Official poster for SBS TV series "Athena" [Taewon Entertainment]
"I don't want 'Athena' to merely surpass 'IRIS.' I want it to stand up to comparison in the global market," production company Taewon Entertainment chief Chung Tae-won said of the difference between KBS TV series "IRIS" and its spin-off "Athena" at the press conference for the latter held on November 30. But it is impossible not to compare the two to explain what sort of drama "Athena" is since it is based on the sucess of "IRIS," as well as the trial and error it went through, and the story itself takes off where "IRIS" left off.
First and most noticeable was the larger scale "Athena" was filmed on. The scenes shot in locations overseas including Italy, Japan, Hawaii and New Zealand were more majestic and fancy than what was shown by its predecessor. The sight of the actors running between the ancient and honorable buildings in Dolomiti and Vicenza of Italy will be enough to make the viewer's heart flutter with anticipation, falling in line with Chung's desire of having wanted to show the magnificence of Europe in a way that has never been done before. And actor Jung Woo-sung, who says he rode a motorcycle for the first time since movie "Beat," and model-actor Cha Seung-won, who pulls off intensive fight scenes up against actual Korean-Japanese fighter Chu Sung-hoon who makes a special appearance for the show, overpower the screen with their strong presence. The outstanding cast, composed of actors Jung Woo-sung, Cha Seung-won, Soo Ae, E Ji-ah, Kim Min-jong, Yoo Dong-geun and Choi Siwon, is another eye-catching element. The main characters' sense of responsibility and confidence for the mega-scale drama could be felt in how Cha Seung-won said, "A project with this sort of planning and cast will be judged by people in some way or another. The fact that I'm even just part of this show will help my acting career a lot," while Jung Woo-sung remarked, "I think how we evaluate the show is meaningless -- it's now about what this drama will become through viewers' evaluation after it goes on air."
Scenes from SBS TV series "Athena" [SBS]
But what is important is not how much hype the show gets in the beginning or how splendid the imagery is but whether its degree of completion will remain constant throughout its run. The backdrop for "Athena" has been changed from intelligence agency National Security Service (NSS) to affiliated special organization National Anti-Terror Service (NTS). The show's plot will be similar to "IRIS" in context in that while terrorist organizations and NTS agents will continue to fight intelligence wars, a double spy will emerge within the organization, along with the identity of secret organ "Athena" which aims to change the structure of world power. But unlike "IRIS" which in the beginning relied much on the mystery of who the double spy is, "Athena" reveals the identity of the double spy from the very start. Hence the success of "Athena" will depend on how elaborate its structure is compared to the original show. When asked whether "Athena" too may follow in the footsteps of "IRIS" in how the show's degree of completion increasingly deteriorated, Chung responded, "The script is what's important. We'll notice weak spots after we shoot scenes and monitor them repeatedly, then shoot supplementary scenes for them. We've touched up on the first nine episodes till now and we'll film additional scenes for episode one tomorrow. We don't have a team composed of several dozens of professional writers like the U.S. does so the producers have to take part in correcting the weak points."
Of course, much funding and effort does not always guarantee a positive outcome. "IRIS" was supposed to be a drama executed on a high level of completion but it stopped at being talked about for just a few scenes that left strong impressions such as the candy kiss between actor Lee Byung-hun and actress Kim Tae-hee and the gunfight in Gwanghwamun Square. Will "Athena," starting off from where "IRIS" succeeded and failed, be judged for "'Athena' as a whole and not in whether it is better than 'IRIS'" like Jung Woo-sung hopes for? "Athena" premieres at 9:55 p.m. on December 13.
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