With Squid Game taking TV by an absolute storm on a gargantuanly global scale, viewers have started to take Korean filmmaking seriously, and it’s about time. Now it’s Apple’s turn to dish out the dosh for another high-production serving of quality K-drama.
The premise of Kim Jee-woon’s Dr. Brain, adapted from the Korean webtoon of the same name, is a little kooky – so bear with us. It follows neuroscientist Sewon Koh (Lee Sun-kyun, best known for his role in Parasite) as he navigates family tragedy, creating a new device capable of accessing the consciousness of the deceased – which he uses to peep into multiple brains, from his dead relatives to the neighbourhood cat – yep, a cat. It’s a little like Frankenstein meets iZombie with a distinctly K-drama twist – ambitious to say the least, but we have faith that a director of the likes of Kim Jee-woon can pull it off.
And The New York Times’ Mike Hale would agree, writing “Kim is firmly in control – his unobtrusive professionalism ensures that the shocks, reversals and revelations are part of a smooth, modulated ride”. And what a ride it is, meshing mystery, horror and science fiction, not forgetting the trademark soap opera thread which is held so closely to a Korean audience’s heart.
However, writer for The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Fienberg, has a bone to pick with the show’s performances, calling them “uniformly sturdy and uniformly dry”, going on to claim that “nothing here rises to the level of wildness that the show is teasing”. Sometimes ambition is more of a hindrance than a help.
In Vulture, Kathryn VanArendonk has faith in the show’s potential, calling it “a curious combination of glorious, terrifying genre storytelling”, with an “absolutely absurd” premise, arguing that “the best moments of Dr. Brain are when it registers that intense weirdness”. However, VanArendonk thinks “its inclination is never to lean into the goofiness of Sewon’s electric-sparking light-up brain-wave machine”, which is the series’ greatest downfall, concluding that it “fails to live up to its own potential”.
But, the proof is in the pudding – so why not take a bite?
First shown in November 2021.