July 16, 2017

The Tiger: Your Alliance in Man Versus Nature Scenarios

It used to be that in a person-versus-nature movie, the audience always allied with the human being. The hero had to beat nature or at least overcome "the enemy," although victory and/or survival often came with a newfound respect for Mother Nature's powers. Nowadays, the allegiance is not so easily presumed. In Park Hoo-jung's The Tiger, for instance, less-than-favorable examples abound of mankind's disrespect for the planet and its inhabitants: taxidermy trophies of unnecessary slaughters, summarily dismissed pelts, the decimation of forests, the sheer numbers of militia brought on to capture a tiger who only has one good eye! How can you not root for the big cat with the slayed kittens? Bring on the snow, the rain, the cold! Both the Japanese regime — and the unprincipled Koreans who align with them — should be struck down by lightning, swept away by a river, then swallowed up by a tar pit post haste. Forgive us, Mother Earth. Unleash your fury. It's more than justified!

Then again... That's not quite how you feel during The Tiger because none of the animals are truly animals. They're anthropomorphic CGI creations. Which suddenly shifts the battle to new terrain. For are we really rallying behind the beasts of the wild here? To be honest, sometimes it feels like we're cheering for robots or Chuck E. Cheese rejects. That doesn't feel pro-nature. At best, this tiger comes across as a person in a giant fluffy costume. At worst, he looks and acts like a soul-less mechanical being sent from the future to ravage the humans of the past. He's not alone either. All the animals feel unlike animals. Just watch how those wolves scatter like a bunch of video game rodents when threatened by Playstation levels of arsenal.

Naturally enough, that ever-dependable actor Choi Min-sik turns in a commanding performance as a hunter with outdated morals, a man who respects Mother Nature, the mountain, and the kill. Yet despite energetic support from Kim Sang-ho as an obsequious sidekick and the impressive scar added to Jeong Man-sik's camera-ready cheek, even the great Choi can't make The Tiger feel human.

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