of these kids and the sacrifices of their parents, so it was more important to have an emphasis on the development of their backstories than have the narrative progress simply into the future.
Was there a character you related to most?
Well, my daughter is now 40 months old, so I relate to the parent characters a lot. There’s a line in the series that says, “On behalf of their kid, anyone is capable of becoming a monster.” I think that really penetrates the overall theme of what the series has to say about the way parents are.
The early episodes of the series have such a bright, crisp feel to them — almost like teenage life itself. What were your visual reference points for the show’s various aesthetics?
As I said, I really wasn’t a fan of the romance genre. So, for the crispness, pastel tones and youthful visuals of episodes one to seven, I referred to the film Love Letter (1995) by Shunji Iwai. I had watched it back when it came out almost 30 years ago, but I revisited it and was really struck by it, so I referred to it a lot in terms of visuals.
And then for some of the scenes where you see the character of Frank, I went for gory, in-your-face action scenes. I was really curious to see how the audience would respond to the contrast of that pastel, lovey-dovey visual tone with a really dark, gory tone.
One question I definitely wanted to ask about is looking ahead. From what I understand, the show has not been officially renewed for a second season. I was curious whether Kang Full’s webtoon continues beyond what we will see in season one; is there more story ready to go for adaptation? And now that the show is connected with such a wide audience, if you are to do a second season, what would you what would your ambitions be in terms of story and where you want to take things?
Kang Full has other titles that are within this universe that he’s built, under the titles of Bridge and Timing, so there’s a lot more story that’s already out there. There’s another one that he’s currently working on called Hidden. So, if there were to be a second season, it will be one of those. As I said before, everything was a first for me with this show — it being VFX heavy, the genre of romance and it having a lot of wire-work action, so on. So, if I were to helm the series once again, what I can say is that I will show you a much-upgraded version of everything you saw in season one.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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