(This is really late, sorry!!)
What happens when augmented reality AR bleeds into real life? Twisty and convoluted, Memories of the Alhambra seems to be the latest k-drama crack that anyone interested in a good story (or Hyun Bin’s dimples) should check out.
Written by Song Jae-jung who had also penned the acclaimed Nine and Queen In-Hyun’s Man (but also the convoluted W: Two Worlds), MotA starts promisingly enough – an arrogant tech CEO, Yoo Jin-woo (Hyun Bin), checks out a mysterious game in Granada, Spain, and gets off on the wrong foot with the sister, Jung Hee-ju (Park Shin-hye), of the underage genius (but of course) game developer (Park Chan-yeol). Enigmas abound – a mind-blowing game set in the real world not unlike Pokemon Go, an in-game death that mysteriously crosses into real life, the disappearance of the game developer – and it looks like it would be a fun ride that explores the blending of the virtual with reality with a dash of mental illness thrown in.
Despite the interesting premise, the plot devolves with loopholes larger than the Amazon (though with the new administration, we might not even have an Amazon in the near future). The ending is one of those hair-tearing ones where one has to do Olympic-level mental gymnastics in order to accept.
While Park Shin-hye has done a competent job in playing the guitar and speaking Spanish fairly fluently, she has been sorely underutilised as the female lead; other than turning on the waterworks and expressing concern for the protagonist, she seems to have very little impact on the story. (In an interview, the writer admits that this originally less significant role was rewritten because Park Shin-hye was cast.)
The same can be said for most of the other characters. Besides Yoo Jin-woo who can be smarmily ruthless one moment and defeated the next, none of the other supporting characters have been fully fleshed-out, and are mere plot devices to move the story along.
The only exception might be Secretary Seo. Though his screen-time was pretty short, he’s such an endearing sidekick that I cried buckets when he died, then came back to rescue Jin-woo.
The casting of Kim Eui-sung as Professor Cha has also twisted audience expectations. His turn as the ultimate villain in W imbues him with much more shadiness than is probably necessary.
While some may complain about the excessive PPL – Subway, Breitling, Dyson, coffee, shampoo to name a few – I am rather amused by how these have been worked into the script.
All in all, if the run-time had been tightened to 12 episodes instead of the standard 16, the focus shifted from it being a romance to a thriller, and the internal logic being tighter, MotA might have been more palatable.