Visually startling, with a haunting soundtrack that hits you right in the soul, “Wonderful Days” nevertheless falters badly when it comes to story. Narratively speaking, the South Korean animation moves well, and there are few, if any, dead spots. Running at just 85 minutes, “Days” could have been longer — and probably should have been. Perhaps as a result of the short running time, the film sells its premise short, and by the time the final battle is won and the world is given fresh berth, mass confusion lingers and one feels a bit cheated by the movie’s many missing elements.
“Wonderful Days” is wonderful to look at, and if that’s all that matters, then the film is a winner. The film uses the now-standard mixture of computer models for its vehicles and worlds, but traditional cel animation for the characters. And while the technique is not new, director Moon-saeng Kim has freshen his movie with a striking soundtrack that includes some incredible choice songs as well as instrumentals. I’ve simply not heard a better soundtrack in a long time.
The movie is centered on a futuristic city called ECOBAN that was built as a “2nd Noah’s Ark” (according to the movie) to save mankind before a great, unexplained natural catastrophe destroyed much of the planet. ECOBAN is a futuristic “self-growing city” that “feeds on pollution”. And no, don’t ask what those two things mean, because I have no idea and the movie could really care less to explain. As I understand it, the city is powered by pollution, which means in this post-apocalyptic world ECOBAN and its citizens don’t just like pollution, they purposely create it.
Which leaves the Marrians out in the cold. Essentially slave labor to the elitist Ecobans, the Marrians live a miserable existence outside the city walls. Because the planet is awash in pollution, no one has ever seen a clear, blue sky in their life. And if the Ecobans have their way, that’s how things will remain. Among the Marrians is a former Ecoban name Shua, who is working with another ex-Ecoban named Dr. Noah to disrupt the city’s plans to create even more pollution by wiping out the Marrians completely. Since the Marrians are showing signs of rebellion, the Ecobans’ high command have no qualms about eradicating their manual labor population.
Once again I have to warn my readers not to ask too many questions. I cannot answer them because “Wonderful Days” did not give me any answers to impart onto you. Is Dr. Noah responsible for building the “Noah’s Ark” that saved the Ecobans in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine. And for a city the size of Ecoban, why is it we almost never see any citizens, but instead just well armed security personnel and soldiers? Also, if one-half of the movie is devoted to a hackneyed love triangle between Shua, a female Ecoban soldier name Jay, and Jay’s superior, why is it we don’t even learn the superior’s name until a soldier sort of just tosses out his name well past the hour mark? (For the record, the superior’s name is Cade. I think.)
“Wonderful Days” simply has no interest in explaining itself. If there were answers, they were cut from the version I saw. And if the answers were never present, it means the filmmakers were so overjoyed with their magnificent rendering of their post-apocalyptic world that they didn’t think their viewers would be bothered by something as, oh, a rash of unexplained plot threads and the meandering existence of uninteresting characters. For example, there is a character called the Adjutant that should have “The World’s Most Evil Villain” stamped on his forehead; only he doesn’t show up enough times to actually make any impact (until the end, that is). Also, the Jay character has as much personality as the usual female leads in the few big-budget futuristic South Korean films I’ve seen of late. You couldn’t get anymore bland if you tried.
Putting aside its lackluster story and mundane characters, “Wonderful Days” is nevertheless a richly detailed alien world. The animation is simply superb, with ravaged countryside blending effortlessly with the complex construction of the ECOBAN city. Of note are the model designs for the movie’s vehicles; in particular the speed cycles that the Ecobans ride outside the city. The design is a combination of the “Tron” bikes and Kaneda’s super bike in “Akira”. Who knew watching these speed bikes crisscrossing over bridges and barren wastelands would be the most stimulating thing about “Wonderful Days”?
Moon-saeng Kim (director) / Moon-saeng Kim, Jun-Young Park, Yong-jun Park (screenplay)