Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
- Volt 10 Rear Surrounds
- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- Sony 85 inch X950H FALD TV
One of the downsides of growing up in America is the occasional realization that our little world is not the only one out there. Growing up with comic books from a very young age, and collecting books, memorabilia and movies for the better part of 30 years, I am very rarely caught “out of the loop” in terms of comic stories. However, I was most certainly caught with my pants down when I watched the 2019 Indonesian super hero film, Gundala for the first time. It turn out that Indonesia has a THRIVING comic book community, and not only eats up the traditional Captain America, Thor and Batman comics, but has their own comic lines and characters for over 60 years. In fact, they have full on comicons and have a long history of successful comic series that (in their respective regions) are wildly appreciated.
Most of the time when I think of Indonesian films my brain goes to their rapid rise among martial arts action movies over the last 10-15 years. Iko Uwai became their version of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, catapulting the small country into the same category as Hong Kong, Japan and Korea with the introduction of their own martial arts style called Silat. Films like The Raid, The Raid 2: Redemption, Merantau and several others pretty much knocked the socks off of action films, and fans have begged for me. Silat has become another mainstream art, as it’s been shown in John Wick 3 and Iko Uwai has gotten into some rather popular television series as well. That being said, I never expected their comic book world to be so diverse and deeply intrinsic in Indonesian culture. I mean, I reviewed the Indonesian super hero film Valentine: The Dark Avenger a little over a year ago, but that film was VERY low budget, and felt more like a passion project rather than an attempt to make a blockbuster super hero film for the nation. Then came Gundala. I had seen some rumblings about it in 2019, but I didn’t really pay it much heed until I saw the press release from Well Go USA. Still, I wasn’t exactly prepared for feeling like a fish out of water and needed to do some research on the characters before watching the film a second time.
Gundala is a typical origins story for a superhero (the character has been around since 1969, and even had an Indonesian film made about him in 1981), and follows a bit of the classic Batman mode of creation. Sancaka (Abimana Aryasaya) is an orphan who has grown up without his parents. His father was killed working to get better pay for the day workers at a factory, and his mother abandoned him a year later. The boy was forced to grow up on the streets of Jakarta, fending for himself and never sticking his nose into things that didn’t bother him. However, one day he decides to stand up when a beautiful neighbor named Wulan (Tara Baslo) and her young brother Teddy are being assaulted by local thugs. Soon he’s drawn into a world of intrigue and manipulation. One where the young man finds out that his strange affinity for attracting lightning will be his greatest strength, and one where he must battle a crazed mafia lord who wants to bring down the entire country and recreate it in his image.
One thing that immediately stuck out to me was that I was honestly not prepared for a lot of the fan service that veterans of Indonesian comics would be privy to. Names were dropped and faces were hinted at that I wasn’t familiar with, but were VERY obviously meant to replicate things like Thanos showing up at the end of the first Avengers movie, or Wonder Woman dropping in for Batman Vs. Superman. In fact, I had to go read up on the various background characters of the Gundala universe and realized that there were some HUGE drops in the movie that I just didn’t catch. Villains were hinted at that would come later, and the end credits scene brings in one of the biggest female superheros (which will actually be filming her own solo movie later this year over there) in that universe (I was also not surprised to realize that Wulan would become a recurring hero in that universe as well). Watching it a second time with that background info in hand made for a much more enjoyable watch, as I was able to see groundwork being laid for future films, and references for upcoming villains and heroes that we will get to see later as well.
And we very well may actually see those characters too, as this is not just a case of wishful producers and directors hoping they can get a second film made. Gundala is actually the start of what is known as the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe, which attempts to bring back thousands of Indonesia’s classic comic characters and replicate the success of the MCU over in Indonesia. In fact, the BCU (for short) has a lot of funding behind it and the 2nd film about the mysterious female hero (watch the end credits) is slated for filming this year and more than 8 films are already being pre-produced casting in what seems like a wildly ambitious (and hopefully successful) venture of the country’s superhero fans.
Not Rated by the MPAA
• Production Vlogs
• Original Indonesian and English audio tracks
Long story short. Gundala: Rise of a Hero is not going beat out multi BILLION dollar Hollywood super hero films, but it is light years better than what we’ve seen in the past from Indonesia, and looks like the small countries vibrant comic book reservoir is about to be tapped and brought to cinematic life for the very first time (at least with any major success). I actually really enjoyed the film for what it was, and with a little background research into characters, felt a lot less out of the loop than I did with my initial viewing. Still, virgin fans who no nothing about Indonesian comics won’t be out of the dark completely, as the film is perfectly understandable and relatable in it’s own right, but those who are familiar with the lore and the history of the characters will get VASTLY more out of it than a regular westerner who goes in blind. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, and the film is a fun jaunt, which leaves me recommending it for those who want to expand their super hero horizons just a bit.
Starring: Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Ario Bayu, Lukman Sardi, Marissa Anita
Directed by: Joko Anwar
Written by: Joko Anwar (Screenplay), Harya Suraminata (Based on the Comic by)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Indonesian: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, Indonesian DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 120 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 28th, 2020
Recommendation: Fun Watch