Welcome to my third one! This time it’s the Korean drama remake of the BBC original, Life On Mars.
Starting off, I love Jung Kyung Ho and I was excited to see Park Sung Woo. I love time travel plots so I was really looking forward to watching Life on Mars. This was one of the few dramas I was really very excited to see, I purposely didn’t read updates about it whilst it was airing.
In a nutshell, it really did have a glaring plot hole, one I wasn’t sure was resolved in the end. But then that plot hole turns out to be the plot?? It was the question that left me interested and excited in episode 1 but sadly left me saying ‘WHAT?’ by the last episode. Having said that, I definitely do not regret watching it at all. Which is honestly surprising because plot holes like this usually makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time. But that’s not at all the case. This drama,Life On Mars, although not perfect, still managed to catch my attention. It drew me into its world which was a much needed distraction.
Despite its flaws, it was the bond that prevented me from going. And honestly, I’ve not thought of dropping it. Would I recommend it? Yes I would. For me, this is the kind of drama you have to judge for yourself. A lot of people loved it and I must be one of the few that found all these faults in it. I still loved it and I was glad to be immersed in their world for those few moments. The cast have definitely overshadowed the negatives in this drama plus the time setting. This time period somehow always manages to give you a cozy feeling. When everything else was simpler and everyone else thought the same way you did – sometimes unsure of what to do – a great company to when you’re feeling like you’re the only one behind.
Things I enjoyed:
I’m one of those people who love a good time travel story. The 1st episode although quite slow in the beginning, didn’t disappoint. It definitely gave off Tunnel vibes (another drama of the same genre). I definitely got so scared when we encountered the first crime scene. He was very creepy. That stare. OMG. I would run off somewhere else and be surrounded with loads of other people to distract him.
I’ve finished this a couple of weeks ago and some things I do not remember very clearly. The following are what stands out to me though:
- The main draw of this drama for me ever since it was announced were the leads. I loved both the male lead and Oh Dae Hwan is close to my heart – I’ve seen him pretty much everywhere. I especially loved him in Defendant and Shopping Louis. He’s very versatile. At first, I didn’t really like our main hero,
- Han Tae Joo. He appeared quite one dimensional. It felt like we were just waiting for something from him to come out. It always felt like there’s some pent up emotions/thoughts or a big part of his self he’s kept hidden somewhere. I loved Jung Kyung Ho as a more subdued, collected character opposite Park Hae Soo in Wise Prison Life. I was really excited for this drama and the premise was something I was looking forward too as well.
- But the thing with him was that it seemed like he had potential for more character development and it didn’t really materialise. I gather his character was meant to be more tough and straight laced but there had to be a time when you go off it or at least develop better. He was the main character but sadly I wasn’t able to really emphathise or relate with him. It was really the 80s crew that made me warm up to Tae Joo and his treatment of Ms Yoon was admirable. That was about the only time I felt like I’ve seen more sides to him – and that was really nice to watch.
- I love a sense of camaraderie in dramas and anywhere really. It’s nice to see people getting along. That’s why I had such a soft spot for the crew – ( Yong Ki, Nam Shik, Ms Yoon and of course Dong Cheol) they all seemed genuinely close. And as it was the 80s, I loved that despite the norm then of women being treated as if they need to do housework (as shown by the guys always giving Ms Yoon the smaller, petty jobs), you can see that they still treated her with kindness.
- Ms Yoon was very soft spoken. The first time I heard her speak I was actually a bit surprised. It was very soft. But later on, it was such a nice relief from all the testosterone going on. As much as I loved Dong Cheol and everyone else – sometimes the aggressiveness gets a bit too much. Nam Sik and Ms Yoon really helped balance everything out.
I say ‘romance’ because in this case here, it was very subtle but rightfully so. Life On Mars is not a typical romance drama and if you’re merely looking for one, then this is not for you. The romance here is part of the story rather than the main focus of it. It was honestly unexpected but it was very cute. Tae Joo and Ms Yoon are complete opposites – Na Young is very soft spoken whilst Tae Joo is direct and doesn’t care about what others say. With that though they really complemented each other. Na Young provided a bit of a reprieve for Tae Joo. She was always there to steady him when he’s shaken and confused about being in that world – I think the best way to describe her is she’s the one who anchors him down. With all the doubts in his mind – Ms Yoon managed to keep him going.
His attempt to go back to the present by suicide – her intervening and talking him out of it, helping him with the cases, showing him the ways in the job and helping him understand his now-colleagues. She helped him adjust and in return he’s treated her with kindness and equally and as an individual rather than just a female police officer only. He recognised her talents and slowly but steadily brought our her confidence to show others what she’s capable off too.
- THE MAIN CASE
- This was what draw me in from the first episode. What was the connection of the serial killer to him traveling back to the past? I think as the viewers, this was what led us all to watch and believe that this was the main reason of the drama. At least in the beginning. So he gets shot and ran over – and then went back in time. At the time of watching, and then finishing the drama, this was the most confusing part for me.
- I guess I felt like we were led to believe him going back in time plays a huge part to knowing the why the killer killed in the first place. That was all settled and we came to know his reasons why – his abusive father, the resentment for his sister. His brother’s play in murders too. That was all logical and something I could follow – but then it went on to this another plot twist or extension. The murderer brother was then leading us to another man – the guy on the phone.
- That really made me wonder, why? What was his connection to the case? The story went on and on, unfolding things one after the other. All of these new revelations drawing in more questions, confusions, than answers. Was I the only one? Who got the meaning why it is called Life On Mars?
