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Badland Hunters is sequel to Concrete Utopia (2023)

Heo Myung-haeng directed Badland Hunters, a 2024 South Korean post-apocalyptic action film, marking his directorial debut. Badland Hunters is the sequel to Concrete Utopia (2023). It follows characters surviving in post-earthquake Seoul, now a lawless wasteland, three years after Concrete Utopia’s events. Producer Byun Seung-min returned as the only key crew member from the original film. Last year, Um Tae-hwa’s Concrete Utopia became a bona fide hit in South Korea and internationally.

 It was critically acclaimed, a festival darling, South Korea’s entry for Best International Feature at the Academy Awards, and it ranked in the top five highest-grossing films in Korea in 2023.

Badland Hunters is the sequel

Badland Hunters diverge significantly from Concrete Utopia, lacking zombies and opting for a standalone story set a few years later. Viewing the first film becomes almost unnecessary as it doesn’t directly connect to the events. However, as a standalone sequel, Badland Hunters stands on its own, mitigating its shortcomings.

The story revolves around a mad scientist driven by a god complex who creates a “cure” for death, while a protagonist, motivated by humanity, rushes to save an innocent girl. Concrete Utopia’s nuanced exploration of survival versus humanity is replaced by a simpler focus on survival in an apocalyptic setting, trading subtlety for brutal action and violence.

The screenplay fails to delve into the psyche of disaster survivors, losing the intimacy of its predecessor but compensating with Ma Dong-seok’s action-packed performance. It’s a fair trade-off if viewers are willing to adjust their expectations from Concrete Utopia’s depth in story and character development. Otherwise, it feels like a missed opportunity to follow a thematic thread.

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Stellar Cast

In Badland Hunters, Ma Dong-seok portrays Nam-san, a relentless wasteland hunter, while Lee Hee-joon plays Yang Gi-su, a doctor who survived the catastrophe. Lee Jun-young stars as Choi Ji-wan, Nam-san’s trusted partner, and Roh Jeong-eui appears as Han Su-na, a bold girl kidnapped by Gi-su. Ahn Ji-hye takes on the role of Lee Eun-ho, a special forces sergeant, with Jang Young-nam portraying a teacher, and Lee Han-joo as Lee Joo-ye, another girl kidnapped by Gi-su. Park Hyo-jun appears as Tiger, a former rival of Nam-san, and Seong Byeong-suk portrays Su-na’s grandmother.

While Badland Hunters may not live up to the standard set by Concrete Utopia, it still delivers as an entertaining zombie action film on Netflix. If Concrete Utopia established the groundwork for a cinematic universe exploring the stories and adventures of the surviving population, there’s potential to explore new creative avenues with various genres. While Concrete Utopia was a character-driven thriller, Badland Hunters shift gears to become a zombie action film.

Badland Hunters Plotline

In a post-apocalyptic Seoul, Nam-san, a relentless wasteland hunter, along with his friend Choi Ji-wan and other survivors, struggles to survive in their village. They scavenge for resources to sustain their community amidst the desolate wastelands. Trouble arises when Su-na, a villager, is kidnapped by rogue scientist Dr. Yang Gi-su. Gi-su has been illegally experimenting with a serum, causing the death of numerous teenagers.

Needing more supplies for his experiments, Gi-su operates from an apartment complex, luring teenagers to his camp. Nam-san, Ji-wan, and Lee Eun-ho, a military sergeant, discover Gi-su’s atrocities and embark on a mission to rescue Su-na. It’s revealed that Gi-su had been attempting to revive his deceased daughter, So-yeon, since Seoul’s downfall.

Arriving at the camp, they engage in a fierce battle with mutant soldiers. Despite the odds, they succeed in rescuing Su-na, while Gi-su escapes with So-yeon’s body. However, he is surrounded by a vengeful mob prepared to exact justice. In the chaos, Gi-su accidentally damages the suitcase containing So-yeon, resulting in her demise. Nam-san ultimately eliminates Gi-su and returns to the village with Su-na and Ji-wan.

Concrete Utopia vs. Badland Hunters

The main difference between the films lies in their subgenres. While both are dystopian/disaster movies, Concrete Utopia leans towards being a psychological disaster thriller. Its central plot revolves around residents in an apartment complex defending their home from outsiders seeking shelter after a devastating earthquake destroys Seoul, Korea overnight.

The Imperial Palace Apartments, the sole remaining structure, becomes a microcosm of society, with residents appointing a leader to establish rules and keep outsiders at bay. Concrete Utopia offers a layered narrative, prompting audiences to dissect its themes and interpret its significance. It effectively balances portraying societal flaws such as selfishness and betrayal with the hopeful prospect of community-driven improvement. In contrast, Badland Hunters shift towards an action-packed dystopian narrative. The plot is more straightforward: a wasteland hunter embarks on a mission to rescue a girl abducted by a rogue scientist conducting deadly experiments on teenagers. It prioritizes action over intricate storytelling and explores the harsh realities of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.

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