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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Legend of the Tsunami Warrior

May 10th, 2010

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior, a.k.a. Queens of Langkasuka, a.k.a. Puen yai jom salad, is a fantasy pirate movie from Thailand, which at least makes it a bit unique. The film cost 140 million baht to make, which works out to about $4.34 million American using today's exchange rate. While that is tiny for a Hollywood film, it is huge for a Thai film, as earning 140 million baht at the box office is considered a blockbuster. Will the historical epic appeal to audiences here, or will something be lost in translation?

The film starts in 1593 in Thailand with a Dutch weapons master, Janis Bree, and his Chinese apprentice, Lim Kium, traveling to the small kingdom of Langkasuka to deliver two powerful cannons to Queen Hijau. She is the noble ruler of this small peaceful nation, but needs these great cannons to protect her people from its enemies. They are attacked by Black Raven, a pirate / wizard, who desires these cannons for himself. Instead of allowing the cannons to fall into their hands, they scuttle the ship in deep water. Janis Bree is killed, but Lim Kium survives and is rescued by fishermen from the village, along with a young infant named Pari. In the village, Lim Kium continues to continue is work as an inventor, even if his attempts at creating a flying machine do little more than entertain the children when he crashes. Meanwhile, Pari grows up with a special connection to the sea, where he was born. It is such a powerful connection that one of the villagers, Uncle Anjar, wants him to train in the art of Du Lum, the same mystical arts Black Raven knows. But when the local master, White Ray, refuses, he begins training him himself.

Meanwhile Queen Hijau is welcoming envoys from different nations when she is attacked. A young guard named Jarang proves himself by saving her life and the lives of her two sisters (Princess Ungu and Princess Biru). He is scarred in the process.

Flash forward many years and the Black Raven is still searching for the great cannons. Pari is still training with Uncle Anjar, while the villagers continue to harass the Black Ravens forces. Queen Hijau is looking to find an ally by marrying off her sister, Princess Ungu, to Prince Pahang. When the Black Raven makes his push to unite the pirate forces and take out Queen Hijau, the forces of good must also come together to stop him.

There are a lot of characters and factions at work in this movie. But it's a rather simple plot, one with many elements that we've seen many times before. For instance, the princess is headstrong and doesn't want to marry for political reasons. That's hardly unique for a film such as this. Additionally, the Du Lum magic both Pair and the Black Raven are taught has a light side and a dark side. Hmmmm, where have we seen that before?

That said, this film does have an epic feel to it, and not just because of the sheer number of characters in the movie. There are a number of fight scenes in the movie, mostly on a small scale, but there is a large naval battle in the climax that helps add a sense of grandure. The special effects range from acceptable to a little bit dodgy, but I'm willing to give that a pass since its budget is so low. The more physical production values are better, especially at the end when the Queen and her sisters are decked out in their gold and silver armor.

I've seen a number of similar release of late, and while Legend of the Tsunami Warrior isn't among the best, it is still solid entertainment. If you are a fan of the genre, it is worth checking out.

I do not have the DVD to review, but I don't think there are any exclusive extras on the Blu-ray. On the Blu-ray, there's a nine-minute "making of" featurette that is mostly an interview with the director, Nonzee Nimibutr. There is also a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. With no dialogue or narration, it loses some of its effectiveness. I assume since these are presented in standard definition, they are also on the DVD.

As for the movie's High Definition treatment, it is adequate, but not much more than that. There's a bit of inconsistency with grain and color saturation, but this could be because of the budget. The audio was clear, both in the original Thai and in English, but your surround sound speakers won't get a workout and neither will your subwoofer.

The Verdict

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior is a bit of a mixed bag, with a lot of character occupying a rather simple plot. There are enough action scenes to keep the film going, while the fantasy elements are blended in well. Sadly, there are not a lot of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray, so while it is worth checking out, a rental will be enough for most. If you are interested in buying, the High Definition presentation is limited by the budget, but at just $18, it's a bargain.

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Filed under: Video Review, Puen yai jom salad