Cha Eun-woo promises a more exciting new season of 'Island'
Actor Cha Eun-woo wants audiences of the series “Island,” in which he stars, to understand that his character Yohan is a special kind of priest, certainly not immune to his own problems.
Despite the star-studded cast of the latest Tving and Amazon Prime series, the reception of the handsome Vatican-bred Korean priest from both domestic and global viewers has been lukewarm. Lead actor Cha is intent on turning that around in the second season with a deeper portrayal of his character Yohan, who questions not only his mission but also that of God.
Surprises are to be expected in Part 2 of the series, to be released later this month, according to Cha, but it remains to be seen whether the series will make a turnaround from its lackluster performance on the streaming charts.
"In the second season, Yohan starts questioning God’s intentions, and his own internal struggles build up," Cha said to the Korea JoongAng Daily in an interview with the local press on Tuesday.
"There will be much development in Part 2, with even more action and battles along with my character’s growth.”
Cha plays Yohan, a Vatican priest who returns to his birthplace — Korea — to fight evil forces that dominate the island of Jeju, off the south coast of the peninsula. Yohan meets Van, played by Kim Nam-gil, a half-human, half-demon character, and Won Miho, played by Lee Da-hee.
"Island" has seen sluggish rankings and several critical reviews, which Cha addressed.
Regarding the criticism of the storyline's lack of probability and the fact that it has not stayed true to the original source material — a manhwa (Korean comic book) series published in 1997 under the same name that was very popular — Cha said that some leeway needs to be given considering the time that has passed since.
“The original manhwa is a masterpiece, but it is quite an old publication, so the logic and sentiment of the material could be a little off-putting for modern audiences,” said Cha. “But we, the main cast, and the director, all talked to the author of the original series and conversed a lot. I think the end result is that we respected the original manhwa but also brought something new to the story.”
“Island” reached ninth place on im Amazon Prime’s worldwide rankings in early January this year, becoming the first Korean content to enter the top 10. But since then, the series has shown humdrum performance, being unable to surpass fellow domestic shows such as Netflix’s “The Glory” in terms of viewership numbers and landing around the fourth to fifth place mark on average in 20 countries, according to data from streaming service aggregator FlixPatrol.
Several critical reviews have also panned “Island,” bringing down its average rating on IMDb to 7.1. The main problems that audiences and critics have taken issue with are the characterization of some of the protagonists and the CG effects in the frequent action scenes.
On the only main female character, Lee's Won Miho, some audiences have pointed out that there is no “love line” — a romantic relationship between main protagonists — in the original source material, and that the addition of such a device in the drama seemed unnecessary.
“I wish they would have left Ban, Miho and Yohan just the way they were in the original manhwa,” reads one anonymous comment on a Korean forum on which reviews from ordinary viewers can be made. “These characters have a human connection and sympathy for each other, but they do not fall in love, and that was one of the unique aspects of the manhwa.”
Other comments on various online forums both in Korea and abroad have pointed out the below-par quality of the CG effects in “Island.”
“The demons all just look like zombies,” read another comment left on Twitter about “Island.” “I feel like the CG effects make the demons, which are supposed to be antagonists, seem flimsy.”
Not all reviews were critical, however, and Cha thanked audiences who have left good reviews while promising a turnaround of his own performance in Part 2 and beyond.
Because there is a scene at the end of Part 1 of “Island” in which Yohan had to terminate a brotherly character with his own hands, Cha was emotionally invested during filming, according to the actor.
“I have a younger brother, so it was natural for me to place myself in Yohan’s feet and to think about what it must feel like to exorcise a brother in person,” said Cha. “I cried reading the script. I found myself imagining the pain and sadness that Yohan must have had in that situation and tried to channel those emotions into my acting.”
“I am always looking for challenges and more roles where I can show what Cha Eun-woo can do,” said Cha. “I think bringing my own color to the characters I play is an important quality in acting. ‘Island’ was also a new challenge for me, and I hope to show the viewers and my fans what I can achieve further.”
Part 2 of “Island” can be streamed on Tving and Amazon Prime starting Feb. 24.
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]