The curtain has fallen on Disney’s response to Squid gamethe 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, a three-part, 20-episode season finale of the series was released on Wednesday.
Moving is an adaptation of a popular webtoon created by influential Korean graphic artist Kang Full, whose work has been adapted into numerous Korean films. In his series writing debut, Kang wrote the screenplay for all the films Moving‘s episodes. The show features some of the biggest names in Korean film and TV, including Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in cell 7), Han Hyo-joo (Girl from the 20th century) and Zo In-sung (Smugglers) in his long-awaited return to the drama series format. All episodes of Moving‘s first season was directed by Park In-je, best known for his role in Netflix’s popular Korean zombie series Kingdom.
Moving tells the story of a group of South Korean spies who try to protect their super-powered children from harm and exploitation by evil government agencies. Initially recruited for their extraordinary abilities, including flight, instant healing and enhanced senses, the spies disappeared without a trace after being assigned to carry out increasingly dubious missions. With their children displaying similar abilities and a dangerous killer quickly taking out super-powered individuals, the parents must leave their peaceful lives behind to become the “monsters” they once were.
In 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 consumed the show than Disney’s core franchise series like The Mandalorian. The show has been nominated in six award categories at the upcoming Asia Contents Awards & Global OTT Awards of the Busan International Film Festival.
Shortly before Moving‘s final fell, The Hollywood Reporter connected with series director Park to discuss the inspiration behind the hit show and where a second season – still unconfirmed by Disney – could take the story.
What was the creative origin of this project for you? And what appealed to you about the original webtoon as material for a TV series?
First of all, I’m not from 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 actually read the original webtoon Moving. I first came across the work because it was already a live-action script. And at that moment my daughter had actually just been born. So I was really moved and drawn to the love relationship in the story between a parent and a child. And it was right after I finished directing Kingdom season two for Netflix and I wanted to take on a new challenge in a new genre. I was planning on doing something for myself, but then I got the script for it Moving. As you know, it features a mix of genres including teen romance, action, superheroes – and very VFX-heavy elements too. That’s why I thought it was worth giving it a try and taking up the challenge. You know, I was born in the 1970s and the films my generation grew up with were films like AND, Back to the future, Superman. So somehow these were all part of the creative origins of this project for me. I was influenced by those films. And at the same time, I wanted to differentiate between what we were creating and the current Marvel films.
That is interesting. Can you tell us a little more about why and how you made the distinction? To move house superhero-like elements from the Marvel universe that everyone knows so well?
Actually, the first obvious thing is that compared to Marvel’s huge blockbuster budgets, we had a relatively small budget for these episodes. So our main mission – within that smaller budget – was to create a series of heroes that were compelling, even though audiences are so used to seeing superheroes in the Marvel mold. So we had to be more creative and couldn’t simply rely 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 inherently different from the Marvel heroes. We wanted them to be more everyday, realistic people. Marvel heroes always behave a certain way, so there was an established superhero style that we could move away from. You know, they wear suits, they have a certain attitude and they even extend their hands 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 like that, in that pose? I saw that as a kind of clever, self-satirical joke about the way Marvel always portrays its superheroes. There is a consistent style, which even the Marvel Universe itself has recognized.
As you said, Moving, like so many great Korean films and series, has a 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 a challenge to make all these elements fit together so smoothly? Or was it just fun to be able to work on one project in all those different registers?
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 projects, it’s important to me 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 major, 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 the way the show was released. We released episodes one through seven as a batch, and then released two episodes per week. One of the main reasons for doing that was because we wanted it to feel like audiences were watching a different genre film every week. If you look at episodes one through seven, they are all about high school teens and young adult romance. Episodes eight and nine are about the romance between the adults. Episodes 10 and 11 went a little more in a gangster direction, more for the hardcore action fans. Further episodes return to the romance between the adults. So that’s how we approached it.
I think the most challenging genre for me was melodrama, as we like to call it in Korea, or romance. Personally, I’m not a big fan of watching romantic dramas and it wasn’t a genre on my radar that I wanted to work on.
So and because it’s so much, you know, not within my usual radar, I really had to debate within myself about how to portray those aspects. But you know, after I worked on it, it was actually a lot of fun. I was trying to kind of portray classics or films that I had working titles for before.
You talked about how you became a parent yourself just before you started this project. Do you feel like the show has something to say about the nature of parenthood and adolescence — what deeper metaphorical meanings you might want to share?
Good, Moving isn’t an arthouse drama, right? (Laughs) As for the themes and the compelling message, it’s up to the audience to interpret it for themselves. But I will say that the thematic message that permeates the entire story – and is a big part of the final episodes – is definitely the theme of love within the family. It is the love between parents and their children. It’s about the sacrifice you make as parents and the growth of the children as a result. You know, instead of having a very deep thematic message, I came from a place where as a parent I’m just now learning how to look at my child in a way where I give him space to grow on his own in the way they should be. So I hope that the feelings of this learning process of being a parent is something that also plays out in the audience as they watch the show.
One thing that stands out about the show is how rich the character development is. The plot seems to function in a really cool way thanks to the character development.
Yes, I think that’s certainly true. Some viewers have said that the story is a bit too slow because so much attention is paid to the development of each character. This is a story about the growth of these children and the sacrifices of their parents, so it was more important to emphasize the development of their backstories rather than simply moving the story into the future.
Was there a character you related to most?
Well, my daughter is 40 months old now, so I can relate to the parent characters a lot. There’s a line in the series that says, “On behalf of their child, anyone can become a monster.” I think this really drives home the overall theme of what the show has to say about the way parents are.
The early episodes of the series have such a crisp, clear feel to them – almost like teenage life itself. What were your visual reference points for the different aesthetics of the show?
Like I said, I really wasn’t a fan of the romance genre. So for the sharpness, pastel tones, and youthful imagery of episodes 1-7, I referenced Shinji Iwai’s film Love Letter (1995). I had already rewatched it when it came out almost thirty years ago, but I watched it again and was really impressed by it, so I referred to it a lot in terms of images.
And for some of the scenes where you see Frank’s character, I went for bloody, in-your-face action scenes. I was very curious to see how the audience would react to the contrast of that pastel, loving visual tone with a very dark, bloody tone.
One question I definitely wanted to ask is: Looking ahead, based on what I understand, the show has not been officially renewed for a second season. I was curious if the Komfortables webtoon will expand beyond what we’ll see in season one, like: is there any more story ready for adaptation? And now that the show is connected to such a wide audience if you’re going to do a second season, you know, what would you do, what would your ambitions be story-wise and where do you want to go?
Kang Full has other titles that fall within this universe he built among the titles Bridge and timing, so there is already a lot more story. There’s another one he’s currently working on called Hidden. So if there is a second season, it will be one. Like I said before, everything was a first for me with this show – it was VFX heavy, romance genre and it had a lot of wire work and so on. So if I were to lead the series again, I can say that I will show you a much improved version of everything you saw in season 1.