In our ultra-connected digital age, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many artists who haven’t shared the entirety of their journeys with their fans online. In the moment, that’s no bad thing – seeing every angle of your favourite act’s story can make you feel closer to them, make you relate to them even more and strengthen your love for them. But should said artist later come to release an official documentary recapping their career so far, it presents a particular problem – how do you create a piece that not only hits the key highlights for the casual or new fan, but also offers something fresh and unseen for the hardcore follower?
BTS’ story has been more well-documented than most. Over the last 10 years, the boyband have shared everything and more – from pre-debut vlogs, behind-the-scenes clips of music video shoots, time spent in green rooms and time killed between schedules, tour documentaries, livestreams sharing their current thoughts, feelings and activities and so much more. HYBE and Disney+’s new docu-series BTS Monuments: Beyond The Star has a tough challenge to beat, then.
Although many of the scenes in the first two episodes will likely be familiar to most fans (given the footage has largely been used in the above releases), the 10-part series goes to the heart of BTS to offer up a new take – the members themselves. As the episodes dovetail through the band’s chronology, each of the seven rappers and singers shares their reflections on their experiences and how they impacted on what came next. Some of these musings have been broadcast before, like their sweet declarations of no longer just being bandmates, colleagues and friends but family. But as the series progresses, more fresh insight comes to the fore.
Episode one is titled ‘The Beginning’, yet it starts not in 2013 but in 2020, as BTS are preparing to make a comeback with ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’. There are clips of leader RM making grand statements at press conferences and in TV interviews (“Some people still say art cannot change the world,” he says at the BTS Connect launch. “But we still believe in the power of art”), fans excitedly and nervously trying to get tickets for the ‘Map Of The Soul’ tour, and the band’s gutted reaction when they were told the opening shows of that tour were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The series sets up 2020 as a pivotal year. Forced to a halt, along with the rest of the world, it became a reflective time for the group. “I think it was a time meant to study ourselves again,” J-hope explains, as he and his bandmates note that period helped them realise how much they love what they do. As those reflections tumble forth, the doc rewinds the clock and takes us back to BTS’ 2013 debut and the trials and successes they went through in the years following.
We see them working themselves to the bone and catching minutes of sleep whenever they can; feeling the pressure that, if they didn’t make a bigger breakthrough in 2014, their time might come to an end; levelling up through Seoul’s venues; the contrast of making waves internationally and the internal struggles they were dealing with at the time. Bang Si-hyuk, HYBE founder and the man behind BTS, offers his own input to the story, as does Myeong-seok Kang, author of the recent Beyond The Story: 10-Year Record of BTS book.
By the end of episode two, though, we’re already back in 2020. Perhaps future episodes will head back in time again but, as it stands, it feels like a lightning-fast recapping that could dig a little bit deeper. This quick pace, however, suggests Beyond The Star will spend much of its focus on the group’s later years. There’ll be no lack of story there, but that conundrum of providing something new could throw a spanner in the works of this otherwise zippy and enjoyable docu-series.
BTS Monument: Beyond The Star is available to stream on Disney+
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