'Kingdom': Netflix brings to life the grandeur of medieval South Korea in new zombie drama
Netflix pretty much revolutionized the racial diversity and accurate representation on screen game earlier in 2018 with the release of 'Crazy Rich Asians'. The film not only had an all-round Asian cast but also managed to showcase the grandeur and extravagance of Asia's finest through the Singapore-based Young family — something that had never been done before. But now, the streaming network takes a detour and travels all the way back to the medieval period in South Korea to showcase the elegance and panache in the royalty prevailing at the time, in its upcoming show 'Kingdom'.
The story is set in South Korea's medieval epoch, which is also known as the Joseon period, and comes from writer Kim Eun-hee, on whose webcomic 'Land of the Gods' the story is also loosely based. As the plot synopsis reads: "In a kingdom defeated by corruption and famine, a mysterious rumor of the king’s death spreads, as does a strange plague that renders the infected immune to death and hungry for flesh. The crown prince, fallen victim to a conspiracy, sets out on a journey to unveil the evil scheme and save his people."
Speaking about the evil scheme from which the crown prince (Ju Jin-hoo) must save his people, the main element of horror in 'Kingdom' are the dead rising against the living, aka zombies. But while everything about these zombies is a unique, visually aesthetic representation of the horror sub-genre, don't let it distract you from the grandeur and poise that the upcoming show abounds in, as was revealed from a couple of teasers, trailers, and first looks dropped ahead of its premiere.
The trailer also managed to create a distinct contrast in its portrayal of the people from the Joseon dynasty — by upholding the extravagance of the royalty through the crown prince, and others in a position of authority, and also simultaneously showing a dull, drab, version of civilian life painted in a collective tone of gray. The fact that 'Kingdom' does a marvelous job at striking visuals with hordes of reds and superfluous blue in the royal life is no secret either. With gold embroidered hanboks — the traditional outfit for royalty — and similarly dazzling designs when it came to interiors, 'Kingdom' weaves an ambiance of resplendence, which is quite refreshing compared to the stereotypical restrained portrayal of Asians in mainstream TV.
In simpler terms, while the undead rising against the living should have been the focus of the upcoming show, Netflix also managed to show the living — especially the royalty, clad with refined levels of grandeur and poise — set all the way back in medieval times. There are grand costumes and elaborate accessories to flaunt, striking the perfectly vivid contrast, but a balance is struck with the way the zombies act in the South Korean drama, as their aesthetic appeal blend in with the sense of style the living abound in. Add to that a dash of obviously elaborate political conspiracies, and voila —we have the one compact, period horror to look forward to in 2019!
With a cast filled with Korean A-listers like Ju Ji-hoon ('Dark Figure of Crime'), Bae Doona ('Cloud Atlas'), Ryu Seung-ryong ('Miracle in Cell No. 7'), Kim Sang-ho ('The Witness'), Heo Joon-ho ('Sovereign Default'), and Jeon Seok-ho ('Miss Baek'), season one of 'Kingdom' premieres on Netflix this January 25.