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Film / Gundala

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This country needs patriots.

"If we don't act against the injustices happening right before our eyes, then we're no longer human beings."

Gundala is a 2019 Indonesian superhero film directed by Joko Anwar (of Pengabdi Setan remake fame) which was made in an attempt to create a Shared Universe filled with Indonesian-made superheroes called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe, which was obviously inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The story follows Sancaka, a security guard working at printing factory who later became the titular hero Gundala.

Sancaka has a curse: lightning always seems to find him, which made him afraid to go out in the rain. Born into a very poor family, he spent his childhood on the streets after his father was killed during a protest, causing his mother to leave to seek better employment to provide for him. When she did not return, Sancaka took it upon himself to find his own livelihood, which, in the city he was in, meant begging and taking on odd jobs as a child laborer. He was bullied quite often until he met Awang, an older street kid who taught him how to fight and defend himself. After Awang left, Sancaka continued working in the city, now with his fighting skills to protect himself and Awang's last words to guide him; look out for yourself and do not get needlessly involved in other people's affairs.


Growing up, Sancaka kept those words in mind while also researching his weird luck with lightning. He became a security guard for a printing workshop and lived a solitary life, seemingly apathetic to the plight of the people around him, until, one day, he decided to rescue Wulan, his neighbour, from thugs who were shaking her down for protection money. This set into motion events that will suck him into the city's grave social and political intrigue that would transform him from an unassuming security guard into the superhero Gundala, son of thunder.

Gundala is notable for being Indonesia's first big budget superhero movie based on an Indonesian comic series of the same name. Being directed by Joko Anwar, it is also notable for its biting social and political commentary, which actually serves as the core of the movie as a whole.


The film was also shown stateside in the Toronto Film Festival.

Gundala provides examples of:

