The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior is a Thai production from 2008 directed by Nonzee Nimibutr that takes place in the seventeenth century in a city-port named Langkasuka. When we arrive, we learn that the city and the Princess who lives there, Raja Hijau, are under siege by the Black Raven, a notorious pirate who is in the service of Prince Ravai. Thankfully Raja is not alone, she has a warrior named Yarang to help her out as well as the army of Prince Pahang, a good friend of hers, to help her with the problems she and the citizens of Langkasuka currently face.
The problem is, the pirates are eventually going to wear down the city's defenses and when that happens, it's going to be bad news. The princess and her allies learn of a legendary cannon that rests on the ocean floor not too far off the coast that, if obtained, could win the war for them. Unfortunately, Black Raven and his cronies also know of the cannon, and so the race is on, each side bound and determined to get it before the other. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that only someone who is a master in the art of Dum-Lum will be able to use the cannon. Dum-Lum is an ancient mystical art that allows its practitioners to control the waters of the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it - it basically makes those who use it well into a cross between Obi Wan Kenobi and Aquaman. The Princess knows one such person, a man named Pari, who is happy to help her out but will he be able to stop the villainous Black Raven and his Dum-Lum wizard before Langkasuka gets destroyed?
At over two hours in length, The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior's bizarre mix of Ray Harryhausen inspired monsters and Pirates Of The Caribbean style swashbuckling overstays its welcome a bit. The action scenes are decent enough and fairly inventive in how they mix Thai martial arts in with Hollywood-esque plotting and effects, but what lies in between those scenes, the more dramatic aspects of the picture if you will, tend to fall flat. It's a fairly epic film and no doubt a very ambitious one, particularly when compared to the low-fi (if impressive) Muay Thai fighting films that the country's cinema is known for (think Ong-Bak), but unfortunately that doesn't necessarily mean it's as good as it could and should have been. The problems lay almost entirely with the script. Characters aren't given sufficient motivation or development and things get a bit muddy in terms of why people do what they do in this movie. If you think about it too much, your head starts to hurt.
That said, if you don't mind turning off your brain for the duration, there's some fun to be had here. If you're into battling wizards, martial arts fights, sea creatures and sea based boat on boat combat, then you'll likely get a kick out of The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior. The mystical-magical Dol-Lum powers that some of the characters in the film wield offers up interesting opportunities for chaos and carnage meaning that alongside traditional scenes of sword play and hand to hand combat you'll see weird bits like when one side uses their powers to control a whale which they then send blazing across the water at their opponent like a torpedo. The whole underwater super cannon recovery mission could have easily come second to scenes like the one described above and The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior would have worked really well, but instead (likely for budgetary reasons) we keep going back to that relic of a plot device and it hampers the film's excitement level.
Because of this we wind up with a nice looking film filled with nifty, if obvious, CGI effects, impressive martial arts sequences and fancy costumes that frequently feels haphazardly slapped together and incoherent. Thankfully, the film isn't really ever dull, even if it does suffer from periodic pacing problems and occasionally feels padded. Some tighter editing and a more focused storyline would have certainly made for a better film overall, but what's here is enjoyable enough as mindless entertainment so let's just leave it at that.
The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that is intermittently impressive and frequently mediocre. In Magnolia's defense, much of the problem stems not from the encoding but from the source material itself, which is a fair bit soft and not always the best in terms of color reproduction. Grain is present throughout the film and while it's not usually a problem, there are a few scenes where it's really noticeable and a bit distracting. Detail is all over the place - some shots look fantastic and really show off a lot of texture and minutia, while others look a bit flat and the black levels range from strong, inky black to more of a dark gray. The good does usually outweigh the bad here and the transfer is certainly watchable enough, but yeah, it's fairly erratic.
Audio options are supplied in the film's native Thai language in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio as well as in a dubbed English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with subtitles offered in English, English Narrative, English SDH, and Spanish. The Thai mix is the one to go for, as the English dubbing doesn't really suit the movie or fit all that well. As far as the quality goes, there's a fair bit of surround activity present, especially in the sword fighting sequences, and the levels are well balanced but bass response is on the weak side and sometimes the sound effects don't pack as much punch as they should have because of this. The soundtrack is pumped up a bit too much for its own good in spots, but this isn't a terrible mix and it can be a good bit of fun when it's using the surround channels properly.
There isn't a whole lot here in terms of extra features but there are a few extras starting with The Making of Legend of the Tsunami Warrior which is a nine minute standard definition piece that includes some cast and crew interview snippets and clips of the film as it was being made. Complimenting this is five minutes of Behind the Scenes Footage, also in fullframe and standard definition. Aside from that, there are some HD promos for other Magnolia DVD and Blu-ray releases, animated menus and chapter selection.
The Legend Of The Tsunami Warrior isn't the most original action film to come out of the burgeoning Thai film industry over the last few years but it's entertaining enough. The stunts and action sequences are top notch and make up for the fact that the more dramatic aspects of the picture aren't all that hot. Magnolia's Blu-ray release isn't reference quality but it's passable enough and the film is worth seeing once even if you likely go back to it time and time again. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.