Gundala: Indonesian Movie Review

dafluff

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So I went out and watched Gundala today, and all in all, I quite enjoyed it.

Full disclosure: I usually don't watch Indonesian movies. The last one I saw was The Raid (2011), and before then probably Tjoet Nja Dhien (1988). So now in total 3 movies over 3 decades... :ROFLMAO:

Gundala (from Javanese: lightning) is an Indonesian super hero, who gets his power from lightning strikes. He is part of a rich cast of Indonesian comic book superheros popular in the 70s and 80s. These comics were naturally influenced by American super hero comics, but also drew inspiration from Indonesian (particularly Javanese), Indian/Hindu and even Chinese folklore.

The recent popularity of films based on comic book heroes finally came to Indonesia, beginning with the Gundala movie. There are several movie to follow, in what is dubbed the Bumi Langit Cinematic Universe. With such an ambitious name, it is easy to compare it to that other super hero cinematic universe, but that would be unfair. For one thing, Gundala's entire budget was less than 5% of what Robert Downey Jr got paid for The Avengers!

With that in mind, the movie still delivered quite a lot. The set design was well done, creating a dystopian Jakarta (well.... more dystopian), gritty and rusty. The fight scenes and cinematography was fluid, if not quite reaching the level of The Raid. The acting was mostly natural, and didn't have the overacting that plagues most Indonesian films. Some of the dialogues were quite fun and even got me to laugh out loud once or twice (which is rare). In a lot of ways Gundala reminded me of Kung Fu Hustle. It also touched upon quite a bit of social critique: class divide, corruption, crime, racial tension.

The story itself is almost an afterthought, but then you don't usually watch action movies for the story. It is further confused by rather rough editing, so if you have a hard time following, it is not necessarily a language barrier issue. I am not going to go into the plot, but if you really want to know more, there is a wiki page for it.

Like all good super hero cinematic universe movies, it foreshadows up-coming movies. I quite like this. We got a glimpse of a young Godam, Merpati (before she becomes a super hero?), and the rebirth of the next super villain, Ki Wilawuk. Copying from the Marvel playbook, there is even a post-credit scene. In it we are introduced to Sri Asih, who is slated to be the titular character of the next Bumi Langit movie.

To summarize: should you watch the movie?

Well, if you didn't grow up to 70s Indonesian comics (which I imagine is almost all of you), then you will understandably be less excited for Gundala. I don't know if English subtitles are available anywhere in cinemas, but just think of it as a test of your Indonesian fluency...
That said, if you are interested in Indonesian movies and culture, or action flicks or super hero flicks, it is worth it to give this one a shot.
 

Puspawarna

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Given my current workload, the fact I'm not in Indonesia anymore, and the fact that my Indonesian, never truly fluent, is getting rustier by the day(*) I am not sure I'll get to this, though now you've convinced me I'd like to see it.

Speaking more generally, I applaud the concept of putting movie reviews into the forum. Fantastic idea! I hope members will generate more.

(*) Total hijack, nothing to do with the thread: A bonafide Indonesian, Imas, has just moved to Hawaii and joined my music group. She's married to a bule from Hawaii, and moved back here with him about 2 months ago. She's hungry for a little taste of home so even though she's not Javanese (she's Sundanese) she's enjoying gamelan class - she gets to interact with several people who have knowledge of her country and great love for it.

Also, she gets to speak Indonesian with the bule on island whose Bahasa Indonesia is the least terrible - there are only two WNI besides Imas on island that we know of, so her linguistic opportunities are sparse. (She met her husband in Indonesia because he was studying B. Indonesia and came for a visit; he is doing quite well for a beginner but my skills are much better than his, as they should be, after living in the country for 17 years!) The bonus for me is that, thanks to her husband's limited skills, Imas has already modulated her Indonesian down to the"I must speak slowly and clearly for the incompetent foreigner" level. That means I understand her almost perfectly every time! Yay me!
 

Banana72

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I watched it...grew up with Jaka Wiliawuk and other similar characters comics. Not too bad for a first try...maybe it's just me, but the conversation didn't seem natural to me like most Indonesian movies (watching from the trailers)...like nobody in real life talks like that...always angry and intense, but again I'd still give it a passing grade for effort. I remember Godam more clearly than Gundala...we'll see how that goes.
 

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