  • Antiquated Linguistics: Ghazul spoke in antiquated Javanese with Ki Wilawuk.
  • Armed Legs: The assassin Mutiara Jenar has a hidden blade in her shoe.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Apparently by destroying an item using electricity-based shockwave, the resonance will break all items made from the same material.
  • Asshole Victim: The casualties of the fake antidote which would actually disfigure the unborn children of its victims and give them severe birth defects were the people who bribed the officials administering the fake serum so they can jump the queue.
  • Ax-Crazy: The psychotic school girl Desti Nikita.
  • Bald of Evil: Kamal Atmaja the evil hypnotist.
  • Badass Normal: Sancaka kicks ass just fine as a normal human.
  • Beta Outfit: Sancaka's first costume, made from his jacket and things he picked up around the factory he works at. By the end of the movie, he gets a new costume courtesy of Ridwan which looks much sleeker.
    • Poked fun at with his first attempt, which is literally just a pair of radio antennas taped to the sides of his head.
  • Big Bad: Pengkor.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Awang to Sancaka. Awang adopts Sancaka as his brother despite the former's philosophy of not minding other people's business. Sancaka calls him out on this.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Awang taught Sancaka everything to know about living in the streets.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ghazul and the ancient evil converse in antiquated High Javanese during the latter's appearance.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Pengkor is dead, but his assassins (possibly numbering in the thousands) are still alive and hidden within society. Furthermore, an ancient evil has awoken and seeks to kill Sancaka/Gundala. But we also get a glimpse of other superheroes who are protecting the Crapsack World.
  • The Cameo: Superheroine Sri Asih appears for two scenes, setting up the inevitable Massive Multiplayer Crossover.
  • Captain Ersatz: Already seen in the original old comics, Gundala at his core is very similar to 'what happens when a mortal has the power of The Mighty Thor and put on a costume similar to The Flash, or Captain America in his previous adaptation.' How his story turned out was ultimately different from the two, however.
    • His powers also work differently from Thor. While he has the standard Shock and Awe, he does not necessarily control storms like Thor, and lightning actually strengthens him, making it more integral to his power compared to Thor, who treats lightning as just another power set. In essence, Gundala is more like a human battery or capacitor.
    • A student that doubles as a psychotic assassin and her main weapon is an Epic Flail. Are we talking about Desti Nikita or Gogo Yubari?
  • Chef of Iron: One of the assassins, Jack Mandagi, works as a professional chef as his day job.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Young Sancaka is shown to be a gifted tinkerer, which helps him in crafting his costume. He's also an avid reader of science books, which helps him figure out a way to break all the spiked anti-serum bottles all at once by using sonic resonance.
  • Collateral Angst: When Sancaka is fighting the thugs invading the market, a shop owner yells at him because he threw a thug through her stall. When the market is later burned to the ground, the same lady is seen weeping over her destroyed merchandise.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The thugs, as expected. Sancaka himself is not above using improvised weapons and Groin Attack.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Adult Sancaka starts off apathetic but he's reminded of his sense of justice by Wulan and Mr. Agung. After he gains his power, he uses them to take down Pengkor's evil plan even when he doesn't have to.
  • Comic Book Movies Dont Use Code Names: Sancaka never called himself Gundala throughout the whole movie, and no one else did. Double Subverted in the end, as Ki Wilawuk DOES know the name Gundala, but he was the only one who referred to him as such. Averted so far with Sri Asih, who's referred as such with her ally, but in the context of Gundala's release date, no one knows what her real, civilian name in BumiLangit verse is (Originally Nani Wijaya).
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr. Agung, Sancaka's elderly fellow security guard and mentor. Besides Wulan, he's the one who slowly brought back Sancaka's sense of justice. He unfortunately died at the hands of Pengkor's assassins.
  • Corrupt Politician: In touch with Indonesia's turbulent political scene, a majority of the politicians are either corrupt or being cowed down by Pengkor's mafia. However, Ridwan Bahri, leader of Rumah Perdamaian (Peace House), is a rare inversion: He's a good politician, albeit a bit jaded with the political scene of Indonesia, but refused to stand down and do nothing when evil was being inflicted to the people even when being tricked. He also managed to rally a majority of his fellow Rumah Perdamaian politicians to follow his example and ended up surviving the assassination attempt thanks to Gundala's intervention, while the rest died horribly. He ended becoming something of The Commissioner Gordon for Gundala.
  • Crapsack World: The poor people are afraid of street gangs who go around robbing people and razing markets. The politicians are either corrupt or too afraid to do anything because of the powerful mafia.
  • Creation Sequence: Sancaka making his first costume by rummaging around his workplace.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Tara Basro (Wulan) has a scene involving eggs in every Joko Anwar movie she plays in. Here, she cooks some for Sancaka.
  • Cute and Psycho: Many of Pengkor's assassins are good looking. Of particular note is Mutiara Jenar, whose day job is a runway model and Desti Nikita, a Laughing Mad Ax-Crazy student.
  • Dance Battler: Swara Batin, who was performing a traditional Indonesian dance in his introduction. He doesn't actually dance when fighting, however... arguably.
  • Deadly Doctor: One of the assassins, a surgeon by trade, fights using a scalpel.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Pengkor's foster children are well-educated and hold respectable positions all across the country, and they can be activated as assassins with one phone call from him.
  • The Don: Pengkor manages various businesses, has power over the nation's legislators, and has a secret network of assassins he indoctrinates through his orphanages. The children from his orphanages call him Bapak (Father), to boot.
