Jakarta. The cast of Joko Anwar’s new superhero movie "Gundala" was unveiled on Sunday (28/10) during the Indonesia Comic Con at Jakarta Convention Center. Former teen heartthrob and now film producer Abimana Aryasatya will play the title role, Indonesia's own version of The Flash.
Joko and his crew took a break from the 48th day of filming – expected to wrap up next week – to announce the cast, release a teaser poster and show a first-look trailer.
Gundala was one of the most popular Indonesian comic book characters, making his first appearance in print in 1969.
Created by Hasmi, Gundala is the alter ego of a scientist named Sancaka, who got struck by lightning and obtained superpower not unlike DC’s The Flash.
But according to his creator, the inspiration for Gundala was actually Ki Ageng Selo, a mythological character in Javanese folklore known for his exploits as a lightning catcher.
Joko’s film will present the origin story of Gundala. Of course, how that origin story will play out is being kept as a closely guarded secret.
The 15-second first look video shown at Comic Con only showed Abimana as Sancaka clad in a Satpam ("security officer") uniform.
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Joko, who claims he's a hardcore Gundala fan, said he will "update the story, characters and the film's sensibilities to suit today’s audience so that they can relate to the story."
"We try to keep all the basic elements from the original Gundala. I grew up with the comic books, so I don’t want the film to look too different. But there are some elements that have been updated," he said.
Joko said he's always had Abimana in mind to play the title role ever since he started writing the script, which took around four months.
"Gundala is not a superhero who can do everything. He’s somewhat of a fragile superhero. That’s why the character has to be played by someone who also has that kind of fragility underneath. Abimana's got that," Joko said.
But the actor initially said no to the role.
"It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in Joko. But the timing was off. I had another project to finish," said Abimana, who recently co-produced Timo Tjahjanto’s horror-gore flick "Sebelum Iblis Menjemput" ("May the Devil Take You").
Coincidentally, Abimana also produced and starred in Kuntz Agus' "Petualangan Menangkap Petir," a story of the Ki Ageng Selo legend.
But Joko persisted with his choice and right on the day Abimana wrapped up his own project, Joko sent him the Gundala script.
The actor immediately said yes after reading it.
Abimana agreed with Joko that as a superhero Gundala is "very human" and "not at all invincible."
Other actors in the Gundala cast were also announced at Comic Con.
Muzakki Ramdhan, who recently starred in Joko’s HBO film "A Mother’s Love," will play the young Sancaka.
Tara Basro, who seems to be Joko's favorite actress at the moment since she starred in his "A Copy of My Mind," "Pengabdi Setan" ("Satan’s Slaves") and "Halfworlds," will play a character named Sedhah Esti Wulan, an ex-activist turned superhero named Merpati.
Tara said Wulan is a character who "can’t bear to see others suffer" and "is very passionate."
Malaysian actor Bront Palarae (real name Nasrul Suhaimin bin Saifuddin), who played the father figure in "Pengabdi Setan," will play Pengkor, one of Gundala's nemeses.
Joko said there are more characters to be announced soon. He said the movie will have quite a few minor characters who "aren’t just embellishments."
"Every character in this movie has a strong background that the audience can relate to. And what I like from making this movie is that it has been a very emotional journey. There were moments where I screamed 'cut!' and I could see the crew and actors were crying because the scenes were so emotional," the director said.
He also said the film will have his signature original touches, which will make it "family-friendly, but still edgy."
Gundala is produced by Screenplay Films, Legacy Pictures and Bumilangit Studios, who own the copyright to the title. It's expected to be released in local cinemas by the middle of next year.