Doomsday Book (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 2, 2012 by Dennis Amith
“Doomsday Book” is a fascinating anthology series featuring two filmmakers and three films about the end of humanity/life. While some may come away thinking it’s a zombie film, a robot film and a catastrophic film, others who appreciate each of the film’s message about humanity may enjoy it much more.
TITLE: Doomsday Book
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 114 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Korean Stereo/5.1 HD Surround Sound, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Directed by Jee-woon Kim, Pil-Sung Yim
Written by Jee-woon Kim, Pil-Sung Yim
Producer: Jung-hwa Kim
Line Producer: Young-mo Kang
Music by Mowg
Cinematography by Sung-min Ha, Ji-yong Kim
Doon Bae as Min-seo
Joon-ho Bong as Joon-ho, lee
Ji-hee Jin as Min-seo
John D. Kim as Former NASA Researcher
Kang-woo Kim as Robert repairman Park Do-won
Jun-hee Ko as Kim Yoo-min
Dong-seok Ma as High school zombie
Hae-il Park as In-Myung
Seung-beom Ryu as Suk-woo
Sae-Beyok Song as Min-Seo’s Uncle
YOON Seok-woo (RYOO Seung-bum) is a researcher whose family goes on a trip, leaving him behind to his lonesome. When his friend sets him up on a blind date, Seok-woo just carelessly discards the food waste from his home and heads out to go on his date. His night consists of a good barbecue and dancing at a club with the hot young girl (KOH Joon-hee). He finally gets to kiss the girl, when a couple of high school students interrupt their intimate moment. Seok-woo experiences strange physical changes as he is somehow able to beat them to a pulp with a surge of strength. Soon zombies flood the streets of Seoul, as the mass media frantically tries to uncover the identity of a mysterious virus that brings the city to ruins.
What happens when you give two South Korean filmmakers (Yim Pil-sung, director of “A Bitersweet Life”,, “The Good, The Bad, the Weird”, “I Saw the Devil” and Kim Ji-woon, director of “Hansel & Gretel”, “Antarctic Journal”) a chance to create their own film about the end of humanity/life? The results are quite fascinating in this sci-fi anthology series known as “Doomsday Book”, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Dec. 2012.
Featuring three unique and different stories of alternate forms of genuine humanity, the original plan for “Doomsday Book” was to have three filmmakers (the third being Han Jae-rim) to create a film but unfortunately due to financing problems, two were created while Yim Pil-sung was able to come back and direct the third film.
And the film which was budgeted at $5 million, went on to receive top prize at the 2012 Fantasia Festival for the films “intelligence and originality”.
The first film featured in the anthology is “Brave New World”, written and directed by Yim Pil-sung and is a zombie film. The film revolves around a research scientist named Yoon Seok-Woo (portrayed by Ryu Seung-beom) who is upset that his family has left him to on vacation and trust him to throw away all the garbage and rotten food which includes a rotten apple and put it into the waste disposal system.
The bad food is then returned to the food chain as it is fed to cows. While, Seok-woo is out on a date with Kim Yoo-min (portrayed by Go Joon-hee), the two love eating meat and the restaurant gives the two a gift of more beef to eat. While Seok-woo is eating the new meat, Yoo-min asks why there is pieces of an apple on the meat.
As the two take a stroll, Seok-woo and Yoo-min make out at a playground. But for some reason, he is starting to feel unusual. While he is being teased by two thugs that are watching him and Yoo-min, when he tries to tell him off, he is beaten up. But when he comes to, he has better fighting skills but he starts to revert to a zombie and takes a bite of the two individuals. And sooner or later, those who are infected, start biting others and everyone is becoming a flesh-eating zombie.
But as zombies, will the love that Seok-woo has for Yoo-min continue or will it disappear now that both have become flesh eating zombies?
The second storyline is titled “Heavenly Creatures” and is directed by Kim Ji-woon. One day, a technician named Park Do-won (portrayed by Kim Kang-woo), who is employed by the robotics company UR is called to check on a RU4 robot (voiced by Park Hae-il) who is employed at a Buddhist monastery. RU4 has not only become a Buddhist but he claims to have achieved enlightenment and this has caused his fellow monks to wonder if a miracle has happened or if there is some glitch. So, Park Do-won goes to check on it.
But Do-won feels that RU4 is just fine the way he is but that the people of the monastery should not treat him like a human because he’s only a robot. And this rubs some practicing monks the wrong way as they try to defend RU4 as special, which Do-won refuses to believe.
But when Do-won doesn’t fill out a report at UR, this prompts UR chairman Kang Seong-cheol (portrayed by Song Young-chang), research executive Min Yu-na (portrayed by Kim Seo-hyung), Park Do-won and soldiers to come to the monastery as they plan to destroy RU4.
Chariman Seong-cheol explains that robots are to serve humans and the RU4 unit was created to have emotions and be like living beings, in which they should not be created that way and the danger of people treating robots as a sentient being is wrong. And therefore, the chairman authorizes for RU4 to be shot down. But all of a sudden, someone unexpected comes to RU4’s defense. But will that person be able to save Ru4?
The third and final film is “Happy Birthday” which is written and directed by Yim Pil-sung and co-written by Jang Jong-ah.
The film follows a young girl named Park Min-seo (portrayed by Jin Ji-hee) who has accidentally damaged her father’s 8-ball. So, to order an 8-ball before her father (portrayed by Lee Seung-jun), mother (portrayed by Yoon Se-ah) and uncle (portrayed by Song Sae-byok) finds out that she damaged the original, she orders the cheapest ball from a website and throws the original out into the street. The 8-ball lands in a hole in the middle of the street.
