Indonesia’s Own Superhero Movie

Before watching Gundala, I was unaware Indonesia even had comic books, much less had a popular superhero. Now director Joko Anwar has turned Indonesia’s own superhero (think a cross between Bruce Lee and Black Lightning) into an intense action movie with full origin story and so-so visual effects. Fun and loaded with big set pieces, Gundala is mostly derivative superhero storytelling with good intentions.

Gundala is a comic book superhero who grows up on the mean streets of Jakarta as an orphan. Directly adapted from Gundala’s classic comic books, Sancaka becomes a street-fighting hero as an adult when gifted with powers from a lightning strike. Battling the evil Pengkor and his legions of trained orphan assassins while a looming civil war consumes the streets, it’s a fairly traditional tale of good and evil that doesn’t stray far from its comic book roots.

Filmmaker Joko Anwar crams a lot of plot into this first cinematic adventure for Gundala

Despite being heavily influenced by Hollywood movies like The Dark Knight and The Avengers, Gundala has a much edgier tone influenced by Indonesian culture. Some of the darker material would definitely earn it an R rating. Made for adults, this is not lighthearted fare aimed at children.

The violent street fights between Sancaka and a gang of orphans harassing him, all young children, are shockingly realistic. A young Sancaka is beaten by the group and then they cut his ear lobe, permanently scarring him. It’s a far cry from the hyper-stylized “fighting” we get from Hollywood stunt crews. There’s also a vicious scene that isn’t for the squeamish with a child ruthlessly killing an adult.

Filmmaker Joko Anwar crams a lot of plot into this first cinematic adventure for Gundala. That includes covering the hero’s early years as an orphan, his origin as an adult superhero, and subsequent battles with Pengkor’s many assassins. There’s even a small post-credits scene copied from Marvel’s movies setting up the sequel. A lame sub-plot with a potential love interest cuts into the frequent action and fight scenes.

Gundala is generally well made with some creative ideas and decent production values. Lead star Abimana Aryasatya doesn’t ooze charisma playing Sancaka as an adult. Group fights are mildly disappointing with haphazard choreography. If you are expecting the incredible stunts and fights of a young Tony Jaa movie, look elsewhere. Gundala’s costume is a little rough and looks like a reject from the CW’s line-up of superhero shows.

It’s amazing how far superhero comic books have penetrated popular culture around the world. Gundala is the latest comic book to hit the screen, this time with a distinctly Indonesian perspective.

Video

Gundala’s razor-sharp video shines on Blu-ray at 1080P resolution. Fantastic detail and impressive definition give the 2.40:1 presentation a quality not seen in Hollywood superhero fare since Watchmen. Released by Well Go USA, it’s a superb-looking release done with a proper digital transfer.

The main feature runs exactly two hours on a BD-50. The transparent AVC encode handles the extremely sharp and pristine digital footage without issue. The CGI sticks out as softer in Gundala but that is always the case with these lower budget productions made outside the Hollywood system.

Excellent black levels, an even contrast, and no overdone digital color correction produces top tier video. It’s not quite up to the reference standards available on Blu-ray. What does seem likely is that the source material has been perfectly preserved.

Audio

While an English dub is provided in 5.1 DTS-HD MA, it’s fairly mediocre and poorly synced with the actors. Gundala is best heard with its outstanding Indonesian 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. The discrete audio design crackles with raw energy, providing wow moments whenever Gundala needs a charge from lightning strikes. This isn’t a subtle mix. Gundala’s audio packs a punch with noticeable LFE and constant immersion. The Indonesian dialogue is cleanly delivered in the dynamic mix.

Optional English subtitles play in a white font, always remaining inside the 2.40:1 widescreen presentation. Both English and Indonesian soundtracks also get secondary 2.0 Dolby Digital options.

Extras

Well Go USA includes four behind-the-scenes featurettes with generous amounts of footage from the set with cast and crew. Covering a variety of topics, from casting to the film’s stunt work. All include English translations.

A slipcover is available for Gundala.

Behind The Scenes #1 (04:57 in HD)

Behind The Scenes #2 (04:15 in HD)

Behind The Scenes #3 (05:04 in HD)

Behind The Scenes #4 (05:13 in HD)

Production Vlog #1 (00:53 in HD)

Production Vlog # 2 (00:54 in HD)

Production Vlog # 3 (00:53 in HD)

Gundala International Trailer (02:04 in HD)

Gundala U.S. Trailer (01:33 in HD)

Well Go USA Trailers (All in HD) – Trailers for Train To Busan: Peninsula, Cutthroat City and Enter the Fat Dragon play before the main menu and are also available in the menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Gundala
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Movie

A violent superhero flick from Indonesia captures the country’s own take on the genre with a heavy helping borrowed from such Hollywood flicks as The Dark Knight.

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