By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
In this country, comic book readers love Gundala, a hero with a mythical past and the smarts to thwart his best foes. The comic book Gundala Putra Petir debuted in 1969 and it took nearly 50 years for him to make his cinematic appearance. His equal in America is DC’s Batman and Marvel Entertainment’s Thor.
Sancaka’s (Abimana Aryasatya) desire for justice comes from just an inherent nature of a lad who had to survive in the streets. When he doesn’t know what to make of his attraction to lightning (he fears it) and an uncanny healing ability, others help him realize who he is and who he must become, a hero. It’s not until an older brother type figure, Awang (Faris Fadjar Munggaran), teaches him when and when not to intercede. This origin story really takes its sweet mellow time to develop, and the style the film presents is almost like The Highlander. The rustic colour tones define much of the film, and it works in the same vein as Tim Burton’s delivery of introducing Batman to the celluloid medium from decades ago.
When the story jumps ahead some years later to when he saves his neighbour Wulan (Tara Basro) from assailants, he proves he’s quite the MMA level fighter.
The people of Jakarta have no hero. The government isn’t helping anyone except for themselves; corruption is everywhere. Pengkor (Bront Palarae) is a Kingpin and plots to poison the food supply so that the next generation will lack moral fibre and can become easy thuggee recruits. He also has a grander scheme, to which will play into future films.
Very few righteous people remain and Wulan is one of these characters. They fortunately have banded together, and Sancaka is part of the group. However, he’s not so convinced to put on the cowl to become Gundala. These characters will have a role for the coming BumiLangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), and I’m looking forward to seeing how their origin story connects with his. They all have some legendary past, and these people may well be reincarnations of the old Indonesian deities.
Comic book creator Harya “Hasmi” Suraminata gave the world a hero which is not too different from the usual material I’ve read. It’s possible to see these works as a love letter to the American pulps. However, I see more. The themes in the film reveal a kind man who sees a need to bring back justice. Eventually, he has to and also learns something more about himself, and where he belongs in this crazy, mixed up world. Plus, we get a peak of a fictionalized crime laden exotic world of Indonesia! Writer Joko Anwar respects the source material and as director, is smart to show audiences how violence is not always the way.
When this movie also has more to reveal, namely an immortal from ancient times, a god war may well be in store for the future–and that’s enough to want me begging for more!
DVD/Blu-ray Video Extras:
Behind the Scenes , Video Logs, International & US Trailer