Indonesian actioner “Legend of Gatotkaca” is out on home video, courtesy of Well Go USA.

Myths, legends, and the stories that form the basis of regional culture are often the basis for artistic interpretation in music, books, and cinema. In America, there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play Hamilton, reimagining the founding fathers as potentially far more honorable than they were via a multicultural lens. In China, it’s the recently released Śakra (2023), adapting Jin Yong’s novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils into live-action, the source itself an adaption of a cultural tale. In Korea, Hansan: Rising Dragon (2022) seeks to reinterpret the real conflict between Japan and Korea, continuing to uplift the memory of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, protector of Joseon period. For Indonesia, there exists Satria Dewa: Gatotkaca (2022), distributed in the U.S. as Legend of Gatotkaca, a story which borrows heavily from the Mahābhārata in order to create a live-action and modern retelling of a struggle between Good and Evil. Unfortunately, between an unnecessarily complex narrative structure and fight sequences that lack clarity or impact, the whole of Legend of Gatotkaca barely generates the intensity or urgency it seeks to create.


A still from LEGEND OF GATOTKACA. Photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

Since an altercation with unknown individuals years ago left his mother with an altered brain, Yuda (Rizky Nazar) has done anything he can to take care of her. Even at the risk of dropping out of school and being unable to maintaining housing, Yuda sacrifices in order to make things easier for her, a task made all the harder as within the same time frame there have been rising murders throughout the country by a masked serial killer, outbreaks of illness, and even a pandemic. But when Yuda’s best friend Erlangga (Jerome Kurnia) is murdered, Yuda goes looking for answers, not realizing that his search would push him to discover a hidden war and that he’s a critical piece of its success or failure.


L-R: Yasmin Napper as Agni and Rizky Nazar as Yuda in LEGEND OF GATOTKACA. Photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

Gatotkaca is a film that may resonate with audiences better versed in the Mahābhārata than a layperson. There’s nothing wrong with admitting this or acknowledging it. There is, however, an issue with the manner in which the film is laid out that makes it difficult to connect with, which may grate no matter which type of audience member you are. The film opens with Yuda’s father leaving him and his mother for an unknown reason (dialogue implies for protection purposes), and then the pair are attacked anyway. That’s fine as a means of setting up the narrative stakes and establishing the kind of violence the audience can expect, except the father is basically absent from the film for the bulk of the 130-minute runtime. The actor playing the father is Cecep Arif Rahman of The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (2019), an actor well-known in action/martial arts film circles, yet he’s metaphorically buried for much of the duration. This would be fine if it meant that the reconnection would be emotionally satisfying or would help to serve the story in some way, yet it does very little in accomplishing either of these tasks except to extend or create additional action opportunities. What could be a clear-cut hero origin story by way of cultural mythology is overlaid with so much world-building that the actual explanation of who is who and what everything means comes nearly an hour into the film, leaving those outside of the circle of awareness grasping to maintain interest and at a point where it makes little sense for those who already are familiar to gain the information. We’re meant to invest in Yuda’s journey and yet it gets too bogged down by the mythology to allow itself the ability to let loose.

The other issue is that when it does let loose, it makes zero impact. This is a film that has several action-centric sequences and they are so heavily edited with cuts that the audience can’t tell whether it’s the actors doing the stuntwork or doubles, and are given no reason to be bothered to try. Editing in fight sequences should enhance the drama, enable a sensation of increased impact to the body blows, and maintain spatial reasoning. The fights do none of this as there’s often a cut right before impact to show a different position or perspective, often shifting the direction that the punch or kick was going which requires the audience to reorient their view of the fight. From the first fight sequence, Gatotkaca establishes that the fights are serious, the first attack on a victim being unexpected and brutal (even if a touch hard to see), yet the majority of fights that follow lack this same tone. In a scene where Yuda and friend Agni (Yasmin Napper) are being chased by several of the bad guys wielding mele and bladed weapons, the whole fight is stopped when an older woman starts shouting at them for almost damaging her broom, chastising them for fighting as she gets her broom and leaves. Yuda, Agni, and the other fighters look about as apologetic as one would expect in a Jackie Chan film (Gorgeous/Police Story), adding some levity in the process, but it doesn’t align with the serious tone the film largely projects. What’s particularly strange is when Rahman’s Pandega returns and finds himself face-to-face with Yayan Ruhian’s Beceng, the fighting is not only brutal, but the action choreography shifts to the tier one expected all along. When you consider that Rahman and Ruhian shared screentime in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) in cameo roles, fought side-by-side in Parabellum, and played opposing characters in Berandal, audiences familiar with this duo expect little else. With such competent direction for their scenes, one can only produce conjecture as to why all the rest of the fighting is so disappointing.


A still from LEGEND OF GATOTKACA. Photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

Adding to the disappointment is that there are zero bonus features on the home release disc. No behind-the-scenes looks, no making of featurettes — nada. We get the trailer for the film and three preview trailers for other Well Go USA releases that are already available on shelves. There’s clearly a richness to this world, it’s a shame that what we’re given doesn’t delve into it, perhaps answering some questions along the way.


Yayan Ruhian as Beceng in LEGEND OF GATOTKACA. Photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

With the themes of the film boiling down to a battle between Good and Evil, as well as the second pre-credit scene, the creators behind Legend of Gatotkaca clearly possess a vision for a second film, potentially beyond. With the characters established here, perhaps the follow-up will be able to narrow its narrative focus and improve the stunts in order to enhance the audience’s experience. As it stands, though, I’d rather read about the legend than watch it, which is a bummer, because the film gives great trailer, implying fantastic potential.

Available on Hi-YAH! February 17th, 2023.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital March 21st, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Well Go USA Legend of Gatotkaca webpage.

Final Score: 1 out of 5.


Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: