A sequel to the 2023 film, “Concrete Utopia”, Badland Hunters is a Korean language action thriller set in the post-apocalyptic Seoul. The film opens in the lab of a scientist who in the quest of immortality conducts dangerous experiments on  people, he didn’t even hesitate to spare his own daughter who had to die as a victim of his experiments, he turns hysterical when the cops capture him asking him to surrender, meanwhile a devastating earthquake takes place and instantly we are cut to a scene where Seoul had turned into a dystopian world resembling like “a heap of broken images” from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’.  The basic amenities for survival such as food and water are barely available and the people who survived the apocalypse now have to struggle every minute for existence.

There’s a prolonged drought and anarchy plaguing the already fragmented city where a group consisting of two skilled hunters- Nam-san and Choi Ji-wan navigate through the desolate wastelands, scavenging for resources to sustain their struggling village. They safeguard them emerging as their last line of defense against the ruthless bandits and the evil doctor Yang Gi-Su who after surviving the apocalypse has built his own army (to carry forward his experiments) disguised as an organization that offers help to children and old people, promising them a haven where they will be provided with adequate food and water.

The situation goes haywire when a beloved girl of the village Han Su-na and her grandmother falls in the trap of the organization, accepting their help. The organization only seeks the youth considering them to be the future of the world and kills the old people while deceiving them with the hope of offering medical help. While Han Su-na’s grandmother was stabbed to death, fortunately Ji-wan witnesses the incident and shoots an arrow to kill the killer however the killer after being hit, gets up as if he has been resurrected. Nam-San notices this strange incident from a distance and fights back to vanquish the killer but is unable to do so until Lee Eun-ho comes to their rescue and kills him.

Lee Eun-ho is a special ops sergeant who was sent for a mission to aid the people in trouble, her team comes across Doctor Yang who promises to help them but later when she finds out about his vicious activities and intentions, she rebels against it and warns her other teammates against him. However, she is left alone in her protest since they had already been brainwashed by Doctor Yang. She somehow manages to elope, swearing to save the innocent children and the families who are falling prey to Yang’s ambitious mission. Lee Eun-ho therefore seeks Nam-San’s help and he agrees to form an alliance with her as his main aim is to rescue Su-na from the pangs of sinister scientists and his army of mutant creatures. This sets the tone for the intense battles between badland hunters and Yang’s army which is the major part of the entire narrative.

Underlying themes

The dystopian fiction world depicted in the film can be seen as a future microcosm of the real world torn by climate change due to human exploitation of nature and cons of technological evolution. In another hundred years maybe the world we are currently living in, will undergo the same crisis of shortage of food and water since instead of judiciously using we are rather misusing our resources. Doctor Yang echoing of Doctor Victor Frankenstein who possessed the same quest of bringing back dead to life, is a representation of the power mongers who are ironically also considered the rulers of this world and who don’t hesitate to oppress and sacrifice people (who elect them, conferring upon them all the power) to fulfill their own desires.

In the desolate wasteland the apartment where the doctor is invested to invent the elixir of life at the cost of several lives, basically can be considered as hell and also shows that when science falls under evil hands it proves to be detrimental capable of swiping away an entire race from the face of earth. The doctor’s death becomes a perfect example of karmic justice and the rain after the end is a metaphor of redemption or rejuvenation of life.

Though the film is a sharp commentary on issues that is currently afflicting the world, the attempt feels half-hearted because it fails to address the social inequities in a well articulated manner. The set design is good, yet the film is devoid of an emotional connection that is built between the characters and the audience which usually manages to leave an indelible mark because the characters aren’t well developed, having no background story or character arcs at all. The film fits into the conventional narrative of the rivalry between good and evil where good always triumphs over evil, however amidst all its flaws, it’s an intriguing thriller where a doctor possessing a mixture of traits from Doctor Victor Frankenstein and Dr Faustus considers himself to be a messiah but ultimately perishes, by his own invention. The film subtly tries to deal with grim issues but fails to establish the gravity of them therefore not leaving any impact upon the audience.


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