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My Cannon Is Bigger Than Your Cannon: A Review of Queens of Langkasuka

  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 26 October 2008
   
 

 

Expectation is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it could kill an otherwise decent film just because expectations run too high for either a respected director or a well-known cast. On the other hand, it could spare the life of a mediocre movie just because we have walked into the theatre expecting no masterpiece.

Queens of Lankasuka fits this case. This is a movie of superlativeseverything about it is huge, grand, and packed with the biggest names in the industry. We have as director Nonzee Nimibutr, a respected director who has shaped the landscape of modern Thai cinema in the late 1990s; as screenwriter Win Lyovarin, one of Thailands most renowned and prolific novelists; an all-star cast that includes a return to the big screen of veteran actress Jarunee Suksawat after a decade of absence; and finally a gargantuan budget that supports the films lavish costume, profligate set decoration, and grandiose visual effects. Plot-wise, this historical action fantasy offers multiple subplots, a dozen main characters, and a climax that features blue whales, a giant stingray, the highest level of black magic, largest pirate gatherings, and the mother of all cannons.

As I said, this is a movie of superlatives. Therefore, it is tempting to set the expectation sky-high. And you would probably risk walking out of the cinema disappointed in that case.

For one thing, the film is overloaded with too many subplots. The core story, really, only involves the nasty business of 17th century Southeast Asian geopolitics. Facing coordinated assassination attempts from the villainous Prince Rawai (Eak Oree) and the pirates ringleader Black Raven (Winai Kraibutr), Queen Hijau of Lankasuka (Jarunee Suksawat) forges reluctant alliances with the Chinese and Portuguese, and marries off one of her younger sisters Princess Ungu (Anna Ris) to the Malay Prince of Pahang (Jesdaporn Pholdee).The Portuguese sends a powerful cannon to assist the queen but the ship is hijacked and exploded. The cannon sinks into the unrecoverable abyss of the ocean and everyone thereafter is obsessed about the cannon and the whereabouts of Lim Kium (Jakkrit Phanichphatikram), the cannon-makers apprentice who is rumored to survive the disaster.

However, as conflict escalates, we see additions of other subplots. Prince Rawai recruits Black Ray (Sorapong Chatree), the hermit with the black magic that can rescue the cannon; and Queen Hijau solicits help from two men: martial arts master Jarang (Dan Chupong), who develops an understated love for Princess Biru (Jacqueline Apithananon), and Pari (Ananda Everingham), who is the hermits prodigy student and an orphan with a personal vendetta against Black Raven.

 

 

In the end, these intertwining stories crowd viewers memories and force the film to proceed in hasty succession, with background stories receiving an over-emphasis over characterization. As a result, the narrative for the most part moves at a glacial pace that only picks up as it approaches climax.

Such condensed plot also takes a heavy toll on the performances, as each of the all-star cast receives so short of a screen time to stretch his or her acting horizon. Jesdaporn Pholdee disappears too quickly before he could make any lasting impact. Winai Kraibutr of Nang Nak and Dan Chupong of Dynamite Warrior offer nothing new. Jarunee Suksawat comes across as an irritable damsel in distress rather than an iron woman warrior. And Ananda Everingham ends up selling his good looks more than his chameleonic talent.

However, despite all the weaknesses, the film remains rich and characters identifiable. We understand their motivations and behaviors, and we sympathize with their losses and desires. And the exhilarating climax battle cleverly weaves all the elements together nicely (although the show of force on whos got the biggest cannons can provoke a humorous Freudian interpretation thereafter). There is no doubt as to why Win Lyovarin has won multiple literature awards. The only regret is that the plot is a little too condensed for a two-hour film; perhaps it would work better as a multi-part series (given sufficient funding, of course). Perhaps there would be sequels.

 
   

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