On the special features of 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior,' director Nonee Nimibutr says there's never been a Thai movie that's combined martial arts and quasi-mystical fantasy elements like 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' does. At first, I thought, "huh, that's kind of cool." Then I realized, still processing the mind-boggling mess I had just witnessed, that there was probably a reason that no Thai movie had attempted this combination. It's a really terrible idea, one that resulted in a really terrible movie.
Trying to untangle and then describe the plot of the numbing 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' would be like trying to explain the theory of relativity to a cat: I could talk all I wanted, but I probably wouldn't get much across. The movie is a muddled, incoherent, and unnecessarily convoluted mess. Anyway, here goes nothing…
There's a kingdom ruled over by three princesses. Very early in the movie we follow a young boy as he visits the kingdom. He just so happens to be there while an assassination attempt (involving poison goo, no less) goes down. The young man is burned by the goo, but foils the attempt and, much later, guards the princesses while wearing a steampunk version of the 'Phantom of the Opera' mask, when an even bigger threat to the kingdom occurs. If you're thinking that a ruthless prince joins forces with a band of villainous pirates (led by a dude called Black Raven) to make a bid for the kingdom. Well. You're right!
Thankfully there's the titular warrior, who truthfully has nothing to do with Tsunamis (literally nothing – there's no meteorological phenomenon in this more threatening than a strong coastal breeze). You know what he does have to do with? Telepathically controlling aquatic life! Yeah baby, a virtual Doctor Dolittle of the sea (or a half-baked Aquaman). So while we don't get any poorly rendered, computer-generated wave effects, we do get just-as-cheesy sequences where swordfish zoom through the water like underwater darts and our hero rides a giant, incredibly fake-looking stingray.
Oh and there's also a magical canon. Or something. (Canons are very important in the misleadingly named 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior.' The movie climaxes with an endless canon duel.)
While I'm not going to pretend that I'm some expert on contemporary Thai action cinema (because, well, I'm not), I do know that this film lacks the go-for-broke-ness of Tony Jaa's 'Ong Bak' films or his masterful modern action extravaganza 'The Protector.' Those films had a subtlety and grace, even when reaching an almost uncontrollable level of WTF insanity.
Conversely, 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' (remember: no tsunamis, lots of fish) is just a lame duck mash-up that's not even terrible enough to fit into that 'so-bad-it's-good' category I was secretly hoping it'd slip into. Instead, it's artless, incompetent, and dull. There are long sequences of dialogue, punctuated by quasi-majestic shots of fishing villages or glittery palaces that really mean nothing. The fighting style, the one in which you can learn to control the sea life, is so multi-layered and structured and everything has a name, that it's just absurd. If you don't mentally check out after the first twenty minutes, only to regain consciousness towards the end during that long-ass battle sequence, well, then, you're a stronger human being than me.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 25GB Blu-ray disc plays automatically, running through trailers (including Bong joon-ho's mesmerizing 'Mother'). The disc is Region A locked (lucky us, North America!) Other than that, there's not much to report.
'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' isn't exactly a slick looking movie, not even by Thai action movie standards, but that said, the transfer on this disc isn't completely hopeless. Sporting a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (the aspect ratio is 1.78:1, bumped from its original 1.85:1), 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' looks about as good as it ever will, to be completely honest.
Most of the things that are designed to pop, do – the shiny royal armor, the detail on the thatched roofs of a peasant fishing village, the ornate engravings on the all-important canon. These things look genuinely good. Or as good as they're going to look. Also, skin tones look fairly realistic and black levels are above average.
All that said, it's not a flawless presentation by any stretch of the imagination. The overall sharpness of the picture is appreciated, but it's punctuated by moments of severe softness. These moments are few and far between but they're there, particularly in an early training montage.
There's also the problem that plagues so many releases, and that includes bigger budgeted movies: that high definition makes uneven computer-generated effects look even phonier and more terrible. And with a movie like 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior,' in which stuff already looks iffy, this is more or less catastrophic.
That said, for such an awful movie on such a small disc, things generally look pretty good.
The film has two audio tracks – one in English, the other in original Thai, both lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that you watch the English dub. First off, it's just the same, atmospherically, as the original language track. (Which isn't very good.) The surround support is spotty at best, coming in occasionally but not all that often, mostly during the action sequences. This is a shame since it's set by the sea and could have been helped by some nice lapping of waves (or something, anything!) For an action fantasy movie, the track feels airily weightless, which might seem like something of a slight to the movie, but the movie's no good either.
Which brings me back to the suggestion of listening to the movie with the English dub. Look, the dialogue is bad. Like, preposterously bad, the kind of bad that would make Ed Wood proud. So listening to the movie with an English dub, which makes things even goofier, thanks to the tin-eared delivery, brings the movie up to a level of camp outtrageousness that almost makes it enjoyable. I said almost. Also, since English is the default audio option, do you really want to put any more effort into 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior?'
There are available subtitles in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
No exclusive extras, and none in HD. Unless you count the previous, which is just the stuff that ran before the movie (which also includes John Woo's epic historical masterpiece 'Red Cliff'), but an actual trailer for 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior' (either foreign or domestic) is not included. None of the features are worth watching. Anyway…
Is there any reason to watch 'Legend of the Tsunami Warrior?' No. There's not even a tsunami! There's nothing. There's a dude who telepathically controls fish, some chintzy special effects, another guy that wears a 'Phantom of the Opera' mask, some clumsily choreographed fight sequences, and lots of truly awful dialogue. I wish I could say it's so bad it's good, or it's a future cult classic, or any kind of backhanded compliment. But I can't. Because it's awful. It should be avoided at all costs. And this Blu-ray disc, which has adequate AV and not a single special feature of note (but when there are only two on the entire disc, hey), is easily as avoidable. I wish I could make this movie sleep with the fishes. I also hope you enjoyed the funny/inspirational stingray messages I found online. Take them to heart.