Film Reviews

Published on June 1st, 2012 | by ponyforprez


I AM. SMTOWN – Live World Tour

Although I’m still feeling bitter about missing the recent SM Town concert in Anaheim, I was pretty psyched when I heard that SM Town’s biographical flick I AM. was going to be screened in Singapore (albeit at an exorbitant price). Which totally meant that for once, I was going to watch it on the big screen and not have to scour the Internet desperately, waiting for someone to upload it!

From movie posters floating around online (featuring all 32 active artistes like BoA, TVXQ, SNSD, SHINee, Super Junior, f(x) and so on) as well as the press conference that was held to promote the movie, it was announced that the movie was going to showcase all of SM Town and their preparation for their New York concert on October 23 2011.

Why make a movie about the artistes of an entertainment company gracing a concert venue, you wonder? Well, the concert was one of SM family’s biggest stages ever – the world’s most prestigious concert venue that even the likes of Lady Gaga and the late Michael Jackson have graced – Madison Square Garden in New York.

I went into the theatre expecting the movie to be pretty much a compilation of things that most fans would have already seen before: Footage from their New York concert, already-on-YouTube-behind-the-scenes action and a couple of interviews with the artistes. But the experience was honestly a lot more exhilarating than I thought.

Although a lot of concert footage is shown (understandably, seeing how it is a movie largely about their heyday concert after all), it’s cleverly molded in a way that kicks off the story of how each group/artiste got to where they are today. While labelled by most as a mere concert movie, the film dives a little bit into the earlier days of the stars, showing rehearsal videos, audition tapes and the harsh training days that they had to endure before debuting.

And while not every artiste was given their own piece to camera moment, we did get quite a few insightful interviews. A few that I feel deserve mention are those from Super Junior’s Sungmin and Ryeowook, and TVXQ’s Changmin and Yunho.

During his interview, Sungmin revealed that he was meant to debut in a three-member group with Eunhyuk and Junsu (previously from TVXQ) before Super Junior came along. However, Junsu was selected to join TVXQ before they managed to debut and being only 19 then, he felt as though everything was over.

On the May 18 broadcast of tvN’s Taxi, he also admitted: “At the time, I felt my dreams were crushed in a matter of seconds, and I quit training and rested for one year.”

Ryeowook also mentioned that he didn’t cry with the other members after Super Junior’s debut performance as he felt that having trained for a much lesser period than the other members, he was unworthy of sharing their tears of hard work and joy.

He confessed, “I went to the bathroom afterward and cried alone.”

I was also pleasantly surprised at how much time of the film was dedicated to allowing Changmin and TVXQ to talk about their experiences after making a comeback as a two-member boyband. While the film was careful not to show past footages of all five members (sniff), the boys did open up about how they worried that things would change with just the two of them.

I appreciated that while the whole disbandment topic is still one that’s pretty sensitive for the boys to talk about, we can see they have since matured and are even more grateful for the support of their fans.

One thing I really liked was how the idols that were interviewed were all given their pre-debut clips to watch and comment on. You can’t fake the emotions from watching that sort of thing, and it’s endearing to see the idols we know and love reflect on yesteryear. Also, clips of a few artistes dancing ‘alongside’ their pre-debut selves were shown – ala EXO‘s recent Genie app here.

Eunhyuk proving he was a dancing machine since his pre-debut days

The heavy stuff aside, it was also cute to see snippets of life off-stage for our idols – especially the bubbly boys from SHINee (Minho and Taemin the video game addicts) and f(x)’s Victoria earnestly trying to get her Korean right in her introduction on the set of SHINee’s debut song ‘Replay’, where she was the music video’s female lead. “How do you pronounce it? Shaaiinee?”

What I didn’t like about the film? The fact that Kangta was not given adequate exposure, especially when majority of new K-pop fans aren’t familiar with H.O.T, the group that reigned long before K-pop went viral. It’s easy to see that acts like SHINee, Super Junior and SNSD are popular (judging from the screeching fans in the theatre), but it was disappointing that everyone remained quiet during Kangta’s documentary parts. I believe a better insight might have changed that.

BoA actually had decent footage in the film, with one of my favourite parts being how the SNSD members were introduced to her during her 7th anniversary since debut. While the girls from SNSD are now full-fledged stars in their own league, it was heartwarming to see how once upon a time, they too were merely star-struck girls who had their own idols.

Also, I hate to ask again SM, but where the heck are Zhoumi and Henry in the movie? (Okay they do appear for all of a good minute or so during a scene when a few artistes are sitting in a park) The pair were at the concert itself so it was a little disappointing that their joint appearance in the film was close to zilch.

Realistically, I am not going to get started on SM’s other artistes who didn’t make an appearance in the movie, namely CSJH The Grace and Chinese powerhouse Zhang Li Yin. Despite CSJH’s Dana & Sunday’s comeback last year, I know that ‘One More Chance’ was more of a single to test the waters and fanbase of the girls, which sadly didn’t go too well.Yet, both girls have been relatively active in the industry, with their last joint appearance being in the Rock of Ages musical with Onew.

Zhang Li Yin too, has been stagnant ever since her last appearance at the SM Town Live ’10 World Tour. While it does economically make sense to invest in their more popular artistes for now, I’m still holding out for the day that SM manages to successfully ease everyone back into the spotlight.

I AM. is a film that all fans of SM artistes should definitely catch. While most would have already seen bits and pieces of several video clips online, it’s still pretty neat to be able to watch it in a theatre itself (massive amounts of high definition close-ups!). The unification of the SM Family has always been one of the core building blocks of what makes the company successful, and this movie is a good portrayal of that.

For fans located in Singapore, I Am Sm Town: Live World Tour (In Digital) is screening at selected GV cinemas. Tickets are going at S$16.

(Source: SM Town)

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Online: I spend a bulk of my time dissecting music/dramas in all their entirety or covering events for Dinoseoul. Offline: I’m really just your average, socially awkward girl who happens to have a penchant for dancing and cats.

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