Action, fantasy merge in Don Lee’s latest dystopian starrer

Action, fantasy merge in Don Lee’s latest dystopian starrer ‘Badland Hunters’

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:25 AM January 27, 2024

Action, fantasy merge in Don Lee’s latest dystopian starrer ‘Badland Hunters’Don Lee (left) and director Heo Myeong-haeng —PHOTOS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Don Lee (left) and director Heo Myeong-haeng —PHOTOS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Before the pandemic, it wasn’t as easy to imagine end-of-the-world scenarios that could instantly bring the world to its knees. But COVID-19, along with increasingly troubling news about global warming and conflict in war-torn countries around the world, has changed all that.

Badland Hunters,” an action-packed dystopian film that premiered on Netflix yesterday, is set in a parallel reality where not much food or water is left three years after an extinction-level earthquake reduces the world to rubble.


It follows fearless but warm-hearted hunter Nam San (Don Lee aka Ma Dong-seok of “Train to Busan,” MCU’s “Eternals,” “Along with the Gods”) as he and his self-appointed assistant Choi Jiwan (Lee Jun-young) and former Special Forces operative Lee Eunho (An Ji-hye) attempt to keep the young, the gullible and the defenseless safe from the abusive forces lording over Earth’s postapocalyptic wasteland.


But the most urgent danger their small community faces comes in the form of a seemingly well-meaning humanitarian group, led by Yang Gisu (Lee Hee-jun)—the community’s only surviving doctor—who “relies” on young people, among them teenager Han Suna (Roh Jeong-eui) and her friends, to accomplish his vision of what an ideal world should be.

When a suspicious experiment puts Suna’s life in peril, Nam San, Eunho and Jiwan quickly spring into action to save her—but at what cost?

Satisfaction, catharsis

When we spoke to Don in a roundtable interview with the Asian press last week, he asserted that despite the production’s grim setting, he also wanted to go beyond its doom and gloom.

He explained, “While this is a dystopian film, we wanted it to be action-packed and entertaining. So I hope we could give viewers a lot of fun and entertainment, as well as high-voltage action to give them that feeling of satisfaction and catharsis.”

Seated beside Don during the interview was debuting director Heo Myeong-haeng, who was hired to helm the film following his success as an action and martial arts director in TV series and films like “Train to Busan,” “The Roundup” movie franchise and “Kingdom.”

To set the project apart from other films of the genre, the director said that the dystopian setting has allowed them to merge elements of fantasy into its story.


“This gave us more freedom in terms of creating the villains, because we could then introduce other fascinating species—and they wouldn’t look weird or out of place in this dystopian landscape,” he said. “I certainly didn’t want Nam San and his friends to just take on [bad] people.

An Ji-hye as Lee Eunho

An Ji-hye as Lee Eunho

“In this world, new creatures emerge … and they’re even more powerful than usual. So, viewers can watch smashing action between the formidable Nam Sam and the various villains he crosses paths with.”

The last time we spoke to Don, it was to discuss his role in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Eternals,” where he portrays the invincible superhero Gilgamesh. We told the actor that Nam San could even end up becoming a fan-favorite.

In fact, Nam San reminded us of Gilgamesh—but this time, with a scary, sharp knife and a heftier sense of humor. But how similar is he to Nam San?Don answered, grinning, “You know, Nam San and Ma Seok-do, my detective character in my movie series, ‘The Roundup,’ are characters who resemble me a lot. I put many parts of me into a role when I’m trying to build or create a character. So, yeah, they’re quite like me—although I’m not saying I’m capable of killing off a lot of monsters (laughs).”


Asked about the degree of difficulty in bringing his character to life, Don pointed out, “Because this is an action spectacle, it was the action part of it that was most challenging for me. Near the end of the movie, there’s an action sequence that highlights this challenge.

“That scene didn’t really take us that long to film, but it was difficult to pull it off just the same because of all the [hectic] vibe and the different emotions strung together. But I think we did quite well, and it came out as a very satisfying scene.”

For director Heo, the huge challenge was in creating and merging the atmosphere and visual elements of the movie.

Lee Jun-young as Choi Jiwan

Lee Jun-young as Choi Jiwan

“Don talked a lot about the action element of it, so as a director, I will talk instead about how challenging it was to create the space [where the story takes place] visually … because it’s supposed to be a postapocalyptic world.

“I had to think about how much of the outdoor set we were going to build and how much VFX (visual effects) will be incorporated into it. But while that was a challenging task, it was also a very fun experience.”

If the world were to come to an end, does Don think he would be able to survive?

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“Hopefully, but maybe not (laughs),” he quipped. “I’ll certainly try my best, but it’s going to be hard (laughs)!” INQ

TAGS: Don Lee, Entertainment

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