Monday, October 16, 2023

Sri Asih: A New Indonesian Superhero Rises

She is like Wonder Woman, except she has a red scarf instead of a golden lasso—and her latest film doesn’t stink. Tired of the MCU and DCU movies? Who isn’t? The CGI is terrible, the writing is too woke, and everybody who isn’t a super-fan has to google all the meaningless character cameos. Indonesia is doing a much better job of superhero movies—and they too have two shared universes going. The Legend of Gatotkaca launched the Satria Dewa. Now we get the second film of the Bumilangit universe. However, you do not need to know anything about the first film to enjoy UPI (Avianto)’s Sri Asih: The Warrior, which releases tomorrow on DVD and VOD.

Alana always had a lot of fight in her, even in the orphanage, following her parents rather spectacular volcano-related deaths. Fortuitously, her mother happens to be the wealthy proprietor of an MMA gym. That was a convenient happenstance, but obviously, not really.

As a young woman, Alana is a contender. Unfortunately, that means she attracts the attention of crimelord Prayogo Adinegara’s wastrel son Mateo, who fancies himself a cage-fighter. He pressures Alana to take a dive, to stroke his ego. Reluctantly, she agrees for the sake of the gym, but his jerky behavior ignites her anger.

It turns out Alana has anger issues, straight from the goddess of anger, herself. That is because the sinister deity knows the goddess Asih has invested Alana with her own powers of righteousness. There are people who can help her master her powers, so she can defeat the rival goddess’s earthly host and foil a gruesome sacrifice.

There is a lot going on in
Sri Asih, but it all boils down to G vs. E, good versus evil. That is why it works better than any recent American superhero movie. If you were cool with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, you will be just as happy with Pevita Pearce as Alana/Sri Asih, if not slightly more so.

Dimas Anggara has a slow start as the son of the old sage-like woman advising Alana, but he shows off some pretty impressive action chops in the second and third acts. He and Jefri Nichol, playing Tangguh, her old childhood friend from the orphanage, turn out to be pretty solid sidekicks. Reza Rahadian slow burns like crazy as Jatmiko, the resentful cop forced to carry water for Adinegara by his corrupt captain. Ario Bayu is also aptly sinister as the mysterious Ghani Zulham, the only carry-over from the first
Bumilangit film, Gundala (not counting Sri Asih, who got the Marvel-like “guest-star” treatment).

It turns out Indonesian superhero films are more consistently entertaining than those Disney and Warner have been peddling. If you feel like some costumed heroics, skip
The Marvels (you’re surely way ahead of me on that) and watch Sri Asih: The Warrior instead. Recommended for MMA fans too, it releases tomorrow (10/17) on VOD and DVD.