Bong Joon-Ho’s Mickey7: Plot, Cast, and Everything Else We Know

Posted 2022/04/26 13 0


Where does a director go after they release a masterpiece? A film that is as intelligent as it is entertaining, that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the late-capitalist age? A film that won just about every conceivable award it could have, breaking new ground in the process? Where can they go next? For Parasite (2019) director Bong Joon-Ho, the answer is the distant stars: though he previously suggested his follow-up film could be a Korean action horror movie, according to Deadline, his next film will be an adaptation of Mickey7, Edward Ashton’s 2022 sci-fi novel.

Set in a future where humans are colonizing distant planets and cloning is a reality, the upcoming film will mark Bong’s first foray into intergalactic science fiction. His previous sci-fi films have been strictly terrestrial.

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This should be an interesting change of pace from the realistic class comedy/drama/horror Parasite, but don’t expect the auteur to lay off on the earthly social commentary: Bong has explored many genres and has always grounded his films in contemporary satire, no matter how fantastical the story. He has a deep understanding of the relationship between genre tropes and sociology and has used movie formulas to explicitly explore themes implicit in the genres themselves (e.g., environmental terror and neglect in the monster movie are made overt in the Host (2006), while class inequality and social Darwinism in the dystopian sci-fi thriller is explored and subverted in Snowpiercer (2013), Bong’s first English language film).

The Mickey7 novel is full of ideas about labor, corporate control, and colonialism, all told through the protagonist’s gallows humor. There’s plenty of room for Bong’s satire and directorial trademarks to shine through.

Here’s everything we know about the upcoming film so far.

The Story

Mickey7 tells the story of Mickey, a former historian who takes on the most dangerous position in a mission to colonize Niflheim, an ice world populated by extra-terrestrials. Mickey is expendable: his job is to perform suicide missions. When he dies (as expendables are meant to do), a perfect copy of him is replicated with memory intact. By the novel’s beginning, Mickey has died six times and is not terribly happy about the whole arrangement. When he is lost on a particularly dangerous mission, Mickey7 is presumed dead and is replaced by Mickey8; but Mickey7 is alive, and things get complicated when an alien indigenous to Niflheim helps him return to his home base.

Author Edward Ashton told SciFiNow that the impetus for Mickey7 was the teletransport paradox:

“Even as a kid watching Star Trek, I can remember thinking that these people had to be out of their minds to get into a transporter. It seemed pretty obvious to me that it wasn’t actually transporting anyone. It was just dissolving them on one end, and then making a fresh copy on the other. That might be fine for an outside observer, but the person who got dissolved was gone, replaced by a perfect replicant.”

Though Ashton is a physicist committed to scientific accuracy in his fiction, character and philosophy are given the most emphasis in his novel. A major focus in the story is the destructive legacy of the human species and the relationship between that destruction and colonialism. Once an empirical social body uses up a particular place’s resources, it’s inclined to go somewhere else and take more resources (in addition to whatever other atrocities are committed against the indigenous population). Though the novel’s setting is fantastical, Ashton intended the story to reflect real historical/political issues — albeit with some distance.

“[…] science fiction is an ideal genre for exploring emotionally charged issues […] because the setting allows the author to abstract the ideas a bit, and allows the reader to approach things without their emotional blinders. Most of us read our actual histories with some combination of defensiveness about the atrocities committed by our ancestors and righteous fury at the atrocities committed against them. It’s much easier to think about the competing narratives of the colonizers and the colonized when they’re both safely off in space somewhere.”

Ashton gave the unpublished manuscript to Bong Joon-Ho at the end of 2021. The filmmaker was impressed with the novel and went about acquiring the rights. Given Bong’s history of adaptations, the as-yet untitled Mickey7 movie will probably take significant liberties with the source material, keeping the elements that fit into his sensibilities and excising the rest. Unlike Ashton, the filmmaker will probably do all he can to explicitly connect the story of interstellar colonialism to historical and modern earthly systems of oppression and genocide.

The story’s focus on corporate exploitation and conquest fit neatly into Bong’s worldview, as does the Mickey character: a man who faces unimaginable horror, whose very existence is manipulated beyond the barrier of mortality to serve corporate interests. While all of his films are political, Bong Joon-Ho does not usually focus on political figures: his protagonists are apolitical Everymen, swept into life-shattering plots by forces beyond their control and placed back on the ground (in one piece or several) by the end. The indifferent political structures that disrupted their lives usually persist.

The basic shape of Mickey7 will probably be adapted faithfully; how Bong chooses to fill in the textures of the story is anyone’s guess.

The Castrobert-pattinson-good-time

Robert Pattinson is in talks to star in the new film. This will mark the first collaboration between the actor and Bong Joon-Ho, but the pair seem like an excellent match. Pattinson has established his acting chops, shedding the pretty boy image cultivated in the Twilight Films and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In recent years Pattinson has worked predominantly in auteur-driven cinema, kinetic films with brooding atmosphere, and occasionally absurd humor, such as Good Time (2017) and the Lighthouse (2019). While both of those films are utterly unique, they share common artistry, tension, and strangeness with the films of Bong Joon-Ho, and Pattinson is no doubt up for the plunge into his dark, chaotic world. Though little is known about the casting (or the screenplay), we can assume that Pattinson will take on the role of Mickey and his various incarnations.

So far, Bong has made two English language films, Snowpiercer and Okja (2017) (the latter film also featuring passages in Bong’s native Korean). Despite the language barrier (Bong speaks English but relies on translators to capture nuance, such as Sharon Choi), he has shown no short-coming in the direction of his English-speaking actors. It will be exciting to see which stars he taps to appear in the new film and what comes of their collaboration.

The ReleaseBong Joon-Ho

No release date has been announced. According to Deadline, the film is being produced through Warner Bros. by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B, which also produced Bong Joon-Ho’s latest English language film, Okja.

Bong will also be producing via his Offscreen production company, alongside Dooho Choi for the Kate Street Picture Company. Dooho Choi previously produced Bong’s films Snowpiercer and Okja.

Though the feature film may be a ways off, Mickey7 is now available for purchase from Rebellion Publishing.

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