Krut: Mahayut Himmaphan Review (+Historical background on the story)

 

After the success of 9 Satra comes another Thai animated film produced by Rangsit Universtiy, Krut: Mahayut Himmaphan (Krut: the Himmaphan Warriors/ครุฑ มหายุทธ หิมพานต์), 4 years in the making. While not as heavily promoted, I think this is a good movie. Not great, but good.

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The kingdom of Ayutthaya flourished under the rule of Kinnara, the bird people, until after a bloody war, the Garuda had taken it from them. The Kinnara were enslaved until one day, King Kinnaracha freed and brought his Kinnara people on an exodus to Himmaphan, a peaceful forest at the edge of the world. 200 years later, the Garuda at Ayutthaya were invaded by the Raksos giants, the fierce and vicious living flamethrowers with nothing else in their mind but killing. Cornered with nowhere else to run, the handful remaining Garuda were forced to flee to Himmaphan, where the Kinnara people live, with their only goal being to take back Ayutthaya…

This movie is based partially on actual historical events which I will cover in a section below. Also, you will know why Thailand has so many mythical creatures guarding important places.

I’m going to try and avoid comparing this to 9 Satra since you can’t really compare a work done by a university to a bunch of professionals. If you want to check out my 9 Satra post, click here.

My first impression of this is that it looks like a video game. No kidding, I thought it was a video game until I saw a gigantic poster in front of a movie theater. From the trailer, I saw plainly rendered 3D models with a heroine that looked like she came out of a web game ad, so I had no expectation on the art whatsoever. However, the real thing is much, much better. You could see the individual tufts of feather on the Garuda soldiers and the golden shiny scales of the Naga. The lions and elephants also look good. However, I think the Kinnara looks a bit weird. Probably just the style. Everybody looks like they came straight out of Final Fantasy or something. The animation style and storytelling is more suited to being one of those 8 am kids cartoon than a feature film, but who am I to question their choice of style.

Sound is also a lot better than expected. There are some instances where the sound effects got annoying, but they did a really good job on the little details, like the sound of wings flapping or gliding, and even arrows flying around. I love their arrow sound effects so much. The theme song is done by Keng Tachaya who’s an alumni of my university.

The voice acting team who worked on this movie are all professional voice actors (I think) save for one: Nadech Kugimiya who voiced Vachara, the main character. However, he did such a good job on it I didn’t even know this was like, his first time voice acting. He mentioned feeling very pressured, which I don’t blame him at all. Nadech Kugimiya is known for his roles in various Thai dramas and for his role as Kobori in Khu Kam (Sunset at Chaopraya).

The animation of Krut is surprisingly well done. It has some great choreographed fights and sequences, I can’t believe this came out of a university. The slo-mo is not overused like 9 Satra, and each Garuda soldier has their own fighting style. The sheer scale of the battles are impressive. I think the part where the sword kind of brushes against Vachara’s helmet will become iconic one day. The parts with the mechanical wings are all super badass, I have nothing more to say.

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Overall, it’s really enjoyable to look at. One or two things bug me. First, sometimes the wings flapping kind of looks like plastic wings. Two, the portion where the Garuda flash land seem like they warped to the ground. It’s a bit awkward. The parts where the Garuda engage in an energetic conversation looks like their limbs just warped around. Not painful to look at, though.

Alright, with all those technical stuff aside, it’s now time to mince the story.

First, I’m so surprised how grim this thing turns in half an hour. From a comedic skirmish between a Garuda and a bunch of Raksos, we get inner political turmoil and then everybody starts dying one after the other. (More on the spoiler section.) Even if the target audience is for young boys and adolescents, I think it’s a tad bit too depressing, not only for them but for the general audience. There’s also a lot of gore, with torso being bisected on screen and swords getting shoved down somebody’s throat. I’m quite surprised a little girl walked out of the cinema and said that was fun. If I was 8 years old I would be traumatized. Heck, I was traumatized by the gore in Zipang for a whole week when I was young.

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The plot is really simple. The Garuda are chased out by the bad guys, they get more allies then take their land back from the bad guys, done. I think the dark aspects of the movie are supposed to serve as not to make this simple plot boring. The romance is more highlighted than in 9 Satra where it’s just kind of…there. The romance between Vachara and Kanoknaree, the heroine, is quite predictable and rushed. They set it up alright, but I’m quite baffled by how fast it develops. From all I know they ever met like, one time before the movie starts. But at least the reason for falling in love is believable, so I forgive them. I actually like the theme of their relationship a lot. The ‘I want to see you again’ feel is just so bitter yet sweet, yet the way it seemed to jump out of nowhere sort of detracted from that.

