For those of you who read my articles, you know that while I am critical of films, I also try to remove my own bias and rate films for what they are. Many times I have found myself hating a movie the first time I watch it, but then deciding to go back and try again with the film. And almost every single time I have done that, I have had a change of heart to some extent (see my review of IFC Films’ Swallow for an example). While I may not turn into a fan of the film, I do start to see the value the film adds and start seeing where the director and writers were going with the story.
Today, that changes.
A few months ago, I watched and reviewed the hit Zombie film Train To Busan (see that review HERE). In my research, I found that not only a sequel was in the works, but that an animated prequel was released in 2018 called Seoul Station. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. Not only was it a precursor to one of my favorite Zombie films of all time, but its title was an amazing play on words (Seoul being the capital city of South Korea and the word “soul,” used when speaking of the spiritual component of the body that is typically corrupted when someone becomes a member of the undead). So, I went on a quest to find myself a review copy of this film.
Seoul Station is an animated film from writer/director Yeon Sang-Ho, who also was the writer/director of Train To Busan. It was released just three months after Train To Busan. Designed as a prequel, the film centers on Suk-gyu (Ryu Seung-ryong), a man on a mission: to find Hye-Sun (Shim Eun-kyung), who he claims to be his runaway daughter. Hye-Sun has found work as a prostitute, working for her boyfriend Ki-woong (Lee Joon). During his search, the Zombie outbreak begins. Suk-gyu finds Ki-woong, and they begin searching for Hye-Sun, who was separated from Ki-woong during the chaos. As the plague spreads, fear leads to civil unrest, as the people of Seoul fight for their lives against the undead hordes and each other. But through it all, Suk-gyu holds onto a secret, one that can only be revealed once he is reunited with Hye-Sun.
With this film being made after Train To Busan and from the same director, you would think it would hold up to the same quality that its predecessor owns. But Seoul Station just felt like it was simply an animated Zombie film. Nothing more, nothing less. Such a disappointing letdown for me, as a fan. Honestly, Seoul Station should just be renamed “Generic Cash Grab Zombie Film,” because that is exactly what it is.
When one watches a prequel, you have in your mind that the movie is going to focus on some things. Seoul Station should have looked into the origin of the Zombie outbreak. We know from Train To Busan that the company Seok-woo worked for was involved in some way with the Apocalypse, but there is hardly any mention of the origins of the pandemic. Seoul Station has none of the characters from the live-action film, so nothing expands upon their stories. As someone who had to turn subtitles on to be able to understand what is going on in Seoul Station, I could have simply turned off the dialogue and missed out on nothing for “world building.” It is a major flaw in calling this film a prequel.
I was seriously lost in the storyline. I know that there were several swerves in the film, as far as what a viewer believes to be happening or will happen in the film. But these swerves were badly planned and executed. I don’t like to say, “I saw that coming,” during any film I watch. And based on how good Train To Busan is, I am shocked by the number of times I said it during Seoul Station. It just goes right along with my suggested renaming of the film. Incredibly… bad… writing.
I wish I could say something good about Seoul Station. But it was such a major letdown, I can’t find anything good about it. The animation was nothing great, and paired with the piss-poor story, it just plain failed as a film. I give Seoul Station a zero (yes…. zero) out of five stars. Maybe instead of trying to rush out a prequel to a great film like Train To Busan, the studio, writer and director should have put way more time and thought into Seoul Station. I still hold out hope that the upcoming sequel, called Peninsula, gets the proper treatment. This film franchise deserves it.