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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ATHENA: GODDESS OF WAR -- Blu-Ray/DVD review by porfle



Like most feature-length condensations of a TV series or serial, Funimation's ATHENA: GODDESS OF WAR hits the high points of this action-packed Korean television series (which ran for one season in 2010) while skipping lightly over characterization. 

The film opens with a bang as agents of a Korean anti-terror task force called NTS (National Anti-Terrorist Service) infiltrate a high society party in full formal attire and end up pretty much blowing it all to hell.  Here we meet agents Lee Jung-Woo (Woo-sung Jung) and the beautiful but deadly Yoon Hye-In (Soo Ae, THE SWORD WITH NO NAME), who, in due course, will complicate their working relationship by falling in love.

But that's not the half of it, because Hye-In is a double agent also working for the bad guys--a terrorist group called Athena--and is also in love with their ruthless leader, Son Hyuk (Seung-won Cha).  To make matters worse, Hyuk has managed to become the head of an American intelligence group ostensibly working with NTS to prevent the kidnapping of nuclear scientist Dr. Kim, currently on the verge of completing work on a vital nuclear reactor.

With just shy of two hours' running time, ATHENA: GODDESS OF WAR dispenses with the finer points of all this drama and concentrates on two things--the doomed romantic triangle between Jung-Woo, Son Hyuk, and the lovely Hye-In, and lots and lots of action.  The former tends to get a bit sappy at times, especially with Jung-Woo and Hye-In basking in the romance of Italy between assignments and a drawn-out ending which stops just short of being maudlin.  Soo Ae does play her tortured indecision between the two men quite well--even while she's kicking bad-guy ass, we sense her emotional anguish.  (All of the lead performances, in fact, are fine.)

And kick ass she does, with the able help of the film's three directors and its nimble editors piecing together rapid-fire camera shots into coherent fight scenes.  Direction is sleek and brisk, giving these made-for-TV action sequences a pleasing feature-film veneer that is enhanced by some exhilarating location photography.

Various suspenseful situations such as the kidnapping of the Korean president's daughter or Dr. Kim himself lead to extended battle sequences filled with bullets, explosions, and gritty hand-to-hand combat.  The film occasionally drags as we keep ending up back at NTS headquarters for numerous briefings and other exposition, but the next stimulating shoot 'em up, car stunt, or chase scene is never far away.  Needless to say, all of this leads up to Athena's final and most devastating terrorist attempt yet, with our heroes risking life and limb to stop it.

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Funimation is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 Korean and English soundtracks (subtitles in English).  Extras consist of a trailer and previews of other Funimation titles.

There's nothing chintzy about this TV-derived feature, although the necessity of hitting the high points of an entire season's story arc (while understandably concentrating on the more action-oriented stuff) tends to render things a bit superficial.  Still, while not entirely memorable, ATHENA: GODDESS OF WAR is quite an enjoyable way for fans of Bond-style espionage exploits to be entertained for a couple of hours.



Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at Amazon.com



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