We’re serious. It’s not because of BoA.
Though her star is not nearly as bright as it once was, BoA could not have been expected to carry the movie on American shores, where she has had only limited success to begin with. BoA’s performance in “Make Your Move” has been panned by critics, especially her awkward delivery of English, but we felt that her acting was more than serviceable in a movie that was supposed to be more about dance and spectacle than drama. And that leads to our next point...
SM Entertainment wants to be taken seriously. That’s the problem.
SM wanted to make a serious film (with its partners) and that’s what they made, a strangely serious film. About dance. Looking at the successful “Step It Up” series as a guide, dance films are built on a certain level of camp. On a little bit of cheese. Sure, there’s drama, there are complications, but there’s also a whole lot of fun, and one excuse after another to give us ridiculous dance sequences in the name of love (or justice, or saving some community center, etc).
While not exactly joyless, when the fun and spectacle does arrive in “Make Your Move” it is too soon interrupted by the contrived story, this escalating drama between two families, with our heroes (Donny and Aya) caught in the middle. The Romeo and Juliet angle could even work, and work well, if the rest of the movie were more lighthearted, by way of memorable supporting characters that aren’t constantly scowling, or by more inventive dance sequences that truly use Brooklyn and its unique inhabitants.
SM should realize that Kpop, their industry, is fun and campy, and would have fit perfectly within the world of over-the-top dance films. But SM seems to feel embarrassed by its own success. Why?
Why Not Embrace Kpop?
We heard some f(x) in the background of a few scenes, but besides that, the movie felt determined to separate itself from Kpop. But why not embrace your medium? You have some of the biggest stars on the planet: Girls’ Generation. Exo. SHINee. Why not dance to their songs? Have them release new songs to coincide with the movie? Have Jessica as the best friend? Key as the love interest? Like we’ve said, Kpop and dance movies could fit perfectly together, and by embracing Korean music, “Make Your Move” could have taken the best of both worlds and made something surprisingly original. And maybe it could have hit a nerve among the growing American Kpop fans.
We know the mindset behind having a more American soundtrack, and behind casting an “American lead” with some recognition for American audiences. But how’d that work out for them?
Making a Move in America
The filmmakers behind “Make Your Move” have made some curious decisions. BoA’s Aya is pursued by two white men (the rich villain, the poor hero), that bring up reminders of the fetishization of Asian women, an issue that is never directly addressed in the film. Donny and Aya fall for each other without much in the way of conversation. While their love is seemingly based on their shared passion for dance, Donny is infatuated with Aya even before he sees her perform. When they eat dinner together and finally have a full conversation, Donny asks questions about Aya’s heritage, wants to learn Japanese, and is trying to be sweet in a scene that really ends up being clumsy. The scene raises questions that it probably never intended to. Like: How many Asian women can relate to being pursued by white men with sincere but ultimately superficial questions about their heritage? And, more importantly to the movie, what is it that truly brings these two lovers together?
Strange issues with race don’t end there. Aya and her brother were raised Japanese but are of Korean blood, a detail that could be interesting, but is thrown away with a cryptic shrug and one line from Aya, where she says that Japan and Korea’s histories are complicated. There is history there. But there’s also history between the countries and BoA herself, who really struck fame in Japan, becoming a star and a bridge between Japan and Korea. Was Aya’s background a nod to BoA’s own history? Or did the filmmakers make her “Japanese” to, again, shed their Kpop skin?
Maybe it all comes down to money. Not enough money, maybe. The release was delayed for years. The marketing was scarce when the movie finally did arrive, and the theater we watched “Make Your Move” in only had it playing on one screen, for one noon showing a day. There was no one else in the theater with us. As of today, the movie has only made $125,000 at 142 theaters across the country. Not enough money to advertise, to play on significant screens, to partner with bigger producers, all signs must have pointed to failure. “Make Your Move” wasn’t released, it was dumped. And really, BoA deserves better than that. This movie, despite its flaws, deserves better than that.
It’s questionable then, why SM would even attempt such a venture if they didn’t have the resources to make it succeed. It’s even more questionable how they don’t have the resources, with all their worldwide talent.
“Make Your Move” was a failure
But it can also serve as a lesson for SM. The next time they make their move, they should go all in.