I think they could make more use of this relationship, though. These two are like Romeo and Juliet, each from different races that can never work together, but for most part Kanoknaree is just shoved aside by her father when she could act like a bridge so that the two races can see that they need to overlook their differences and forgive. But nope, not gonna happen. Nice. Haha.

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SIE SIND DAS ESSEN UND WIR SIND DIE JAGER!!!!

Then we move on to the villain. The Raksos are evil. The End.

This movie also relies heavily on narration. Luckily the narrator has a majestic voice, or else I’m going to start saying some terrible stuff about this. Personally, I’m not the type who likes my movies narrated by a third person unless for the resolution or exposition. This movie has narration between too many scenes.

The characters are likeable to me, even if many people feel otherwise. Vachara really does seem like a dependable commander, and everything he does seem respectable, so you don’t really need to repeat it to the viewer that ‘hey this guy is the leader’, he proves it by his actions. I like his character a lot. (But he looks weird when he takes the helmet off.) If my city was under siege this is the guy I would trust to lead the troops and encourage the soldiers. (I might want another strategist though.) Also, flying daggers are awesome.  Kanoknaree is your standard heroine, I don’t really have anything to say about her. However, she’s strong and knows what to do. She feels naturally integrated into the story rather than being there for marketing purposes. The two brothers Waree and Wayu are hilarious together. Who else…oh, the Naga have shiny scales and golden blood. How cool is that? And…hmm…are there any other characters? I can’t really recall…hmm… The Garuda are indistinguishable save for the General with his red armor. I still have a hard time telling one Garuda from the other.

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The center portion where the Garuda gather help from the Himmaphan creatures is super rushed. I was sitting there in the cinema going: what? Wait, why? What? I mean, Vachara said they’re tired and outnumbered and they’re gonna win people over with intelligence, then five minutes later he was like: ATTACK!!!

The talking tree in this movie is super cute. They don’t join the fight, though. Shame, I was expecting something like Narnia.

It’s ridiculous how easily each Himmaphan creature agree to help the Garuda. They’ve lived their life on a peaceful land, no fighting, but keep a standing army and march in to help battle even though they did not see what they could gain from it. They might think that better to stop the Raksos before those giants invade Himmaphan but I don’t see why they would agree to help that fast. The Kinnara are the only ones who needed time to decide if they should send a bunch of their kind to die. Well, there’s the time constraint and I know they want to get back to showing the awesome fights, but…*sigh* never mind.

A lot of work and imaginative thoughts went to this movie. Cheers for the producers and everyone in the team. You guys really did a great job. It was exceptionally brave to put out this kind of work when something like 9 Satra towers over you and with the general lack of support in the market. I hope you take the feedback and improve it in your future works. Even if you never read this, I’ll say it anyway: Don’t give up!

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[Spoiler Section:

For a movie that begins with a funny knife-throwing sequence, it spiraled down fast. I don’t know why the creators went with an ‘and then everyone died’ ending. Eh…are these movies supposed to be inspirational and spark the flames of patriotism? By killing everybody off and saying ‘welp they didn’t rescue the king in the end. Too bad’…? They even kill off the funny guy, the cool fatherly guy, and the heroine. For an animated film based on actual events, I don’t know why they did that to the viewers, which they expect to be mostly kids. It’s depressing.

Now let us talk about the impracticality of that ultimate atomic bomb thingy under the palace. To activate it, they need Kinnara blood. Reasonable, since if the Garuda were to ever cut them down, the dead can activate the weapon and the living can continue to flee. However, why do they need an arrow shot through the hoop at the top to select a target? That would mean a Kinnara needs to be left behind, stationed on top of a stupa or Chedi somewhere to shoot that arrow. If that Kinnara gets caught by the guards, they’re done for. For the Garuda who could fly, why would they have any trouble catching a Kinnara? The reason that the heroine has mechanical wings, although not spelled out, I assume she got her original wings clipped when she was a slave girl. Meaning, some of these Kinnara cannot fly, which makes shooting an arrow through a hoop stationed at the top of a mini tower a hard feat. Also, I assume the blades are supposed to fly around the target, killing everybody in the area. If the Kinnara are escaping from an underground tunnel and the weapon activates above ground, it’s not going to save them from getting chased by a bunch of guards who are already underground. Sure, it’s going to kill all the reinforcements, but how much use is that if you can’t shake off your pursuers? Also, those blade things also have some mini rocket which propels the target up and explode in the air. I can’t really imagine why they would need an atomic bomb to kill the Garuda. They would be wiping out the entire kingdom if that thing exploded on the ground and the tunnel would collapse on them. It’s more designed for a large target (AKA the Raksos King) and I don’t think the Kinnara King has that in mind when he designed it.

And why did not one Garuda villager fly to escape when the Raksos invaded? I mean, they freaking have wings! Are only the soldiers trained to fly or something?

