Following his comeback from mandatory military service, Lee Min-ho seemed well-positioned to mark a career transition and start to play older roles. His role as the title sovereign in "The King: Eternal Monarch" appeared likely to help instill in Lee Min-ho's image a sense of regal dignity. Yet in the aftermath of the drama's airing and subsequent poor ratings, Lee Min-ho is instead at a crossroads imagewise.
In many ways Lee Min-ho's character was a bit on-the-nose. Lee Min-ho has long played heartthrob themed characters in fairy tale style stories. And in "The King: Eternal Monarch" this aspect was more blatant than ever before, with Lee Min-ho having to take horseriding lessons for the drama's numerous shots of literal royalty riding on horseback. The image, though distinctive, was ultimately overly safe for a man whose fans had not seen him in a leading role for over three years.
Still, there is something to be said for a more gradual image shift. When Lee Min-ho made his debut fourteen years ago in "Secret Campus" he was still an obvious kid, and would continue to play roles as a high school student for years to come. "Boys over Flowers" was the project that gave Lee Min-ho the attention necessary to become a proper leading man rather than a single actor in a larger ensemble. Subsequent roles highlighted his presence.
But it's clear now that Lee Min-ho can't save a project just on his own. His charisma is excellent, but needs proper direction. There's a fine line between charming arrogance and explicit obnoxiousness, and Lee Min-ho would stumble over it at times in "The King: Eternal Monarch" to the overall project's detriment as well as his own.
However, with the reasons for the underperformance of "The King: Eternal Monarch" being quite complex, it's unlikely anyone will hold Lee Min-ho personally too harshly to account for the drama's disappointing performance. This is particularly true in regards to Lee Min-ho's fans, who remain loyal to the actor and eagerly await his next project.
Written by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's News] Lee Min-ho Faces Next Stage of Career in Uncertainty"
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