  • Eat the Rich: The murder of his father and Awang's influence sowed Sancaka's distrust towards privileged people during his childhood. He eventually finds an ally among the elite in Ridwan and Sri Asih.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Adi Sulaiman, an accomplished violinist and one of Pengkor's foster children.
  • Elite Mooks: Pengkor's assassins can come off as this; although they're definitely more skilled and deadly than the street thugs, they are still normal humans who were quickly disposed of by Sancaka, especially once he fully realized his powers as Gundala.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Sancaka's powers as Gundala provides him with increased strength and endurance to complement his already formidable fighting skills, and the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands. He was also able to identify and resonate with a sample object to destroy other objects like it across great distances. How far? An entire city.
  • Enfant Terrible: See Pengkor's Establishing Character Moment below. He did that as a barely 10 years old kid along with other orphans close to his age.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Awang saves Sancaka from being beaten up by a group of street kids with impressive martial moves, establishing him as a kind big brother mentor to Sancaka despite his hardened exterior.
    • Pengkor's flashback in which he organizes a group of orphans to rise up against the violent orphanage staff to the point of torturing and killing them.
  • Evil Chef: One of Pengkor's assassins, who throws knives in battle.
  • Evil Cripple: Pengkor.
  • Evil Genius: Pengkor, whose intelligence and craftiness earn him an impressive amount of wealth and influence.
  • Fashion Model: Mutiara Jenar, one of Pengkor's top assassins.
  • A Father to His Men: Despite being a sociopathic mafioso, Pengkor considers the children of his orphanages his children and support them in their chosen career path. The children, in return, calls him Bapak (Father).
  • Faux Affably Evil: Pengkor again. Although he can certainly come across polite and even charismatic in his interactions with the legislative members, he doesn't hesitate to torture and kill people standing in his way, including those same legislative members.
  • Foil: Both Sancaka and Pengkor have troubled childhoods but grow up to become very different individuals. The former's father was a factory worker and union leader murdered during a labor strike and his mother seemingly abandoned him as a child, resulting in him living on the streets. The latter came from the other side, with a ruthless landowner of a father who was murdered along with his mother during a violent labor uprising, which also left his home burnt down and his face disfigured, and then his relatives sent him to a shady orphanage in the hopes that he would perish so that they could seize his estate.
  • Foreshadowing: Awang is a strong fighter who taught Sancaka how to fight, and is (or shares his name with) the alter-ego of Godam, another BCU superhero. In the comic books, Wulan would also become the superhero Merpati and Gundala's wife, although only the latter is hinted in this film.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Half of Pengkor's face is covered in a very prominent burn mark.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Ghazul, previously only seen as Pengkor's confidant, resurrects the ancient evil Ki Wilawuk at the end of the movie.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Averted. Pengkor is ultimately taken down by a well-timed shot from Ridwan.
  • Handicapped Badass: Pengkor. While his actual fighting capability is about what you'd expect from a person who has one limp leg and a lame arm, his shrewd and cunning made him the most dangerous mobster in the city.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Teddy, Wulan's brother. The headphones are actually broken until Sancaka fixes them for him.
  • Henpecked Husband: Funnily enough, the boss of the thugs who just got married turned out to be this when his newly wedded wife made him squirm when he was confronted about having his men burn the wet market.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: Both the thugs and assassins tend to use weapons, both makeshift or professionally made. Sancaka, on the other hand, only uses his bare hands for most of the fight scenes.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Sancaka asks Mr. Agung to jump-kick him to demonstrate his super durability. Unfortunately, the elderly man falls before he can reach Sancaka.
  • Hope Bringer: After Sancaka takes on the Gundala costume and saves an old couple's store from thugs, his fight scene ended up being recorded and went viral, causing the poor people to band up and defend themselves the next time the thugs strike, inspired with Gundala's actions.
  • Hope Spot: As Pengkor's influence grows, politicians who are brave enough to oppose him convene in order to group up and form a resistance group. Too bad most of them were killed by Pengkor's henchmen not long after.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: A large part of the movie was about Sancaka learning how his powers work as Gundala.
  • Humble Hero: Sancaka identifies himself to Ridwan after saving the latter as "the people". In an evil example, this is what Pengkor portrays himself, as one of the "people" that the legislatives had to serve. But of course, this is all his Faux Affably Evil trait in action.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the last scenes we saw him as a child, Sancaka was saved by a rich couple from a mob. The couple were actually very kind, offering him a place to stay and willing to enroll him into a proper school. After being taught by Awang to distrust the rich and seeing another street kid being bullied (by other, older street kids, no less) through the car window, Sancaka abruptly left the rich couple, who were never seen again.
  • Knife Nut: Two of the assassins; one of them uses kitchen knives while the other uses a scalpel.
  • Laughing Mad: Desti Nikita, the Ax-Crazy female student and Adi Sulaiman, the violinist.
  • Made of Iron: Sancaka, who takes a LOT of beating throughout the movie. It's a hint to his true power as Gundala that he survived a 2 or 3 story fall without a scratch, and barely seemed to feel being literally stabbed in the back.
  • Make an Example of Them: Pengkor tortures Dirga to the point he jumps off a building, to show just what will happen to people opposing him.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ghazul, who's implied to have planned or foreseen Gundala destroying the anti-serum bottles, thus also breaking Ki Wilawuk's head from his crystalline prison.