Also, the parts where they Garuda cut off their own wings, although quite well executed, is a bit lacking. Sure, they have more important things than grieve about the loss of their limbs, but some small things like losing balance or trying to use a flying move when wingless could be a great addition which makes the loss seem more dynamic rather than an excuse to give them badass mechanical wings.

The first line where Kanoknaree got to talk to Vachara for the first time also has a weird sub. The first line she said to him was “General” but she could not have known that Vachara became a General. This is the first time they met after 200 years and I doubt there are any messengers to tell her that ‘Hey that little bird boy who saved you 200 years ago became a General. So call him General when you see him next time’. In the dub, she used the word “Than” which is a  pronoun showing great respect.

The Himmaphan animals aren’t really that distinguishable from one another. They’re not really expanded upon aside from one line descriptions, so we don’t really see what’s even unique about each kind. Moreover, the Garuda and Naga are mortal enemies since the dawn of time yet when time comes the Naga are like ‘welp you know what those stupid giants are poisoning the sea so now we’re gonna be besties’ and the Garuda are like ‘yay sure it’s not like you ate more than half our friends in front of us while we tried to fly over the ocean to escape those giants’.

Thailand is a Buddhist country. One of the key Buddhist belief is that all is transient. It’s good to incorporate traditional values into a movie like this. Also, although it is great to show that many different races can be united for a common goal, war is still bad. But jeez, do you really need to kill everyone off to demonstrate that? Well, I still like the edgy ending. Makes this movie more memorable. But I mean, there’s this 11 or 12 year old girl who came out of the cinema a little bit before me and she didn’t say a single word to her mom.

It’s funny how I kept thinking that they should kill the Ginat King by slashing the back of his neck and he actually died from taking an arrow to the back of his neck. LOL

End of Spoiler]

Mythology:

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Garuda are humanoid bird creatures in Hindu. He is said to be the king of birds, the protector of dharma, and the mount of Vishnu, the “preserver”. They are the enemy of the Naga. Because they symbolize vanquishing evil, they are placed in front of many important places such as palaces and temples.

If you look at the picture to the left, you can see that all the Garuda are holding a Naga between their claws. Why? Legend goes that Garuda and Naga are siblings born to different mothers. Naga’s mother asked for a blessing to have many children (a thousand Naga) while Garuda’s mother asked to have only two children but they must be stronger than the Naga. Garuda’s mother later gave birth to two eggs. Out of curiosity, after 500 years of waiting, she broke one of them. Out came Phra Arun, who was born without legs. He was furious his mother broke his egg, resulting in his premature birth, that he put a curse on her. She must be a slave to Naga’s mother until her other child free her.

After five hundred years a slave, Garuda was born. He asked the Naga how he and his mother could be freed, the Naga told him to bring them the Elixir of Immortality. Garuda went through many challenges (one of which he makes a deal to be Vishnu’s mount) and finally got the Elixir. Before he gave them to the Naga, he told the Naga to cleanse themselves before drinking, of which they said okay. Indra, who gave Garuda a blessing that all Naga shall be the Garuda’s food, took the Elixir back. The Naga then had to lick the Elixir off the blades of grass used to hold the water, which is why they have forked tongue. But the Naga are smart. Even if they became food, they swallow stones so that the Garuda will get washed by the waves and drown before they could eat the Naga. In the movie, we also see the Garuda get eaten by Naga. This is why they became mortal enemies.

There’s actually no tales I’ve heard of that details the relationship between Kinnara and Garuda. If I do find one, I’ll add it here.

History: The Fall of Ayutthaya

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During the Burmese-Siamese war in 1765-1767, there is a story that the King at that time stopped the soldiers from firing their cannons on the invading Burmese army, because he didn’t want the women in the palace to get frightened. Anyone wanting to fire must first ask for permission. (Note that this is an old story, modern Thai historians question this. Burmese history also made no account of no cannon fire. Why the the elementary school history textbooks not fix it yet, I don’t know). People also mentioned that Taksin, the governor of Tak (later King Taksin) fired without permission and was sentenced, but because he had done many good deeds he was forgiven. This corresponds with the fall of Ayutthaya in the movie, where the soldiers were stopped from firing cannons because the Garuda King was sick. Everything was burned down, all gold melted and taken away. The palace which had served five dynasties completely destroyed.

In actual events, Ayuthaya fell because it was under siege for over a year, and they were running low on gunpowder. Burmese forces also dug tunnels and brought down the walls, then overwhelmed the forces fighting inside the city walls. (It was quite painful days to Thai people, and history lessons are often glossed over by patriotic phrases I hadn’t heard anything about the Burmese side of the story until like…two years ago.)

And that concludes my post. Have you seen the movie? Is there anything you would like to know about the Himmaphan animals? Let me know!

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