Space Sweepers

Space Sweepers Is the Live Action Cowboy Bebop Movie You’ve Been Waiting For

Dept. of South Korean Space Operas


A group of misfits, the crew of a real banger of a spaceship, each one with an unsavoury past that they’re running away from, stumble upon a girl with mysterious powers, and get caught up in an interplanetary conspiracy that’s way over their heads. If any (or all) of that sounds familiar, it could be because you’ve seen it a hundred times before, in Cowboy Bebop, in Firefly, in The Mandalorian, and in everything in between. Space Sweepers, South Korea’s first ever space opera, isn’t a reinvention in any way or form, but it is an absolute blast.

And I loved every minute of it.


Space Sweepers is a great example of a movie that is derivative by nature and yet completely satisfying. Yes, there is some ropey acting. (What is it with white actors hamming it up in Asian movies? I’m looking at you Richard Armitage!) Yes, in typical K-Drama style, there are at least three too many narrative threads going on. And yes, nothing that happens here is particularly surprising. But none of these niggling nitpicks get in the way of just how much fun all of this is.

Space Sweepers

Director Jo Sung-hee wears his inspirations on his sleeve. From its opening minutes, with that Vangelis-like score and Blade Runner-esque pan across a futuristic landscape, to its many references to The Fifth Element, and Akira, and Serenity, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Wars (of course), this feels like the work of a lifelong fan who finally got the chance to make his own version of the movies he loved watching as a kid.

But it’s also more. Because Jo Sung-hee goes beyond just borrowing from – and paying homage to – the greats. He also builds on what has come before. The world he has created feels extraordinarily real and lived in. It is a future without the same cultural and linguistic borders of today, and he depicts that through a cacophony of characters, each one speaking their own language, and marching to the sound of their own tune. There is a diversity here that doesn’t feel forced, and it was a real pleasure in hearing every character speak in their own voice.


There is also a breathtaking scope to this production. Everything from the dizzying action to the dazzling visual effects belies Space Sweepers‘ US$21 million budget. God knows, we’ve all seen movies made for ten times as much that don’t look half as good.

This is a fully immersive universe, with a stunning amount of attention paid to even the smallest of details. Just take the design, physics, and flight mechanics of every spaceship. Each one has a look and feel that is unique. Each one is a character in itself.

Space Sweepers

The secret to this movie’s success, however, lies with our heroes – Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), Jang (Kim Tae-ri), Park (Jin Seon-kyu), and Bubs (Yoo Hae-jin). Much like their spiritual forefathers – the crew of the Serenity, the Bebop, and the Milano – the found family of loveable rogues on the Victory are a squad that we can root for. This is where the script does most of the heavy lifting. There is a lot of heart here and it makes us believe that these four selfish washouts can come together for a cause that is greater than themselves. In spite of themselves.

You will fall in love with these characters. You will want to see them in more adventures. You will want to learn more about their world. Space Sweepers, in its 136 minute runtime, sets up such a fascinating universe that the avenues for prequels, sequels, and spinoffs are endless.


Is there a message in this movie? Sure there is. You know how it goes. Treat the planet good because it’s the only home we have. Big corporations run by demagogues who pretend to be saviours are almost always evil. Rich people will only ever look out for themselves. And when all hope seems lost, start shooting at things with a really big laser gun.

None of that is particularly important though. None of that really matters. Space Sweepers is an exciting, whiz-bang, utterly frenetic piece of escapist fare. It is colourful. It is tongue-in-cheek. It’ll tap into your abiding love of kitschy sci-fi and has just enough indie wit to win the day.

I just wish I could have seen it on a bigger screen.

Space Sweepers is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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