Two-years later and the Earth is preparing for a major catastrophe as a massive asteroid is to hit the planet Earth. But there is a note on the asteroid and when Min-seo sees it, she begins to panic because the note is her birthday and information and to make things worse, she notices the asteroid is an 8-ball. Of course, her family doesn’t believe her but they prepare themselves to live in an underground shelter and hopefully survive after the asteroid hits the planet.
“Doomsday Book” is an interesting film as it features three different styles. As one can expect from “Brave New World”, the film is dark and tries not to gross audiences out with too much blood, the film retains its dark zombie atmosphere. The second film looks well-detailed, well-lighted and has a calm sci-fi style to it. And the third film tends to be shot primarily in a dark room and featuring the characters watching television.
The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen and for the most part, the anthology films do look good on Blu-ray. Good amount of detail, especially for “Heavenly Creature” which looks the best of the two. The serene and calming look of the monastery and the robot was nicely shot, while “Happy Birthday” is pretty much shot in a darker room but utilizes quite a bit of visual effects compared to the other two films.
Detail is very good, as with the picture quality. Not the most vibrant film but the film does look good in HD.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Doomsday Book” is presented in Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Korean Dolby Digital Stereo. The film is great when it comes to surrounding ambiance but each film deals with action sequences and thus sound better through the surround channels. While I felt that “Heavenly Creature” sounds great due to its brief action sequence, “Happy Birthday” is primarily dialogue-driven while “Brave New World” is a chaotic film as humanity is being converted into flesh eating zombies, and thus you can hear the gross ambiance from this film. But for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear and lossless soundtrack is good.
Subtitles are in English.
“Doomsday Book” comes with a theatrical trailer.
“Doomsday Book” comes with a cardboard slipcover.
“Doomsday Book” is a fascinating film about humanity/life and death and the different takes that Yim Pil-sung.
While I don’t mind zombie films, “Brave New World” is slightly violent as we see people turning into zombies and feasting on each other. Because the light is dark, you don’t really get to see the bloody violence in too much detail. But while the zombie portions are not too scary, I did find myself disturbed of the footage of a person killing a cow with the quack of a bar on the cow’s skull. That’s one video footage that wouldn’t pass in America but for the overall message of this film, I did find “Brave New World” fascinating.
Is Yim Pil-sung trying to communicate that we should treat all life with compassion? And to be careful of what we eat?
But the world or South Korea anyway, becomes a society of flesh eating zombies but what if they are to retain some form of love (despite eating and feasting on non-zombie people)?
“Heavenly Creature” is the best film of the three films on “Doomsday Book”. Ru4 is a robot that feels it has achieved enlightenment and how he talks to the people around him is quite deep and intellectual. While storylines of fear of robots becoming too smart has been debated over and featured in many sci-fi films, it’s an interesting film to see its take on what if humans had created a sentient robot with real human emotion? And to see the monks of the Buddhist trying to defend and protect RU4, while the head of robotics corporation UR tries to remind monks that no one should treat robots to be human or sentient. They were created for the sole purpose to assist humans and nothing more. Fascinating twist at the end of this film.
And for the final, third film, “Happy Birthday” is more comedy-driven as it features an 8-ball that is gigantic, heading towards Earth. While the film is pretty much about how humanity deals with their pending death and seeing how things play out in the media, it’s final minute is quite interesting and I won’t spoil it for the viewer but of the two films, the third is more comedy and somewhat fatalistic.
“Doomsday Book” is a fascinating anthology and its different take on the end of human life. But while I felt that “Heavenly Creature” was an amazing and enjoyable and intelligent film, the other two unfortunately by Yim Pil-sung was just average. While I’m sure audiences who love zombie films will be fascinated to see a Korean zombie film, I just felt the execution was rushed and not thought-provoking.
And the third film was just too much about the comedy and really, only until you reach the final minute do we get a message about the film.
But one can watch these films and come out of it thinking even more about what the message is all about. One can watch “Brave New World” and say that humanity has become like monsters. Treated this world badly and from the pollution caused in this world, people are feeding the pollution to their animals, which humans end up consuming.
For “Heavenly Creature”, the idea has been featured before in different storylines from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (ie. nanite episode) to even the “Terminator” films. How much power is humanity going to give to these robots in the future and if these robots are conscience about their life and knowing that humans will try to extinguish their lives to prevent them from having any humanity within them, is that right for humanity to judge what is life and what isn’t?
And the final film also has been featured in films such as “The Bed Sitting Room” to something like “Battlestar Galactica” series of whether or not humanity has a better chance of evolving when you eliminate a lot of the crap that exists in the world today?
Overall, “Doomsday Book” is a fascinating anthology. Each of these three films will surely entertain viewers but it all comes down to what one takes from it. Do you take it as a regular film about zombies, a robot and a gigantic 8-ball slamming into Earth or do you see the films as something significant when it comes to a filmmaker’s approach to a similar theme?
Suffice to say, this is one of those films that will be subjective to a viewer and I won’t doubt that each person comes away thinking differently about the films presented in “Doomsday Book”. But in the end, “Doomsday Book” is an intriguing film, but don’t expect each film in the anthology to be consistent in terms of style and message. But if you have an open mind and like art, able to give these three films your own personal interpretation, then the two directors have accomplished their goal.
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