Garuda (2004) [REVIEW] | Harvey Birdmon

Sometimes it’s hard to forget that neither Japan or the United States have an exclusivity on making giant monster movies, even if often we still end up in the vague “asian sphere of influence” one way or another. This one as well, but it’s from Thailand, not a country you immediately associate with giant monsters, but it doesn’t matter, and director/producer/writer Monthon Arayangkoon tapped from thai folklore for the monster, the titular Garuda, originated from Hindu mithology as a legendary bird-like creature aligned with the element of wind, serving as a steed to the god Vishnu, and depicted as either a giant bird with half-open wings or an humanoid with bird features.

He’s usually depicted as a protector figure, always ready to fight the serpent enemies (which means the naga), but in this case he’s depicted as a bloody rampaging monster, but i guess being trapped into the concrete under Bangkok for thousand of years will make anyone snap into a rampage.

That’s basically the plot, while digging and preparing the ground for a subway system, the workers find a rock that can’t be broken even by the strongest drills, and near it a lot of fossils that don’t belong to dinosaurs or any recognizable animal, the drilling company hire archeologist Lenna Pierre (and her american partner Tim in tow) to find out the origins of the mysterious fossils. But Garuda, angered by the drillings and its thousand year concrete prison, breaks out, special military forces are sent in to deal with the monster, but Garuda manages to escape from the tunnel into Bangkok.

If this sound like the same old soup… it is. There’s nothing really wrong with “soup”, but it’s hard to not feel a bit disappointed by this film, because we aren’t exactly drowning in thai kaiju movies, and there are so many underutilized mythologies and folklores, the eternal “free idea buckets” for writers since the dawn of storytelling.

Problem is everything besides production values, as clearly there isn’t a huge budget behind this one, but it’s competently put together, the CG for the Garuda monster looks quite decent, better than i would have expected (and better than the water king cobra monster of the flashback), it’s definitely presentable, cinematography isn’t half bad either. The overall look of the film isn’t the problem.

The plot sounds generic and it would be passable if the horrible script wasn’t prone to often non-sensical turns or stuff that just happens, like, the monster chases the lead character because of the talon pendant, a memento from her father, and i have no clue why. And i could glance over it if the characters and the dialogues weren’t so unbelievably crap, awful crap. Heard worse, but still, pretty crappy.

And not the fun kind of crap, the boring, annoying, grating type of stupid characters with motivations so cliched that are downright idiotic, it’s so bad that even the ones you’re clearly supposed to root for are annoying, cringy, dumb or unlikeable in some way as well, exactly like the “bad guys”. The acting (from the mostly thai cast) is overall ok, mediocre but passable, but the dialogues are so bad, even more because 60% of it it’s dumb cultural clash, not there to make an actual point about Thailand’s hostility or rejection towards western foreigners and their ways as opposed to the thai people. Not that i know anything about it, i really don’t in this case.

But i can tell this theme is in the movie just to create some cackhanded conflict, it doesn’t really matter in the end, both sides act like assholes or cretins, and the whole spiel about “moving past superstitious and dated traditions” it’s ultimately moot since these monster-gods entity do exist. I think the movie wanted to say something, but got distracted by trying to make the action scenes – easily the better part of the movie – look more cool with hip music and style over sense.

The trade-off would be more easy to accept if i cared a rat’s ass about anyone or anything that happens, or if the direction was more than “passable”. A shame, because i feel Thailand deserves better, even for a dumb monster movie without any real pretense but entertain cinema-goers for 100 minutes, you can definitely do a lot better than the “slightly below average” that i feel is Garuda.

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