Is anybody there, hey Japan! They’re not Japanese, Mac, they’re South Korean. Kingdom was one of those series that came out of nowhere and just swallowed up my whole weekend. It’s such an original and refreshing entry into the saturated zombie genre that I found my love for those brain-eating hippies growing again. In case you are not familiar with the South Korean movie industry, there’s only one thing you should know: it’s great. If you need further proof you might wanna check out Train to Busan, another zombie movie with great special effects, decent acting and distinctive visual style. Not to mention Oldboy, The Host and Snowpiercer. Since their environment was heavily influenced by government censorship, occupation, economic problems and finally slight democratization and revival of the cinema industry towards the end of the nineties, you get this strange mixture of social, political commentary and classical film-making. Once you stray off the path of Hollywood produced movies, you will find great excitement in different perspectives that movies and television shows coming from other countries and regions.

Kingdom is a South Korean answer to The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones all wrapped into one deadly television series. Based on a webcomic. the budget per episode was around $1.8 million and you can clearly see where that money went. This is a period drama, set in Korea’s medieval Joseon period (1897) with samurai, strict class system and all the other fun stuff. Kingdom features lavish sets and amazing scenes that include dozens and dozens of extras in costumes, houses, palaces and many more things. Beautiful landscapes of untouched nature are mixed with horrible events unfolding before our eyes, just upping the impact that the series has on us. And just to make things clear, Kingdom does not suffer from the TWD effect, meaning there won’t be those calculating episodes where nothing happens for an entire episode and then you get one cliffhanger prompting you to tune in next week. Here, episodes flow like a river and the whole thing has this exotic vibe, at least from a perspective of someone who’s not familiar with the country or culture of that part of the world.

So lets quickly go through our list: First of all, if you’re wondering whether Kingdom features gore, do not worry, it features lots of gore and brutal decapitations, which is always fun. Zombies are not slow-walkers but those pesky fast-runners like in 28 Days Later and other movies. Although most of the fighting is done by swords, there are archaic guns present and they add a special taste to the whole thing. The action scenes are very engaging and exciting, rivaling scenes in the best movies and series that Western cinematography has to offer. One of the best aspects of Kingdom is its pacing, pacing that creates tremendous tension. The way the director uses sound and contrasting visuals to create these incredibly intense scenes is simply amazing. All this also stems from very well written characters and overall story that doesn’t feel like something that has been created around these scenes but the scenes naturally sprout from the story and characters, the way it should be.

Crown Prince Yi-Chang is one of those mild-mannered gentlemen who does everything by the book but is also aware that he lives in the real world and that sometimes rules from books belong there, in the books and are not applicable in real life. The king has named him his successor, but when he marries a young girl from the powerful Cho clan and gets her pregnant, Prince Yi will start putting two and two together. Things become even more complicated when supposedly the king falls ill and everyone is forbidden to see him. At the same time, hundreds of miles from the capital, ordinary people are living their lives in a strict class system and extreme poverty. To make things worse, it seems that something terrible has happened in one village, something this world has yet to witness…

Speaking of the story, you can’t help but feel that Game of Thrones vibe, especially towards the end of the season as things start to get complicated. I use this GOT comparison only because the show is so popular right now and that you immediately get a sense of what Kingdom has to offer. To make things clear, GOT did not buy rights to medieval power intrigue and pulpy action, they just did it really good. Another interesting thing about the story are the classic zombie rules we all grew up with. I remember when I first saw zombie runners and considered them not zombies at all, but just another kind of monster that’s similar to our standard issue zombies. Here, the infected also deviate from the norm, giving this strange flavor to a familiar meal. Speaking of meals, as I am writing this review there are only six episodes of the show available for viewing. They constitute the first season and judging by the reception, we can expect at least three or four seasons of pure joy, so get ready to get your fix.

Director: Seong-hun Kim

Writer: Kim Eun-hee

Cast: Doona Bae, Greg Chun, Seung-ryong Ryu, Jun-ho Heo, Jason Her, Crystal Lee, Ji-Hoon Ju

Rating:

IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6611916/

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