Doomsday Book is an anthology film hailing from South Korea. It was originally conceived as a film bringing together three futuristic visions from three of Korea's top filmmakers. Unfortunately, that is not how it went down. Filming began in 2006 and two of the three segments were completed, but Han Jae-Rim's (The Show Must Go On) segment fell through and he left the project. It was not until a few years later that funding was available to make a third segment, a role stepped into by Yim Pil-Sung, who had directed one of the other segments. Now, with a completed film it has now been unleashed upon the world.
The first segment is called Brave New World and was directed by Yim Pil-Sung (Hansel and Gretel). It takes a look at the future through an oncoming zombie apocalypse with vaguely religious overtones. The zombie outbreak is brought about by a bad apple. We watch the disease spread and the undead begin to take over. Then it stops.
Yes, it is a good segment, but it feels incomplete. We get the image of the apple being the undoing of humanity and a couple on a blind date, perhaps playing the roles of Adam and Eve in the new zombie world, and then nothing. Rather than feeling like a short, it feels like the first part of a larger piece. I suppose you could say you are meant to fill in what happens next, but that just seems like a cop out. I want to know more about this brave new undead world. I like what I saw, but I needed more.
The second segment is clearly the best of the three. It is called Heavenly Creature and was directed by Kim Jee-Woon (The Quiet Family, I Saw the Devil). This piece tells the story of a robot who has attained enlightenment in a Buddhist temple. It is an intriguing concept that brings Asimov's Robot books to mind, as well as the I, Robot film adaptation (primarily because of the similarity in robot design).
The piece brings the robot and the robot's manufacturers into conflict. The idea being that while the robot may not exhibit any physical signs of defect, the fact that it is acting in such a decidedly non-robot fashion must be a sign of it being a malfunction. Of course, that also begs the question of where does sentience begin? Could this growth beyond programming indicate of something special or a new evolutionary step?
The piece may be a touch talky and could have used a feature length to expand on its ideas a bit more fully, it is still am interesting and thoughtful piece. It is the one segment that will likely make me come back to to this film. It may be slow, it it has a unique meditative quality.
The third and final segment sees Yim Pil-Sung return to the directors chair for a piece called Happy Birthday. This apocalyptic tale is the most comical of the trilogy. It is an odd tale that may point to our reliance on technology and a lack of attention towards our fate. Oh, who am I kidding, I am really not sure what this short is saying.
The segment features a young girl looking to buy a replacement 8 ball for her father's pool table. No sooner has she ordered said ball, the timeline jumps ahead two years and the Earth is about to be struck by a meteor. The funny thing is that the missing 8 ball and the ordered replacement may have a connection. There are aliens involved too.
I would be lying if I said I was not entertained. It is fun in a nonsensical sort of way. My recommendation would be to not think to hard about it, just enjoy.
Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1. It is a very good looking transfer with a good deal of fine detail throughout. There is good representation. Of light sources, both natural and enhanced, most notably during the Brave New World. Heavenly Creature has a very nice, naturalistic look to the lighting. Happy Birthday is generally good looking, but some of the effects seem a bit soft, likely a result of the source and not the transfer. Overall, it is a good looking disk with fine color presentation.
Audio is represented by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Korean track. Is a good tack that manages to be rather immersive throughout with surrounds kicking in at just the right moments, like the nightclub in the opening segment. Dialogue is always crisp and clear.
Extras. The lone extra is the trailer for the film. That's it.
Bottomline. Overall, Doomsday Book is a mediocre compilation. It features one incomplete segment, one intriguing segment, and one essentially throwaway segment. It is shot well and there is certainly talent involved, however you would probably be better served seeing one of their feature films than watching them in this truncated format.
Article first published as Blu-ray: Doomsday Book on Blogcritics.