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Blu-ray Review: Gundala

August 18, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Indonesian superhero movie Gundala, which premiered as part of Midnight Madness at TIFF last year and is now available on Blu-ray, is an example of a film that deserves credit for its ambition and what it is able to pull off with a limited budget.

Subtitled “Rise of a Hero,” the film serves as the origin story of its title hero Sancaka (Abimana Aryasatya), who originated in a comic book circa 1969. The film opens with Sancaka as a young boy (Muzakki Ramdhan) who, in one very stirring sequence, witnesses his father (Rio Dewanto) get killed in a riot while protesting outside the factory where he works.

This leads to a life on the streets for young Sancaka, as he trains to build strength and tries to keep to himself. As an adult, Sancaka takes a menial job working as a security guard at a factory. But his neighbour Wulan (Tara Basro) pushes him to embrace his true calling as a hero, and use the mysterious powers that he gains from lightning to fight back against corruption and injustice on the streets of Jakarta. This means squaring off against a scarred villain named Pengkor (Bront Palarae), a powerful mob boss who holds incredible power in the city.

The film is somewhat bloated, with a lot of different subplots and moving parts, and it can be a bit hard to keep up with it all for those of us who are previously unfamiliar with the character and original comic books. With that said, the film’s basic “origin story” plot itself will be familiar to any superhero fan in general. But as a solid example of what is possible on a budget that is a fraction of what a Marvel movie costs, Gundala deserves attention.

Directed by Joko Anwar, a celebrated Indonesian filmmaker who also wrote the film’s screenplay and went to great lengths to do justice to the classic character, Gundala features a fine mix of dense world-building, character drama, and big set-pieces. The film’s action sequences are often exciting and very well choreographed, combining fighting styles from different martial arts.

The film frequently impresses on a technical and visual level, boasting solid special effects and excellent cinematography by Ical Tanjung. It’s carried by a good performance from Aryasatya, who makes a fine superhero while also allowing for moments of vulnerability. It will obviously delight any Gundala fans, and I would extend that recommendation to other fans of comic book movies as well who are open to discovering something different. I look forward to the inevitable sequel.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

Behind the Scenes

• Part 01 (4 minutes, 57 seconds)

• Part 02 (4 minutes, 15 seconds)

• Part 03 (5 minutes, 4 seconds)

• Part 04 (5 minutes, 13 seconds)

Production Vlog

• #01 (53 seconds)

• #02 (54 seconds)

• #03 (53 seconds)

International Trailer (2 minutes, 4 seconds)

US Trailer (1 minute, 33 seconds)

Previews (Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Teaser, Cut Throat City, Enter the Fat Dragon)

Gundala is a Well Go USA release. It’s 120 minutes and unrated.

Street Date: July 28th, 2020

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