  • Master of Illusion: Kamal Atmaja, who can make people lose consciousness and see lifelike illusions.
  • Meaningful Name: Pengkor means "limp" in Indonesian slang, and he does indeed walk with a limp and has a lame right hand.
    • Swara Batin can mean "voice of the heart", and you never hear his physical voice.
  • Medication Tampering: The other part of Pengkor's plan. After he sends people to poison the national rice supply with a serum that apparently will make pregnant ladies give birth to children incapable of differentiating between good and evil, he also controls the medical company that creates the supposed anti-serum. The anti-serum will actually give the unborn children physical birth defects in addition to a lack of morals.
  • Missing Mom: Sancaka's mother never returns home. Wulan revealed that she did return not long after Sancaka left home, but far too late.
  • Mythology Gag: "Negeri ini butuh Patriot"/"This country needs Patriots" is this and also a Foreshadowing: Patriot is basically the BumiLangit's answer to The Avengers or Justice League, which the comic version of Gundala was part of. And Sri Asih, The Leader of the group (role-wise, the counterparts for Captain America and Superman), making The Cameo in this movie also serves as a lead in that the Patriot will be formed in the future.
    • Comic book Sancaka is a genius engineer. Movie Sancaka is good at tinkering with electronics, but doesn't do it full-time.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Sancaka successfully fights off Pengkor's assassins, two of whom use knives.
  • Noble Demon: Pengkor. He is an evil mobster who will not hesitate to kill politicians who disrespect him in any way, but he truly cares for the orphans he fostered into successful adults and assassins. He outright tells his flunkies to escape when all was lost for him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sancaka's mom when she notices one of her husband's coworkers is at home although everyone thought he was captured by the factory owners. Thus the protesters led by her husband to save their coworkers are actually being led into a trap.
  • One-Man Army: Sancaka takes down gangs of street thugs, looters, and a group of bloodthirsty assassins by himself.
  • Only Known By His Nickname: Pengkor, which means limp in Indonesian. He's also known as Bapak (Father) to the children from his orphanages.
    • Cornelio Sunny's character is only listed as Sang Pelukis (The Painter), even in the film's credits.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Part of Pengkor's backstory, where relatives send unwanted children to die.
  • Pet the Dog: Denied. The wife of the traitorous factory worker comes to visit young Sancaka (then living alone after his mother left) with a meal. Sancaka kicks the food containers and slams the door shut in front of her face.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Awang fights off half a dozen street bullies all by himself.
  • Punched Across the Room: Once Sancaka gets hold of his power, his punches send mooks flying.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Wulan and Sancaka start off this way, respectively. She's a hot-blooded activist fighting against the thugs' pillaging while Sancaka is a stoic trying to stay out of trouble.
  • Refusal of the Call: Sancaka was very hesitant to turn into the hero Wulan saw he could be in the first half of the movie.
  • Retool: Since the Gundala comics were really old, several story elements had to be reworked to fit with the modern times. For instance, the original Sancaka was a scientist, not a security guard like in the movie (his scientist origin is instead translated into his interest in reading science books), and he got his powers from the Thunder Kingdom, which is left ambiguous in the movie.
  • Rule of Cool: Many of the assassins' style of fighting aren't really the most efficient, but they sure look cool.
  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • Sancaka's father, who was killed by an unknown assailant near the beginnning of the movie.
    • Also Dirga Utama, the upstart and idealist politician who gets killed to show off Pengkor's wickedness.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The imposing evil Ki Wilawuk is sealed behind a museum wall. Ghazul breaks him free at the end of the movie.
  • Sequel Hook: As expected of the movie that starts the Bumi Langit Cinematic Universe. Superheroine Sri Asih appears towards the end, helping Sancaka stop an ambulance carrying the poisoned anti-serum.
  • Shock and Awe: Gundala's main power.
  • Sibling Team: All the assassins were Pengkor's foster children and call him "Bapak" (Father), which means they're adopted siblings.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Pengkor was a truly evil man, but given his background, where he lost his parents, had half his entire body burned, and was abused in the orphanage he was sent to by his uncle who wanted his inheritance, you can kinda see where all his hate came from.
  • Take That!: When discussing the effects of the sociopathy serum, one of the House of Peace members asks "What is amorality anyway? Things like pornography and LGBT?", which is an allusion to the endless debates about those topics in Indonesia. The notion that someone's moral center can be chemically disabled prior to birth is also mildly ridiculed by some characters.
  • The Sociopath: Pengkor seeks to create a whole generation of these, by spiking the national rice supply with a serum that induces sociopathy to unborn children. The serum actually did nothing except making the eater puke or look like they have been poisoned, it was the supposed antidote of the serum that would induce deformity and lead the people to distrust the government to the point of revolt.
  • Street Urchin: Awang and Sancaka himself.
  • Super Strength: Sancaka when "charged up" as well as Sri Asih.
  • Super Toughness: See above.
  • White Mask of Doom: Swara Batin, one of the assassins, wears a Javanese dance mask on the back of his head which can distract his enemies.
  • Wicked Cultured: Pengkor and his posse of assassins. Pengkor is suave, well-dressed, and comfortable with social events. His assassins hold various respectable and/or cultured jobs like professional chef, surgeon, musician, and dancer.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Pengkor kidnaps Dirga's wife and children and suspends them from a rope at a height that would surely be fatal if they were to fall. Or that's what he made the latter think.

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