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‘Super Junior: The Last Man Standing’ review: a peek into K-pop veterans’ tumultuous road to stardom

Super Junior’s two-part documentary is now available on Disney+.

Super Junior in a promotional photo.
Photo: Disney+

Some of the biggest names in K-pop, like BTS, TWICE and Blackpink have churned out films documenting the stories behind their road to fame.

So it all makes sense when K-pop veterans Super Junior, who debuted in 2005, finally got their own. Their titular documentary Super Junior: The Last Man Standing dropped on 18 Jan (Wed).

Photo: Disney+

The two-part documentary tells the story of the supergroup dating back to its humble beginnings in 2005. Video interviews from members and their then manager Tak Young-jun, who is now COO of SM Entertainment, are carefully spliced between video archives.

Their label SM Entertainment had intended for the group, initially named as Super Junior 05, to work based on a rotational concept. That meant that members would “graduate” and leave the group at some point.

With an invisible expiry date placed on them, working hard was the only way forward.

“After we got the title song, we practiced for over ten hours a day,” leader Leeteuk recalled the days leading up to their debut in a sit-down interview.

Thereafter, the group found themselves in an awkward state. They did reasonably well with their first album, but there were no concrete accolades until the release of their single U (2006).

And the band clearly knew that more had to be done to remain sustainable in the cut-throat industry.

They introduced a trot sub-unit, Super Junior-T, and released Rokkugo (2007). Going against the stereotypical charismatic look which idols usually boast, the group went wacky with oversized glasses and bling outfits.

“I bet other members were worried big time. But I loved it,” rapper Shin-dong said.

These were some of the many moves they took to solidify their presence. But they were only truly established when Sorry, Sorry (2009) took the world by storm, and later with Mr Simple (2011) and Black Suit (2017).

“If we hadn’t met Sorry, Sorry in 2009, Super Junior wouldn’t exist right now,” confessed vocalist Ryeo-wook.

Super Junior is an idol group like no other. In fact, they are in a league of their own – a message the documentary succeeded in conveying.

They share an unbreakable bond, mostly because they’ve been through thick and thin together through 18 long years.

They’ve pulled through unfortunate accidents, witnessed the passing of the members’ loved ones, gone through mandatory military service amidst member reshuffles.

And one thing was evident – they found strength in one another.

“I didn’t want to admit it, [but] I wanted to keep these members,” rapper Eun-hyuk confessed when an expiry date was initially set for the group, and new members were slated to take over.

“We have to do this for 15 more years. Even after you pass away, we’ll hold a concert in paradise,” Leeteuk said with a pinch of dark humour.

It does seem, though, that the documentary was just a chronological recap on the group, with little else to offer. 

The film steadily paved the way to tell the group’s story from the start, only to close with an abrupt conclusion. Even so, this long-awaited docu was worth the watch.

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  1. Pingback: BTS’ J-Hope let fans jump into the world behind his album with upcoming documentary - SeoulHype

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