Netflix’s "Space Sweepers" Is a Fast Thrill Ride

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Netflix’s Space Sweepers. The movie has been described as South Korea’s first space blockbuster, and it was my first time watching a South Korean science-fiction flick that takes place in outer space. Space is particularly challenging because so much depends on the filmmakers’ and set designers’ creativity.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was a fun, fast-paced and exciting adventure that pays homage to Firefly, Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. The premise was believable, I liked the characters and the sets and visual effects were amazing. One example—that ground to space elevator!

The movie is set in 2092, and Earth is polluted and ailing. It’s a dog-eat-dog world down here, which the rich and powerful escape with the help of UTS, a company founded by philanthropist James Sullivan. UTS has built a floating utopia in outer space where the grass is green and people live idyllic lives. UTS’s next plan is making Mars habitable and shipping people there.


Enter our heroes, a ragtag group of space sweepers. Space is teeming with trash left behind by mankind’s explorations and expeditions, and teams of sweepers vie with each other to salvage the debris for resale. There also is a safety concern as the debris poses a danger to spacecraft and space structures such as UTS’s floating utopia.

At the risk of giving too much away, our heroes stumble upon Dorothy, a young girl reported to be both a robot and a weapon of mass destruction. While bumbling around, they uncover a vast conspiracy that has dire implications for Earth.

Like all good science fiction, the movie is part social commentary, in this case about the haves and the have-nots. That seems to be a recurrent theme in Korean movies (Parasite and Snow Piercer come to mind). Fortunately, the filmmakers do it skillfully enough that it enhances, rather than detracts from, the plot.

The movie also had innovative quirks that I particularly liked, including its portrayal of space as multicultural—the people speak a multitude of languages, communicating through the aid of translation devices. In addition, I liked the design of the android Bubs, and I liked the `80s anime vibe from the sets and costume designs.

That said, I found the storytelling a little messy. For example, a few of the heroes’ backstories, such as Captain Jang, were clumsily inserted. Some of the details also felt a little random, like how Jang happened to be a former high-tech inventor and certified genius, while Kim Tae-ho is both a genius and an ace pilot. It may be a coincidence, but those are the exact skills needed to defuse the crisis.

There also were a few scenes involving Dorothy that were in danger of tipping into pure schmaltz.

But all in all, a thrilling space ride.

Watch the trailer:


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