Fans of Netflix’s Kingdom, a zombie apocalypse meets political intrigue series, were jumping with joy after season 2’s release on Mar 13.
In season 1, Kingdom left us with a vexing cliffhanger as Lord Cho Hak-Ju (Ryu Seung-ryong) stormed off, ready to come face to face with Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) to officially stake his claim to the throne. But that wasn’t the only incident worth noting. What’s got everyone glued to their seats in anticipation of the next season was the discovery of the resurrection plant (the root of the departed King’s transformation) and the mindless horde of the living dead that was rushing towards Seo-bi (Bae Doo-na). Previously, it was made known that zombies could only make their appearance once the sun had set; however, it now seemed as though they’ve evolved – their activity no longer depended on the time of day. The crown prince and the rest of the villagers had to prepare themselves for the inevitable battle against the swarm of infected undead.
*Caution, spoilers alert – carry on at your own risk.*
The beginning of the end: Kingdom Season 2
The power struggle continues
Back in the first season, Queen Consort Cho’s (Kim Hye-jun) pregnancy was publicly announced. What’s more, the gender of the soon-to-be newborn would determine Prince Chang’s fate with the throne. Much to her dismay, Queen Cho gave birth to a newborn female infant, whom as we all know, cannot inherit the throne. She then proceeded to steal one of the sons of a commoner, announcing that he was her own flesh and blood.
Fortunately, as in most fictional stories, good always prevails over evil. Poetic justice was served when Queen Cho soon perished after the living dead overran the Palace and invaded the throne room. Meanwhile, the baby prince escaped from the clutches of death (or un-death for that matter) thanks to Seo-bi. Still, the young prince wasn’t completely unscathed – he had already been bitten by the infected. However, Seo-bi managed to eliminate the worms and saved the prince by submerging him in water. Upon learning of the young prince’s existence, the Crown Prince decided to give up the throne. He requested for the ministers to record his death in the official documents and to announce the new King’s arrival. He then gave Beom-pal and the rest of his men the responsibility of looking after him and ensuring that no political disruption would occur. As for Prince Chang, he embarked on a journey together with Seo-bi and Yeong-sin to learn about the possible existence of other resurrection plants.
The truth behind the resurrection plant
Their journey finally led them to a place where they the origins of the plant. They chanced upon a man who planted them and found that it was the man’s son who bought it from a merchant in China. In a bid to find the seller, their search continued on towards the Northern Provinces. They discovered an abandoned house where there were a couple of the living dead, one of which attempted an attack on the trio. The truth behind the seller’s identity unfolded in the final moments of the episode. The viewers are left wondering what the seller’s (Jun Ji-hyun) true intentions are. Did she want to destroy the country by giving rise to the pandemic? Or was she just a crazed individual who simply enjoyed wreaking havoc throughout the nation? All we know is that the potentially upcoming season 3 will probably be centered around her.
The young King’s future ahead
Seo-bi had been using her time wisely to uncover the secrets of the disease, recording her insights from time to time. These observations were passed on to Cho Beom-pal (Suk-ho Jun), in case the plague reared its ugly head once more. Fast-forwarding 7 years and 3 months, the young King appeared to be in the pink of health, and all was peaceful in the palace. Unfortunately, this bliss was short-lived as the worm of the undead had made its way to the young King’s brain.
Had the young king been one of the infected all along – or was this a case of an evolved zombie with a higher level of intelligence? Just like the mysterious seller, the story will be focusing on the young King.
Zombies: The ever-changing plot
Legends never die. The same goes for zombies – at least with a good supply of mouth-watering human brains. Let’s quit joking around and talk about how zombie films and series have evolved over the past years.For starters, we’ll have to pay homage to George A. Romero’s classic masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead (1968). It certainly set the stage for future contemporary zombie movies.
Romero managed to “set” a few rules and even “created” behaviours: the unquenchable and inexplicable hunger to devour the living; the undead could only be destroyed by dealing damage to the brain (so much for being mindless), gory details of zombie attacks for the win, and the plague could be passed to another with a single bite. His next film, Dawn of the Dead (1978), was up to par with his first film, or some would even say – better. Nevertheless, it took on an interesting concept of surviving in the midst of the chaos, literally. A group of survivors made their escape from the zombie-packed studio in a helicopter and had to have a forced landing at an abandoned shopping mall due to fuel shortage. Luxury stores, an endless supply of groceries and other goodies greeted them upon their arrival and to top it off, there were no signs of other people to compete for these resources. It almost made the pandemic outside seem too good to be true.
