Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fantastic Fest 2012 Review- DOOMSDAY BOOK

Directed by: Kim Jee-Woon and Yim Pil-Sung.
Written by: Kim Jee-Woon and Yim Pil-Sun
Starring: Kim Kang-Woo, Kim Gyu-ri, Park Hae-il, Ryoo Seung-bum, Koh Joon-hee, Song Sae-byeok, Jin Ji-hee,  and Bae Doon-Da
Synopsis: Three looks at the way that the world will end. 

DOOMSDAY BOOK was one of my most anticipated movies of the festival. I saw it as another effort from the director of one of my favorites movies of the past couple of years. I ended up skipping FRANKENWEENIE to go see this movie during Fantastic Fest. Now I'm sure that I made the right decision. The premise is very simple. There are three story or scenarios that depict how the Earth will end.

The movie as a whole is very strange in its tone. The segments have no recurring theme apart from the "end of the world" aspect, and tonally, they are very different. The first segment, A Brave New World, deals with a very typical doomsday plot as a way of commenting on the fallacies of modern society. The second segment, The Heavenly Creature, is a very beautiful look at man's relationship with technology and spirituality in an increasingly technological world. The third segment, Happy Birthday, takes a look at the unlikely end of the world thanks to a giant 8-ball, and the need to start over. 

The first segment is a very funny look at how the zombie apocalypse will unravel thanks to a contaminated apple. This segment is very familiar since we see a lot of the usual "zombie" plot tropes such as people believing that the zombie infection is just a disease. There's an endearing love story in the middle of all of this, and it doesn't quite end like I thought it would. There's a lot of great humor related to the main character, and his family's (mis)treatment of him that gave me chuckles. I think this particular segment would be stronger if the plot hadn't been just like every other zombie outbreak story. There is a lot of political and sociological commentary that deals with the endless bickering and instant gratification that plagues us today. I did enjoy the fact that this movie had a pro-vegetarian message in that the reason the virus happens is because of contaminated meat from a nasty butchering plant. You can't get zombie viruses from plants is all I'm saying.

The second segment deals with a robot who while under the employ of Buddhist monks transcends his programming and becomes more aware to the point that the monks regard him as Buddha. When a technician is sent to take a look at the robot, we are treated to a very thoughtful and moving conversation about spirituality, the ever-increasing pace of technology, and the struggles of man as we try to make sense of it all. I teared up by the end of this segment if we're going to be perfectly honest. I don't want to spoil much of it, but needless to say that this was the strongest of the three. The writing had Quentin Tarantino levels of cleverness, and there some very beautiful shots in what is a short that takes place in two locations. This segment is worth the price of admission alone.

The third segment is the strangest one and even as I write this, I'm not sure if I liked it. The set up is that a little girl places an online order for a replacement 8-ball for her dad's pool table. She accidentally orders it from an intergalactic store that sends an 8-ball the size of a small country that is on a collision course with earth and will exterminate life. I did like the very positive themes of family and looking at the positivity of the end of the world, but the tonal shift from the second segment to this one made it very difficult to get into it.

DOOMSDAY BOOK is a movie that is many things. It is well written and beautifully shot. I'm glad that this was my first Fantastic Fest movie of the festival as it set up the tone for the rest of the weird movies I would get to experience. The biggest detractor of this movie is the sequence of the segments. It reminds me of a very strangely put-together mix tapes (yes, I did use to make those back in the day), so if it could be rearranged, I think that it would benefit. 

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