Sunday, July 26, 2020

Gundala: Rise of a Hero Review: An Electrifying Supercharged Origin Story

Release date: July 28, 2020
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae 

Indonesia's preeminent comic book superhero and his alter ego Sancaka enter the cinematic universe to battle the wicked Pengkor and his diabolical squad of orphan assassins.  Gundala is probably not well know to western audiences, but the Indonesian superhero is set to be the start of the Bumi Langit cinematic universe.  The hope is that this will eventually rival anything from Marvel, and Gundala is an electrifying start for this.

Gundala is an origin story, so the movie sets a lot of groundwork for the hero.  Growing up in unfortunate circumstances, Sancaka (Aryasatya) has always been hounded by lightning.  However, when he is called upon to help those in need, he finds that the lightning that he has always feared actually can energize him and give him superhuman strength and healing.  This leads him to finally embrace his calling and start helping people, despite his earlier reluctance.  Gundala has a lot going for it but one thing it does very well is with the fighting.  They are well choreographed and fast-paced; they definitely help to get your blood flowing and get you excited.  And although most of the fighting is hand-to-hand combat, there are enough styles that each fight feels slightly different, especially when Gundala starts fighting some of the more vicious villains.  They have different fighting styles that Gundala has to react to and it leads to some nice variety in the hand to hand combat.  There isn't a ton of weapon fighting, and when there is, it is usually in service of the hand to hand. 

The setting in Gundala is a lot darker than most of the super hero movies out of the west.  There is a certain amount of dread and some of the themes are more sinister.  It leads to a different feel for a super hero franchise, and a welcome change from some of the Marvel offerings.  However, despite there being a darker overall feel, here is still some funny humor to lighten the mood.  Gundala's character is generally quiet, but he does have some moments of levity that are fun to watch.  And Gundala himself is a likable hero.  There are several noteworthy characters who are well acted, and the main villain Pengkor is well played.  He comes off as genuine sometimes and downright sinister other times.  He is a great, two-faced villain and a good choice for the first film.

However, Gundala is a long film and feels like it at times.  It feels like some parts could have been trimmed to tighten up the two hour runtime.  And the main crisis in the film feels convoluted and overly complicated.  And although the ending leaves the film open for additional movies in the franchise, it feels ultimately unsatisfying.  Gundala also does not feature much CG, but there are a few questionable instances of it.  Thankfully there aren't many and these are less pronounced than in Western super hero movies.  However, don't let these minor issues stop you from seeing an entertaining start to a super hero franchise.

Gundala is an electrifying opening for the Bumi Langit cinematic universe, with exciting fights, a sinister bad guy, and a likable reluctant hero.

Rent it.
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