For several weeks now, everyone has been discussing "The Squid Game," the South Korean Netflix series about a deadly show with a multibillion-dollar prize. The project is breaking all records for views, memes based on its motifs flooded the social networks - and even competitors are praising the drama's creators for their courage and originality. "Gazeta.Ru" tells all you need to know about the show - what its plot, who made it, will the continuation, what leads to the popularity of the show and how it relates to Russia.
"Squid Game" is often called a mixture of "Saw," "Battle Royale" and "The Hunger Games" - and there is a certain logic to it. The plot of the South Korean series is that 456 people, bogged down in debts, find themselves on a closed island, where they become participants in the death show. Its rules are simple enough: in order to win you just need to overcome six challenges, which are based on popular in the country games for children, from tug of war to "ride slowly - farther away you will be. The catch is that the price for a mistake is as high as possible: failure in any event is punishable by instant death. At the same time, participation in the show is essentially voluntary - it can be terminated at any time between contests if most of the survivors vote against it. With one caveat, though: in that case they won't receive the 45.6 billion won (about $40 million) prize, which, given the characters' financial problems, isn't much better than death for them.
There are several central characters in The Squid Game. These include driver Son Ki Hoon, who leads a miserable existence because of his passion for gambling and risks losing his own daughter forever; entrepreneur Cho Sang Woo, who burns his investments into a multibillion-dollar debt; thief Kang Se Bek, a refugee from North Korea who tries to save her family from poverty; and old man Oh Il Nam, who has brain cancer and has nothing left to lose. Also, young policeman Hwang Chun-ho finds himself on a mysterious island, unnoticed by the organizers, wedging himself into the staff in order to find his missing brother and in general to understand what is going on here in general.
Creator and actors
The show was directed and written by Hwang Dong-haek - he is best known for the thriller "Severe Trial," the historical drama "Namhansanseong Fortress," and the musical comedy "Miss Grandma," which first became one of South Korea's most financially successful films and was later remade in seven countries, including China and Japan.
"Squid Game" was conceived by the filmmaker at the dawn of his career, but for a long time he was unable to bring the idea to life (with the thriller originally intended to be a feature film): producers did not want to invest in the director's project, and he received his budget only in 2019 from Netflix, soon after the full release of streaming in the South Korean market.
Already in the final stages of development, he managed to assemble a near-perfect cast of local stars: Lee Jong-jae ("Cabin by the Sea"), Oh Eun-soo ("Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring Again"), Kim Ju-ren ("Severe Trial") and Kong Yu ("Train to Busan"). But the biggest revelation was Korean top model Jong Ho-yeon, who had never acted, even in cameo roles, but who managed to stun the critics with her reincarnation as a migrant from North Korea, and with an impressive amount of screen time. After the release of the series on her Instagram has more than 10 million people - before the release, she had 400 thousand followers.
The idea and the reason for the success
As Hwang Dong-hek himself told Variety in an interview, he tried to show "an allegory for modern capitalist society," moving the theme relevant to the viewer to the interesting locations of the survival game. He also attributes the success of
He also attributes its success to strong competition in his home market which both raises the overall quality of the productions (Oscar 2020, won by his compatriot Pong Joon-ho's Parasites, is the best proof of that) and darkens the creative process with constant stress.
"The children of the South Korean entertainment industry are now very popular all over the world: BTS, Parasites, Gangnam Style, and so on. At the same time, our society is characterized by competition and tension, as more than 50 million people have to coexist in a small country. Being cut off from Asia by the border with North Korea, we have developed an insular mentality," says the director. - Because of this stress, we are always subconsciously preparing for the next crisis. In a sense, this is a great motivation, makes us wonder about the future. But this kind of competition also has side effects."
For his part, lead performer Lee Jong-jae singled out a unique script as the main reason for its success: "It includes details of the participants' problems and why they had to play the game. These moments slowly accumulated one by one from the first episode and then spectacularly 'exploded' at the end. This sets the series apart from other survival projects. It was good from the beginning, back when there was only a script."
Will there be a sequel
The creator of "Squid Game" Hwang Dong-hyeok did not rule out that there may be a sequel to the nine-episode show in the future. However, if that happens, it will not happen soon - after the success of the project he wants to concentrate on a full-length feature and is far from writing a sequel for now.
"I used to drink half a bottle of Korean liquor a day to create. But now I can not afford it - admits the filmmaker. - I am very hard to give the script for the series, because I originally conceived the project as a film. In the end, I had six months to correspond only the first two episodes. And now I'm tired to think about the sequel. But if I do it, I will not do alone, and hired a team of writers and directors.
That said, the director does have a little work to do - in his words, he wants to continue to dedicate the antagonist Leading, the character who is the organizer of the death games.
As for Netflix, the streaming service is naturally set on a sequel - and is currently in talks with the project's creator.
"We couldn't have imagined that the series would become so successful worldwide. We knew it would be the leading show in Korea, but no one ever imagined that it would be such an impressive international success," the service told Vulture.
"The Squid Game" was released on Netflix on Sept. 17 - and went "viral" in just a couple of weeks. As of October 6, the show was the most popular in more than 70 countries, including Russia, while ranking at least second overall in all regions where it is available to watch. In addition, the hashtag #SquidGame broke trends on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok: the total number of posts related to the series runs into the millions. Many stars have spoken publicly about their emotions about the thriller, congratulating the creators on the tremendous success. Among them, for example, Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon, which, for a second, has a streaming service competing with Netflix.
"[Co-founder] Reed Hastings, [CEO] Ted Sarandos, and the Netflix team as a whole are doing everything right. They have a difficult internationalization strategy, but they make it work. It's impressive and inspiring. I can't wait to see the show," Bezos wrote on Twitter.
Actor Simon Pegg, who photographed "Squid Games" in merch, also shared his enthusiasm for the series with his followers, while the project's cast took part in the Jimmy Fallon show.
One of the showy moments of the series' popularity in Russia was the preview of Spartak's last match in the RPL: the team's social networks presented the starting lineup in the style of the show and, remarkably, many fans understood the reference in the comments.
The costumes of the death show employees from the show, the Host, and the participants in the game are expected to be among the most popular during the upcoming Halloween - the media, in turn, are already actively advising on how to dress up as the characters as cool as possible. As such, demand for items from "The Game" is on the rise - sales of white Vans slip-ons, for example, after the premiere
After the premiere, sales of white Vans slip-ons, for example, skyrocketed 7,800 percent.
That said, the popularity of the series has also led to a number of unpleasant episodes. For example, Netflix itself received a lawsuit from the Korean provider because of the surge in traffic, and businesswoman Kim Gil Yong, whose phone number matched the number on the business card of the show's organizers, started getting thousands of calls and messages from unknown people every day. Subsequently, her number was removed from the show.
"Russians" in "The Game"
One of the brightest roles in the series was played by Ho Sung-tae - he played gangster Jang Dok-soo, who is forced to participate in the death show because of the huge card debt and the pursuit of killers. The actor turned out to have a lot of ties with Russia: he studied Russian at Busan National University, sold TV sets in the Russian market, drinks vodka. And, naturally, he speaks excellent Russian.