Monday, December 31, 2012

With Great Power Comes Spicy Peanut Sauce

Superhero movies are a decidedly American phenomena, so on the rare occasion when I find the genre worked by another culture, I am immediately curious. Recently I stumbled upon “Mercury Man”, a product from Thailand.

I'm a big fan of Asian cinema as a whole, but my experience with SE-Asian cinema is quite limited and I have yet to pick up on a truly distinctive filmstyle. The few movies that I have caught tend to be very Western in their approach. It’s for that reason that I suspect that “Mercury Man” might be more palatable to a filmgoer that is cautious about foreign films. The disc I viewed gave you the option to watch it dubbed or in Thai with subtitles. "Mercury Man" does contain cultural elements that may come off a strange to a casual Western viewer, but less so than the Indian superhero flick "Krrish"

The plot of the movie is pretty basic and straight-forward. A Bangkok firefighter is accidentally embedded with a mineral from space and it alters his body chemistry to transform him into a superhuman. A terrorist is out to capture him and steal the mineral for use as a weapon of mass destruction.

“Mercury Man” takes it’s cues from the Raimi “Spider-Man” films and that US franchise is alluded to more than once. Indeed Mercury Man’s costume design is quite similar to that of Venom.

The flick uses CGI along with practical effects. but compared to what the US audience is used to seeing, they come off as rather primitive. I was willing to forgive this flaw since CGI effects are not a normal component of Thai film. Heck, I’ll give ‘em extra credit for budgeting them into the movie in the first place.

The movie’s Thai location adds some unique flavors to the show. The Thai martial art of kick boxing is heavily Featured as is a profoundly Buddhist sense of spirituality. Thailand is perhaps the most accepting culture in the world in it’s attitude about the transgendered or “third sex”. Consequently it’s no huge surprise that one of the lead characters is a shemale. However the production’s Asian origin does add an element that I need to caution some American viewers about. I wouldn’t exactly call it an anti-US sentiment but the United States is definitely
not seen through the same rosy glasses that Americans tend to view themselves with. For example the chief villain is granted a tiny bit of sympathy because it was the actions of the US military that turned him towards the embracing of terrorism.

All in all, “Mercury Man” as a solid piece of entertainment and is worth taking a peak at. 

Pat Hilger

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