Doomsday Book (2012) – Review
November 13, 2012 2 Comments
Film Review by FilmFellaHenry – 7/10
A comical and unique look at mankind’s fall from evolutionary superiority, Doomsday Book takes the form of a 3 story anthology, helmed by Korean directors Yim Pil-Sung and Kim Jee-woon. With a content that features zombie outbreaks, the apocalypse via internet shopping and a robot who thinks it’s Buddha, Doomsday Book is certainly an interesting, if imperfect watch.
The first story ‘A Brave New World’ is basically an outbreak scenario. Directed by Yim Pil-Sung, it’s a cautionary tale of how food recycling could eventually lead to the mass distribution of a mind destroying virus. Bizarre? Sure is.
Despite the outbreak’s innocuous origins, A Brave New World doesn’t really break new ground, retelling the familiar stages of confusion, panic and outright chaos that preludes the majority of movie epidemics. The real charm of Yim Pil-Sung’s fatalistic story however, is the style in which it is told: the quirky yet threatening horror themed atmosphere, regular punctuations of some very odd comedy, and an unexpected love story subtext are some of the segment’s most prevalent charms. All in all, A Brave New World serves as a satisfying, if a little unoriginal opener to Doomsday Book.
Taking a jump into the not-so-distant future comes Kim Jee-woon’s thought provoking segment ‘The Heavenly Creature’. Set within the peaceful surroundings of a Buddhist temple, robot mechanic Park Do-won (Kim Kang-woo) is called in to evaluate whether a resident synthetic is the reincarnation of Buddha, or merely a jumble of malfunctioning circuits destined for the scrapheap.
Going by Kim Jee-woon’s impressive filmography (A Bittersweet Life, I Saw The Devil, The Good The Bad The Weird) this was the segment I was most looking forward to. And for the most part, it doesn’t disappoint. Accepting a robot as a sentient being, and more importantly, one that has achieved a state of religious grace unattainable to most humans is the dilemma park Do-won finds himself burdened with. On one hand the temple’s residents are in awe of this phenomenon, ready to deify it; on the other, the corporation that created the robot point blank refuse to seed mankind’s throne at the apex of global evolution to a low rent version of Sonny from I, Robot. While this segment doesn’t quite delve deep enough into the moral and scientific implications of such a discovery, the relevance to our own society is clear: with technology advancing faster than it ever has before, AI is no longer the fantasy of ’50’s sci-fi fiction… and with it comes a whole viper’s nest of ethical questions. Can an inorganic life form be classed as equal to a human? Can it supersede a human? And if so, should we kill it quick?
The final chapter to Doomsday Book titled ‘Happy Birthday’, is probably the oddest, though by Korean standards it’s probably akin to a mainstream Roland Emmerich flick. Again directed by Yim Pil-Sung, the world is under threat from a mysterious astral object hurtling through space… which turns out to be a gigantic Magic 8 Ball. To indulge in an explanation of how everyone’s favourite novelty crap could turn into a large asteroid hurtling through the cosmos would certainly take away from the film; essentially, it’s absurd yet bizarrely creative, a brave (or possibly foolhardy – I haven’t quite decided) attempt to mix layman’s science with preposterous comedy.
While my disbelief wasn’t quite suspended, Yim Pil-Sung’s blend of disaster with offbeat comedy, as seen in the first story, makes issues of plausibility somewhat irrelevant. The location of an atmospheric DIY bunker provides a nice environment for the characters to witness the oncoming apocalypse, while they struggle to work out what the hell is going on. And the characters themselves are varied enough to promote a good dynamic, focusing on a disregarded uncle who claims he has seen an extra terrestrial and a young girl who is the unwitting catalyst for humanity’s impending doom.
In conclusion, Doomsday Book is an enjoyable, quirky anthology that entertains relatively effortlessly. While sometimes lacking in depth and highly dependant on its oft bizarre nature, Doomsday Book certainly shows off the directorial abilities of Pil-Sung and Jee-woon, making them names to watch in the future.