Thursday, 5 November 2015

Doomsday Book (2012)

This South Korean production is actually an anthology of three short films.  Not in a Pulp Fiction "we've got several more or less standalone narratives that nonetheless intertwine with each other", but in a straight up "hey here are three short films that we've stuck on one DVD".  There are no shared characters and the events of each film are basically incompatible with those of the others so you can't even imagine them as sharing a world.  They do have a thematic link - they all deal with situations which may mean the end of humanity as we know it (though they're wildly different in their details) - but each is a self-contained unit.  There isn't even a framing narrative for them.

With that in mind, I'm going to judge this "film" based on its constituent parts, rather than as a whole package.

'A Brave New World' is a zombie contagion scenario where the gimmick is that it's told from the perspective of the first people to become infected, rather than from that of survivors attempting to remain alive.  It's considerably stronger at the start than at the end.  This is a common trait of all three films to some extent, but it is most pronounced here.  A quick warning: this film contains graphic abattoir scenes.

'The Heavenly Creature' examines the question of 'what if a machine became self-aware?" through a Buddhist lens.  It's the most effects-heavy section of the film, since it features a humanoid robot as a major character, but it is definitely not a spectacle-based film.  The effects are frequent but low-key and prosaic, and the focus is very much on the philosophical ramifications of the situation: what does it mean for humanity as a whole and Buddhists in particular if a machine can think like we do?  It's definitely a section of the film I can see myself re-watching one day to try and unpack everything it is saying.

Finally we have 'Happy Birthday', in which a 10-kilometer wide asteroid is 12 hours from a cataclysmic collision with Earth.  Despite the apocalyptic scenario, it's actually the funniest of the three films; albeit in a rather "gallows humour" kind of way; both in terms of why disaster is looming and in terms of how people respond to it.

While I don't think that any of these films is an automatic "home run" in its own right, I do appreciate that all three try to do something more than just "action films with aliens" (and I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoys action films with aliens).  If you want some SF that's not from the Space Opera playbook, you might like it.

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