With the worldwide success of Hollywood’s superhero franchises, not to mention the recent popularity of “cinematic universes,” it was inevitable that the genre would expand beyond the United States. As Indonesian action films have thrived in the past decade, it is unsurprising that they are the next to enter into the world of superhero cinema. Adapting a comic book character from the late 1960s to modern times for the first installment in Indonesia’s cinematic shared universe for superheroes, Gundala is a step in the right direction, even if there are still miles to go before achieving the scope and quality expected from the genre.
Adapted and updated to fit modern times, Gundala follows a young orphan boy who grows to discover that he has special abilities. After the unjust death of his father and the disappearance of his mother, a young Sancaka (Muzakki Ramdhan) must find a way to survive on the streets. When another street kid teaches him how to fight, the most important lesson he is taught for survival is to keep to himself. Years later a grown Sancaka (Abimana Aryasatya) struggles with this mentality, tired of watching those around him suffering at the hands of an unjust system.
Societal and government corruption are major themes of the film, fittingly adapting the hero for modern relevance in Indonesia. On top of workers constantly being beaten down for attempting to advocate for their own rights, the main villain is an orphan crime boss Pengkor (Bront Palarae) who has a plan to attack an entire generation of children. Using his army of orphans, Pengkor poisons the country’s rice supply so that it affects all of the country’s pregnant women. As Sancaka discovers that he has a special connection to lightening which makes him stronger and more invincible, he utilizes this power to help those in need, soon becoming a symbol of hope.
With a sequel already planned, Gundala is the first hero in the planned BumiLangit Cinematic Universe, which will feature classic Indonesian superheroes from the comic book company. As the first Indonesian film to feature Dolby Atmos technology, Gundala also seems to be the beginning of a blockbuster industry in Indonesian cinema, with everything that comes with that. This is unsurprising after we have seen the industry growing with successes in the action genre, specifically The Raid franchise (and everything else that Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian have been involved in). Unfortunately, the best thing that can be said about the action in Gundala is that it occasionally resembles a watered-down-style audiences have become accustomed to seeing from Indonesian action.
The Blu-ray release of Gundala doesn’t come with a ton of extras, though it does give a dubbing option for those unwilling to read subtitles (and those willing to add an extra layer of unintentional cheesiness to the proceedings) There are also production notes, as well as a brief behind-the-scenes featurette.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
Special Features: 3/10