Doomsday Book Blu-ray Review

Anthology films make me a bit nervous since I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth – either because each short doesn’t feel like a complete movie, doesn’t last long enough, doesn’t connect with each other, or just doesn’t seem that rewatchable. Even with amazing directors and talented casts, I’m basically left unsatisfied after watching a movie composed of a bunch of unrelated shorts. I hate to describe the ones I’ve seen in one word, but I give a big “meh” to the following critically-acclaimed anthology films I’ve sat through: Three…Extremes; Paris, je t’aime; Eros; New York Stories; Ro.Go.Pa.G.; and Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. I love The Kentucky Fried Movie and The History of the World Part 1, but those really aren’t anthology films. Appropriately released this year due to end-of-the-world hysteria, Korea’s Doomsday Book turned out to be quite a wonderful anthology film. Doomsday Book consists of three short films, directed by two popular South Korean directors – Pil-sung Yim (Hansel and Gretel), who directs the first and third short, and Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil and the upcoming Arnold comeback film The Last Stand), who directs the second. Each short has a storyline that are not related to each other but are overall connected by the ideas about the hypothetical outcome of human beings: man-made apocalypse, technology taking over for humans, and alien apocalypse.

“Brave New World” is the first short and is one that I will never forget. The recent trend of vampires, werewolves, and zombies in pop culture has shifted into overkill mode. Doomsday Book however offers my favorite interpretation of zombies, and possibly a realistic take on the zombie. Basically, if you eat meat out in restaurants, you are taking a chance. Even though it is rare to eat something with mad-cow disease or salmonella, Brave New World reminds us to think about what we are eating, especially if you live in a country where the food chain is dictated by food corporations that have brainwashed the people into consistently eating processed foods and questionable meat on a daily basis. If we don’t eat organic food from a farm, we are gradually junking up our bodies where serious health problems invade our bodies and turn us into contagious zombie-like creatures. Health-food writer Michael Pollan should love this movie! Since watching this short, I have been eating less meat (chicken, pork, beef…not seafood though). I thank Doomsday Book for jump-starting my post-Thanksgiving diet, and hopefully I will continue to eat less meat and not turn into a zombie.

“Heavenly Creature” was a pleasant change of pace from zombies to Buddhist robots. Remember Sonny the robot from Alex Proyas’ I, Robot? Watching this short was like watching an epilogue to that sci-fi flick starring Sonny. Sonny opened the eyes to humans, teamed up with Will Smith to kick some evil robot butts, and has now jumped into Doomsday Book where he leaves the city to be cyber-enlightened with the help of Buddhist monks. The same ol’ typical robot story that’s been in every single robot movie for the past 50 years continues in Heavenly Creature, which isn’t really a bad thing. It’s always entertaining to see robots question their existence, develop a consciousness, and act human. What’s original about this short is that we get to see what would happen if a robot was programmed to master a religion. The religion here is Buddhism so of course we are going to get a very open-minded, thoughtful, peace-loving robot. What could have been more interesting is if the robot was programmed to be a Christianity, Islam, or Judaism expert – too controversial to deal with those religions probably!

The last short is called “Happy Birthday” and is fortunately in the “wacky, non-safe sci-fi” category where most people would annoyingly say, “oh my god, that was so weird.” For the past 60+ years, there have been plenty of thought-provoking science fiction books but only a small percentage of those stories have been used in movies or tv shows. Besides movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Star Trek television series, science fiction has been absent in a lot of these films that are classified as science fiction. Science fiction movies have generally been in overkill mode too with the same typical stories: smart human-like robots, cyborgs, clones, different levels of reality, monster aliens attacking the Earth, and cool technology (futuristic cities, holograms and flying cars). So without spoiling too much, this short falls into the original sci-fi wackiness category and deals with the end of the world, aliens, and a billiard ball. I’ve already said too much – check it out for yourself!

All three short films look consistently beautiful in 1080p with a 2.34:1 aspect ratio. The film’s visual style and production design remain sharp throughout. Rich black levels and natural skintones enhance the presentation. Even during dark scenes (especially during the zombie and bunker scenes), the natural hues of color rarely look muted. With all the many different environments in this film – the zombie short’s cityscape, the robot short’s temple and apartment building, and the billiard ball short’s bunker – Blu-ray clarity remains gorgeous from beginning to end. CGI special effects blend flawlessly into certain eye-candy scenes and just look great on this Blu-ray.

The Korean DTS-HD 5.1 mix has its chance to shine on each short. Sound effects are carried out well in all the channels and the sound design is very engaging. Fidelity stands out, with the musical component having a lifelike quality and the sound effects coming across in a highly convincing manner. During “Brave New World,” the sounds enhance the noises of the zombies and the chaos on the streets. “Heavenly Creature” has the calmest moments out of all three shorts with dialogue and ambient sounds adding to the reality of the main robot character. “Happy Birthday” has some cool sound effects during the twisty scenes which I can’t spoil here. Overall, this Blu-ray has an awesome mix!

Only English subtitles are included.

There aren’t any extras on this Blu-ray except for the Doomsday Book movie trailer.

– Trailer

I really don’t have anything negative to say about Doomsday Book except that I wanted more! Even though each short film felt like a regular-length feature, I wanted more. Each 40-minute short felt like a quick 90-minute movie, but each story could have easily had its own 2-hour film since they were all so entertaining, well-acted, and gorgeously lensed. For an anthology film, Doomsday Book is really special. It’s the type of film that you can revisit by watching just one short or by watching all three in a row – you will be satisfied either way. Definitely check out this “end-of-humanity” film. Better yet, watch this Well Go USA Blu-ray before December 21, 2012!