Well, it actually was too good to be true. They found themselves surrounded by a mob of the undead outside the mall, so all hopes of seeing the sunny skies outside ever again were lost. With all the luxuries the mall offered – surely, it’ll all be fine, right? Wrong. There were still some of the walking dead within the mall in addition to various disputes that had to be resolved. Those brainless, sluggish zombies characterised the undead from the past. Modern zombie movies are a lot different, and some even bleed into romance or comedy genres. When World War Z was released, it got many thinking – again? Haven’t we seen enough films about the living dead? Well, World War Z took a different approach for its zombies – the living transformed in 12 seconds, hunted on their prey with incredible speed, and were ultra-sensitive to sound.
This brand new concept was rather well-received by viewers. Just like Kingdom and many other zombie films or series, it was a smashing success; earning a whopping $540 million at the box office and even earning the title of 2013’s 10 biggest blockbusters. Meanwhile, there too were other films that moved away from the same-old zombie films. Warm Bodies was entirely focused on the romance genre; the adorable zombie ‘R’, or Nicholas Hoult, who fell in love with a human and found hope in restoring his humanity. Other movies like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead featured various humour-filled scenes without neglecting the thrill of conventional zombie films. The former follows four individuals on a journey to a safe haven – the Pacific Playland amusement park.
All four characters are extremely different. There’s Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) – he’s a bit of a wimp who goes by the books (with a literal set of rules) stands in as the team’s strategist. Then there’s Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who never fails to go berserk at the sight of zombies (due to the loss of his son, Buck), Wichita – lady with a “no strings attached” mentality, and finally Little Rock, a sweet 12-year-old whose maturity was birthed out of necessity in the apocalyptic world she lived in.
The evolution of VFX: Zombies edition
Kingdom didn’t just do a fantastic job with its captivating plot and impressive acting by its cast; the VFX featured in the show played a crucial role in making this Netflix series a hit. The zombie cast, which comprised of a total of 3 families in the form of A, B, and C (?!?!?!?!?) who went through two whole months of training for their role, certainly contributed to the eerie and terror-stricken atmosphere that permeated throughout the show. But VFX gave Kingdom that added oomph and elevated the intensity of the sinister background that characterised the series.
Plot aside, there were other reasons why Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) were highly raved about films in the zombie category. They both flaunted uncomfortably convincing, horrifying and gruesome makeup and VFX – even during that era. VFX was taken one step further, and ghastly deaths were a definite must-have in any zombie or at times, horror films. In Night of the Living Dead (1968), a low budget couldn’t hinder it from being a terrifying yet engrossing film. The blood used in the scenes was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup, the roasted ham & intestines doubled up for chomped up flesh, while wounds were done using morticians wax. Still, people were gripped with fear throughout the film. 10 years ahead, and Romero’s second film, Dawn of the Dead (1978) used special effects with the help of Tom Savini; which elevated the game for VFX in horror. Now, VFX has truly been taken to the next level. I am Legend is a film recognised for its superb storyline, following Robert Neville (Will Smith), the sole survivor and scientist who strives to use his own immune blood to reverse the effects of the man-made virus. However, it lacks in the VFX department as the infected were completely digitally created. Still, VFX did come in useful in terms of the surroundings. As it was impossible to occupy Time Squares in New York as a location, the entire sequence was shot on a stage – with the exception of a couple of abandoned cars and grass.
On the other hand, there’s Train to Busan which did a splendid job of provoking the audience into a cold sweat. It all started with mere special effects makeup by Korean VFX house Technical Art Studio Cell, which was already a remarkable feat.
But founder Kwak Tae-yong wanted to do more, and so he integrated computer graphics along with the makeup. This allowed him to expand the range of expression, making the undead seem deadlier and much more frightening.
Zombies should not be taken lightly, and neither should its evolution in films. Acting, filming, and casting aside – technology has advanced and brought forth phenomenal innovations like visual effects and motion graphics. Filmmakers, studio houses, and even corporate companies are taking the hint and incorporating such animation or technology into their own work – be it for an explainer video, a promotional campaign, or even for events. There are many ways to put such technology to good use – all you need is a great idea and assistance from an animated video creation company. Who knows? Maybe all this living undead business can give your brand an added edge and bring your campaign/event to life.
See what we mean now? Anything is possible with technology nowadays, so go ahead, dream big and work on your masterpiece now!