Goodbye Earth Review – A Deeply Human Exploration of Impending Calamity

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 27, 2024 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
0
Previous ArticleView all
Goodbye Earth Review - A Deeply Human Exploration of Impending Calamity
Goodbye Earth | Image via Netflix
4

Summary

Goodbye Earth isn’t perfect, but it’s a deeply human and compelling examination of the panic drummed up by impending calamity.

Imagine an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. You have 200 days to live, at best. What do you do? This is the question Netflix’s Korean drama Goodbye Earth is based on, and it doesn’t provide many upbeat answers.

And that’s about right. Humanity can barely be trusted to believe the Earth isn’t flat, let alone keep their heads together in the face of imminent existential calamity. So, no, it doesn’t exactly go well, and that’s for the better since it allows the show to mine drama and conflict out of the ensuing anxiety and panic.

This human focus is what makes Goodbye Earth, otherwise known as Jongmalui Babo, stand out. It has the global chaos and logistical turmoil of a disaster movie, but the character depth and human contours of… well, of a good K-Drama, now that I think about it. On most levels, it’s one of the best of the year.

But it’s too long. And I know what you’re thinking since I’m always banging out about length, but twelve hour-long episodes is a bit ridiculous for this kind of thing. I enjoyed the plight of the characters, and the performances are excellent, but by the end of it, I was hurrying the asteroid along.

Speaking of characters and performances, let’s talk about that. Notably, there was a bit of pre-release controversy surrounding Yoo Ah-in, who plays a laboratory researcher here. The actor, who starred in Burning and Hellbound, among others, got embroiled in some recreational drug use, which is terribly frowned upon in Korea, certainly among the deliberately sanitized, squeaky-clean entertainment industry, so big chunks of his character’s storyline were cut.

To account for this narrative focus was redirected to Jin Se-Kyung (Ahn Eun-jin) and her efforts to protect former students, and the story weaves in the personal arcs of security officer Kang In-ah (Kim Yoon-Hye), cop In-a (Kim Yoon-Hye), and priest Sung-Jae (Jeon Seong-woo).

Eun-jin is the star, without question, and capably shoulders a complex character who is asked to do an awful lot dramatically throughout the twelve episodes. The supporting cast complements her well, but throughout she remains the central audience POV character, and she’s easy to root for.

Director Kim Jin-min is smart to foreground characters in this way. Disaster stories typically revolve around the disaster itself, but Goodbye Earth uses the threat of disaster to explore diverse reactions to impending doom. Faced with their own mortality, people behave in a variety of ways, some predictable, some less so.

There’s an interesting thought experiment about what someone would do on their final day – if, say, they had a terminal illness or some such – versus what someone would do on Earth’s final day. The answers are seldom the same, since the deaths of everyone and the collapse of everything change the context entirely.

There’s clearly a lot of rich storytelling potential in this idea and Goodbye Earth does a good job of exploring it in a grounded way. The fundamentals are intended to seem real, and the visuals support that idea as best they can. Granted, there is some wonky VFX, but there are also some sequences that must have been nightmarish to execute, and I always enjoy that feeling of wondering how the filmmakers pulled something off.

Being overlong and occasionally distracting-looking are minor quibbles about what is otherwise an excellent and engaging drama. Goodbye Earth isn’t perfect, and the required investment will be off-putting to some, but it’s a compellingly human take on the disaster format.


RELATED:

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
Previous ArticleView all