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Gundala (2019) Movie Poster
Indonesia  •    •  123m  •    •  Directed by: Joko Anwar.  •  Starring: Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Ario Bayu, Lukman Sardi, Arswendi Nasution, Pritt Timothy, Aqi Singgih, Donny Alamsyah, Tanta Ginting, Dhimas Danang, Muzakki Ramdhan, Marissa Anita.  •  Music by: Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle, Aghi Narottama.
    Sancaka has lived on the streets since his parents left him. Living a hard life, Sancaka survives by thinking about his own safety. When the condition of the city gets worse and injustice rages throughout the country, Sancaka must decide whether he continues to live to look after himself or rise to become hero for the oppressed.


I'm going to start off this review with the things I love about this movie. The cinematography is really, really beautiful, which is no surprise, considering the director is Joko Anwar. I love the main villain, even though I didn't really understand his grand plan and how it was supposed to go down exactly. I love the premise of the movie, because with all the distinctiveness of our diversed cultures, it's about time Indonesia make some more noise about our own superheroes. I also love the fact that this movie had me laughing so hard to the point tI had actual tears in my eyes. The problem? I wasn't laughing WITH the characters, I was laughing AT the movie.

Okay, so. A few years ago, I watched Halfworlds, a series directed and co-written by Joko Anwar. You may or may not be familiar with it. The premise of the series is centered around the concept that Indonesian mythological beings have evolved as to adapt living in a world monopolized by humans. Long story short, I was not a fan. Watching Gundala was like watching that series all over again with an entirely new set of characters.

I guess I got off lucky, which is mostly because I didn't really pay that much attention to Gundala. I watched the trailer, was impressed, but that was that. I'm a big fan of superheroes and superhero movies in general, though, so when Gundala started playing in theatres, I thought to myself, "Why not? What harm could it do?"

It didn't do me harm, no. But maybe that's because, as I had mentioned, I was too busy laughing at the movie. I can, and did, rant about this movie for hours, but ultimately the problem with this movie is the same problem that the series Halfworlds had -- the really, very, extremely messy plot. Gundala spends so much time on world-building that it forgets one very important thing: it is, at its core, an origin story movie. It focuses too much on the big picture that it loses sight of the important little details, one of which is Gundala himself, the supposed main character. When I was watching this movie, I saw Gundala as a man with a tragic past. He was an orphan, and when grown, a man living from one day to the next as a hamster does when running inside an exercise wheel. He also happened to have weird powers which involved him occasionally, and later purposefully, getting struck by lightning. But that's it. I didn't find him particularly interesting, I didn't even care that much about him, and fatally, I honestly didn't find him relatable. The movie tries so much to fit in so many subplots that it lost sight of its main plot. It jumps between Gundala, the main villain, the main villains' many minions, the Indonesian government, and the public so much that while it manages to give us a vaguely whole picture of the entire situation, nothing really sticks out. In the end, when the villain finally revealed his ULTIMATE AND VERY EVIL MASTER PLAN, I kind of went like: Ah, I see. Like, no shock at all. Because that twist at the near-end of the movie? It didn't change anything. We weren't tricked to think the villains' objective was anything other than what it was, and so when the twist was revealed, it didn't change anything. The serum was still about to be distributed. The only difference was, the method changed from it being distributed through the consumption of rice to it being distributed through government-issued vaccinations. But we, the audience, already knew about the serum and that the villain wanted to distribute it. And after the twist, the villain's objective remained the same. No surprise there. And this would've been fine, except that I wasn't really attached to the main character, and he himself didn't really have a personal stake should he have failed, which kind of put me off of symphatizing with his character.

Now, let's do some comparison. Since this is, supposedly, the first of what would hopefully be a franchise, let's compare this to a superhero origin story movie that launched a superhero franchise empire: Iron Man. Marvel's Tony Stark did not have a very likeable personality, but the movie spent a lot of time in showing its audience that hey, this guy might be a total jerk, but he's a three-dimensional jerk. There was more to him than just a really rich guy. We follow his journey, and we get the chance to relate to him, and whether or not you end up liking it, you can't deny that there is ultimately more to Tony than some rich guy who got kidnapped in Afghanistan. And towards the end of the movie, when the main villain revealed himself and the hero versus villain showdown was underway, I was still grappling at the armrests of my seat, because OHMYGOD THAT GUY WAS HIS GODFATHER WHAT THE HECK THEY HAD KNOWN EACH OTHER SINCE FOREVER AND HE STILL TORE HIS HEART OUT.

With Gundala? I don't get him. I understood that he was this very traumatized, very sad character who was tragically orphaned, but so was Tony Stark, whose parents were assassinated when he was a teenager. So was Steve Rogers, Captain America, whose parents had died prior to the movie. In the comics, his father was an alcoholic and his mother died of tuberculosis. So was Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, who was basically trained from birth and forced to become a killing machine. So was Bruce Wayne, Batman, whose parents were shot in front of him. So was Barry Allen, the Flash, whose mother was brutally murdered and whose father got accused of the murder. So was the VILLAIN OF THE MOVIE GUNDALA ITSELF. What distincts Gundala from them? What is so special about this character, exactly?

In conclusion, I would not call it a great movie. I'm not even sure I can call it a good movie. It does have potential to launch a franchise, which I think will happen regardless of what people think, so moot point. I did enjoy it, albeit for an entirely wrong reasons. As it is, I think this movie is sort of like a witch's cauldron. There's too much of everything and not enough anything. I do hope, though, that the creators of this movie could establish a more structured storyline that doesn't, basically, jump too much into too many pools without delving into anything significant. I mean no disrespect to anyone involved in the making of Gundala, and I am proud of how far the Indonesian movie industry has come, but as a fan of movies and an Indonesian, I am eager to see our entertainment industry improve and move for bigger things, which includes being honest in the problem I see involving their work. If you're still reading this, I thank you very much for your patience and attention.

Review by anunciata-trixie from the Internet Movie Database.