An issue which often plagues anthology or portmanteau films is that of inconsistency. Rarely are all the segments of a similar quality, and one poor one can bring down the film’s overall level.
Regrettably this 3-part, Apocalypse themed sci-fi effort doesn’t buck this trend.
The first piece, ‘A Cool New World’, from director Yim Pil-sung, tracks the spread of a virus that ultimately turns people into zombies, and is more of a horror film than the others. While effective, this really has nothing much new to say on the subjects of virus-spreading or zombie apocalypses, both of which have been handled in a superior fashion by previous films (though it could be worth noting that this was filmed before the recent ‘Contagion’).
However, the second segment, ‘Heavenly Creature’, from acclaimed director Kim Ji-woon (‘A Bittersweet Life’, ‘I Saw the Devil’) is vastly more interesting and original. It takes place in a future where humanoid robots are commonplace, and one working in a Buddhist temple apparently believes he has achieved enlightenment. This spurs some fascinating discussions of ideas of artificial intelligence. It’s undoubtedly the highlight of the film.
The last part, ‘Happy Birthday’, is credited again to Yim Pil-sung but was apparently made with some input from Kim Ji-woon too. It is lighter in tone than the previous serious minded segments in its take on alien invasion and asteroid collision science fiction, as a giant object heads toward earth to possibly obliterate it. Its central concept is rather silly, and it does attempt to wring some comedy out of impending doom, but they just about make it work in the context of the whole.
An uneven trilogy of shorts, linked by theme rather than location or characters, the second segment raises it up but is the only really worthwhile one.