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Overall Rating
4.4

Awesome46.67%
Worth A Look46.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 24 user ratings


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Legend of Suryiothai, The
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by Brian McKay

"As beautiful as a painting, but sometimes moves about as fast as one."
4 stars

Like her historical sisters Joan of Arc, Bodecia, or Mulan, Suriyothai was a 16th century Thai princess who took up arms for her country, and has since been immortalized for it. Written and directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol, a prince of Thailand (a fact which certainly facilitated investor backing, since it was funded by the Queen herself), THE LEGEND OF SURYIOTHAI tells her tale - with some mixed results.

Spanning several years, from her adolesence to early middle age, the film has plenty of history to tell - perhaps a bit too much. In fact, at times it feels like Yukol is attempting to squeeze so much history in that the characters become secondary, perhaps leaving the viewer less inclined to care about them or the history surrounding them.

From an early age, Suryiothai (Piyapas Bhirombhakdi) is portrayed as willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of the country. Rather than marry her cousin and first love, the young warrior Lord Piren, she marries Prince Thienraja (Sarunyu Wongkrachang) instead in order to prevent a political rift in the kingdom. Despite having given up her true love, she is content in the arranged marriage, and in fact takes a more avid interest in politics than her husband does. As the nation is threatened by the invading kingdom of Burma in the north, it is also threatened internally by the king's high consort and her lover, who attempt to assassinate the king and sieze the throne. Seeing that her husband will have to step up and rightfully assume the throne if the king is killed, she helps to prepare him for that inevitable duty. Eventually, the threat to the kingdom, and her husband's power, becomes so great that she dons armor to join him on the battlefield against the Burmese hordes.

Of course, the story is really much more complicated than that, making full use of the film's 2 hour and 20 minute running time. The Legend of Suryiothai certainly strives to be a piece of epic filmmaking, and on several levels it succeeds. The scope of this period piece is ambitious, with a cast of thousands, large battle sequences that include hundreds of elephants (the ancient equivalent of a tank), and a lavish array of sets and props, all of which were hand-crafted for their look of authenticity. It's a lavish, good looking production with great settings. The Thai women are both pleasing to the eye, yet fierce and ruthless, being portrayed as equals on the battlefield (although the occupation of soldiering clearly fell to the majority of men). Asian history buffs will find the history presented herein interesting, if not riveting.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Legend of Suryiothai is that it often comes across more like a history primer than a dramatic motion picture. So many dates and facts are squeezed into the production, including both textual narration and a somewhat dicey voice-over commentary, that the drama surrounding the characters often seems rather flat. And while the acting is generally proficient, the lines all seem delivered in a fairly monotone fashion (of course, this may also be attributable simply to being a non-Thai speaker missing the nuances of the language). When all is said and done, little is really learned about Suriyothai herself (in fact, she seems notably absent from very large segments of the first and second acts). While the series of court intrigues can be rather interesting, a good twenty minutes or more could have been trimmed for a more streamlined narrative.

Even the big epic battle sequences seem uneven. Perhaps we Americans have simply been spoiled by the likes of CGI-created Orc armies 10,000 strong storming Helm's Deep - but although some of the smaller fight scenes are intense (and bloody), the larger sequences seem as lumbering and torpid as the elephants that bear the cast members into battle. Perhaps a faster film stock or some more vigorous coreography practice would have improved things in that department, since the characters often appeared to be fighting in slow motion - even when it wasn't a slow-mo shot.

Despite its drawbacks, THE LEGEND OF SURYIOTHAI is a film worth checking out. If the history doesn't suck you in, then perhaps the lavish production values and settings will. It wouldn't kill you to spend a couple of hours learning about the history of a country that most people probably couldn't even find on a map, either. But if you're looking for an epic film of a purely more escapist nature - well, I'll see you in December for the Minas Tirith brawl.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7839&reviewer=258
originally posted: 06/20/03 06:25:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/01/06 Neena Beautifully presented. Loved all the drama in this movie. 4 stars
1/26/04 Witchita Lovely film, Definitely worth seeing 4 stars
12/31/03 Erwin Broschinski A beautiful lesson in Thai history. For Thais too ;)) Great soundtrack! 5 stars
12/24/03 Sister Sergio Incredibly lavish and wonderful film, an eccelent introduction to Thai history. 5 stars
12/06/03 Pachuan Wongsrikul An understanding of Thai culture will explain why emotions aren't overly displayed. 4 stars
8/16/03 Mike Sawamoto Beautiful movie. Elizabeth I would have been right at home. 5 stars
8/15/03 sakon jeensonmon Mai Chareonpura is best performance 5 stars
8/14/03 Paiput Ratnapradipa Beautiful production 5 stars
8/11/03 AAEYPOSH very best thai epics movie that I ever seen 5 stars
8/09/03 Holly Beach The drama of history w/out American filmakers' mythic gloss--it can be done 5 stars
8/08/03 ae how great it is , wow wonderful epic movie i ever seen before. 5 stars
8/08/03 AAEYPOSH very best thai epics movie that I ever seen 5 stars
8/07/03 Mr.Suttichon Sapperm Kanchanaburi,Thailand 5 stars
8/07/03 Skiv If they would have edited out just half of the bowing, it would've been 30 minutes shorter. 3 stars
7/28/03 Dan Befuddling. Like a Tolkein novel adapted to screen by Ayn Rand. 3 stars
7/27/03 Zakishita Very good 5 stars
7/23/03 Cameron Slick Well, whoa, this is one visual extravaganza with powerful performances; lacks focus. 4 stars
7/20/03 dredPhul wonderful battle scenes 4 stars
7/14/03 Bob Perilla Little character development, hence low drama, yet hypnotic in its rampant visual exoticism 4 stars
7/10/03 skakalal more a history lesson than a great movie but still visually stunning 4 stars
7/08/03 Jackie Great movie 5 stars
7/07/03 Teechot This is totally spectacular... U should all watch this... if u love thai, u can't miss this 5 stars
7/03/03 john the Greatest movies 5 stars
7/01/03 lanie i think it was a little confusing, but the wardrobes and scenes are beautiful. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  20-Jun-2003

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-Jun-2004




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