- The more the so called plot (sorry) unraveled, the more they lost me. I started to wonder just what the point of this whole story was. What are we aiming to achieve towards the end? What do they want me to expect/speculate?
- The Squad’s bond – I think the main thing most if not all of us stuck in the drama for. At the beginning, I really didn’t like Dong Cheol much. He came across as violent for its sake. I know – back then they must have had to be tougher as investigations depended on only a few things. But I feel like they could’ve shown us more instances where he was actually successful in getting a good result from the beatings apart from just showing us that he was a tough guy no one could mess with. Towards the middle bit esp. with Tae Joo – he’d become his grumpy detective self but went nowhere closer to getting something out of it unlike Tae Joo did.
- Despite the humour, sometimes felt a tad bit calculated than they probably wanted – such as that pool farting bit (I really did NOT appreciate that, it was a bit disgusting to be honest) they really got along well with each other. Apart from the usual display of superiority especially from Dong Cheol and Yong Ki, you could see that they really cared for each other. There was that genuine touch that made their interactions so nice to see – able to watch the drama if only for those scenes.
Life on Mars – my confusion…
I really did like it. Just that the episodes to follow up after the older brother was “killed” felt long winded. I guess it was meant to get us closer to the reason of the story but it felt otherwise. It sadly did not do that – the show gave us so many other plot twists that it really just sometimes caught me off guard. But then did it really add to the story? Made the plot more mysterious? Sadly it didn’t. Because we HAVE to have some sort of a knowledge about that mystery to keep us hooked in and excited. It appeared that they chose to hide that mysteriousness. Just felt like the story could have been nudged higher up in terms of the storytelling. There was so much going on but nothing that really moved us along, answering our questions from the beginning.
I honestly don’t know if it’s just me who missed the whole point. What does it mean when it said “Life On Mars?”
So the above question was my confused self right after watching it and just after writing that. It dawned on me though. Doesn’t ‘Life on Mars’ suggests an alternate universe as well? That might be the answer to my question and to my confused take on the plot. So that really was Tae Joo being deep into his mind whilst in coma, who created an alternate universe for himself. He really did come back but another confusing thing was that his experience from his dream/alternate reality actually shed light and real evidence to help find the culprit. So was that his mind really only working to feed his imagination or his mind had the power to actually send him back to the 1980s? Because if it was that, then it could be that he actually went back to the 1980s, met those people there – everything that happened in his mind were real. But because it was in his mind – that was the only place where those experiences were real. Does that make sense? I don’t actually know if it does but it makes sense to me. :’)
My Take on the Plot – Life On Mars?
Now in hindsight, I feel like Life On Mars’ plot make sense to me now. Because of how the premise was, the expectations vs. what I got in the end left me confused. Here I was thinking it would be a straightforward time traveling drama. Looking back I think I’m able to solve my own confusion/ question. We see the new director come in and we as viewers were able to recognise him as a villain. There were so many suggestions before hand, the main suspect’s brother telling him he shouldn’t trust him too much. Although he appeared, from the phone call as someone who carries the answer to Han Tae Joo’s questions.
He might as well BE the villain. We see Han Tae Joo working with the crew and as much as he is confused and wants to go home, he had also grown fond of the people he’s worked with. We then get another side to the story of the serial killer – his brother. The one who protects him and the serial killer’s back story that showed us why he killed and the way he did it. As it seemed like everything was getting resolved in that time – this director comes along.
Tae Joo’s delusions/calls from the present world became more desperate. The further we get into the story the more sickly he looked and became. Because the director was the culprit who’d take him away from that timeline. He’d be ‘operated’ – meaning he’d soon wake up and of course with waking up, he’d have to leave everything he’s come to know.
And so that is it – he chose to end his life and go back to his ‘reality’.
And as much as that is nice – I felt like it fell short of the whole grand thing I thought it would be. It was made out to be so simplistic – simplifying everything he went through as nothing – everything is fine so long as he’s happy – that’s the ‘reality’.
Final Comments – Life On Mars
Overall, this was really something I enjoyed watching despite its faults – which only seem like it’s visible to only a few viewers. There’s loads more people who obviously loved it and probably found no faults, at least some major ones like I did. Having said this though, I truly enjoyed watching it and getting lost in their world. It was such a nice escape although marred by some confusions and questions through its play. I really enjoyed watching this. I also have to add that Life On Mars was one of the dramas I anticipated the most this year.
Would I recommend it? YES. Please don’t be deterred by my review. I learned that no matter who gives off reviews about anything, the only thing that would truly matter is your own take. We all have our different opinions hence why each viewing experience is different for the other. I heard about a review beforehand and it was of a low mark so I felt a bit hesitant to watch this. I’m glad I gave it a try myself, because what others found faults in I didn’t find anything wrong with.
If I am to give this drama a mark, it wouldn’t be as high as I expected it to be at first but then that just brings everything down. Sometimes you can’t really sum up a whole show with just one number. It undermines all the hardwork put in plus the good points a drama have.
So as a final conclusion, Life On Mars wasn’t without flaws BUT one that was definitely engaging. I loved our main characters and have enjoyed going with them through their journey. Did it make me want to watch the original? Not really. BUT for a remake, it was definitely a solid drama – it was able to create a world of its own. It didn’t feel like the casts were trying to act out somebody else – they made their characters their own and that’s one of the things I love about Korean dramas.
This is one I’d recommend despite the confusions I had with it.
And to sum it all up – I guess it was all worth it in the end seeing them like this: