Garuda (DVD)

Starring Dan Fraser, Sara Legge, Chalad Na Songkhla, Phairote Sangwaribut, and Yani Tramod

Directed by Monthon Arayangkoon

Distributed by Media Blasters

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . It’s . . . Okay, it’s a bird. Well, sort of. Sooner or later everyone gets caught up in the giant monster craze. Japan, the leader of all things giant and latex, even has their own name for such a sub-genre — Kaiju. Throughout the years Kaiju films have never wained in popularity and as a result we’ve seen some truly stellar monsters like Gamera, the Gargantua’s, Ultra Man, and of course the big O.G. himself, Godzilla. Thailand has finally thrown their hats into the giant monster arena and the result is — get ready folks I’m about to coin a phrase here — Garuda, the first ever Thaiju (not to be confused with a hot and spicy bagel maker that can miser cash and kick-box) film! The results are interesting to say the least, but it’s pretty apparent that the filmmakers are more influenced by Hollywood than they are the legendary Toho films.

Garuda tells the story of a paleontologist who uncovers the existence of a breed of animal thought only to the resident of Thai legend. When his discovery is brought to the Thai government he is shunned because he’s not of pure Thai decent, and as a result could not possibly know enough about their culture to make such claims. Fast forward twenty years or so and his daughter is still kicking around her dad’s work by trying to prove his theories. Unfortunately she is frowned upon as well because she’s only half Thai on her moms side. Fortunately for her a discovery is made under Bangkok that proves her dad was really on to something. Before you know it, she’s brought in to consult, a heavily armed special forces troop is in place, and quicker than you can say Q The Winged Serpent, a giant flying beastie has taken to the air and is fuckin’ up the neighborhood!

Garuda tries to work on a couple of levels. At its heart it is a true Kaiju film but there’s one cardinal sin. One affront to the Kaiju that just cannot be ignored. There’s no guy in a rubber suit stomping around! BLASPEHEMY! Instead, we get a fully rendered CGI creature that only sometimes appears as if it’s actually in the film, and not laid down over it. Garuda’s non physicality makes him look more like a videogame sprite than a movie monster. At times I was looking for my Xbox light gun just so I could help out the special forces unit. It’s not all bad though, and truth be told Garuda can be a lot of mindless fun even without light gun compatibility. The film itself looks great, but it’s very reminiscent of The Matrix films. All the male leads ooze enough machismo to make now defunct WWE grappler Razor Ramone look like a pansy, and everyone of them spends nearly the entire length of the film walking around sneering, smoking, flexing, and posing with their weapons, all in slow motion of course. It’s pretty laughable yet strangely endearing.

On the DVD side of things you don’t get much. Aside from the theatrical and ever so dramatically hokey trailer all we have is a short twenty minute making-of featurette. However, the featurette is kind of interesting to watch. Everyone is incredibly proud of their film and they should be. Bad or not, a lot of effort goes into making a movie, and it’s clear these guys did their best. What kills me though is that at first they were going to go with a guy in a suit. The armature for the creature was made and is seen in the featurette but no one was satisfied with it. Instead, they scrapped everything for CGI. Curses! At the very least they should have built a head for close-ups. Also on the bizarre side of things, apparently smoking is some type of taboo in Thailand. Actors seen smoking in the behind-the-scenes footage had their cigarettes blurred out. *insert puzzled glance here* As a matter of fact now that I think about it, looking back at the film I think we only saw one character smoke for about a second. The rest of the time the actors would just have unlit cigs hangin’ out of their mouths. Weird.

If you’re in the mood for a monster mash with big explosions, bad CGI, and commando type characters ripped right from the pages of a comic book, than Garuda is the can’t miss film for you. It’s not a bad ride for what it is, and every so often it can be entertaining. That is if you can look passed the circa PlayStation 2 quality creature. For those of us looking for pure Kaiju action, I think it’s time to break out the old Gamera, and Godzilla DVD’s. After all, a giant monster movie without a guy in a suit is about as exciting as a PG13 rated sex scene in which people climax with their clothes on — dull and dry.

Special Features
Theatrical Trailer
Behind-the-Scenes featurette

2 ½ out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

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