Judge David Johnson recommends vacationing in the Magic Kingdom of War.
The king who dared to change the destiny of a nation.
So, how interested are you in Siamese history? Five and a half hours worth of interested? You better damn well be.
Facts of the Case
This humongous, sprawling epic tracks the ascension of King Naresuan the Great, from a plucky junior Buddhist monk to an awe-inspiring general who slaps the Burmese around and frees his people. Part One of the two-part haul tells the story of Naresuan as little kid, who forges his way through the Burmese royal court, while cutthroat kingdom politics transpire around him. With the stage set, Part 2 gets Naresuan as an adult, fending off ambush attacks and dropped in the middle of his own political navigation—before it's time to saddle up and bring the pain to the hated Burmese.
Here are facts that I will not dispute:
1. Director Chatreechalerm Yukol is a talented, visually ambitious auteur.
2. The production design, while sometimes ostentatious, is eye-popping.
3. Skirmishes are few and far between, but when they hit, the action is staged well.
4. The mustaches on display here are unrivaled.
If overseas historical epics are your gig, Kingdom of War is primed to bulldoze you with content. With nearly six hours of runtime to burn, the film ladles on the plot; reveling in the power plays by princes, rebels, monks and everyone in between. When they're not plotting, they're scheming and when they're not plotting or scheming, they're plotting to scheme. Burma hasn't been put this under the cinematic microscope to this extent since John Rambo decapitated half of its military. Broad in narrative, ornately designed and sporadically exciting, what more could one ask of Kingdom of War?
Perhaps some No-Doz pills?
This sucker is looooooonnng and for a film with the word "War" in its title, there's not a whole lot of action to break up the nearly three-feature-films' worth of cinematic content. That means you're looking down the barrel of thick, soupy, subtitled storytelling and unless you have a deep and abiding love for this particular slice of world history, it's going to a tough slog. And that's just the first part, which essentially sets up the next part when Naresuan finally comes into his own. You get a bit more action in the second part and Naresuan as an adult is far more compelling than Naresuan as a pre-adolescent, but by the time this hits, you're already four hours and change in!
And let's all be honest with each other: that's an awful lot of time to invest in the story of a nation that not a lot of people have much interest in. Granted, I'm an ego-raging American a-hole, but is there really a demand for this much Siamese history? I'm doubtful.
Magnet's two-disc set is an impressive technical achievement, which is expected from this studio. The film receives a strong 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, accentuating the incredibly detailed production values. There is much to drink in, even when the characters are simply exchanging dialogue; whether it's their costumes or the settings behind them, something is always present onscreen to take advantage of the HD. The Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is dialogue-heavy, but when called upon, puts forward a strong, encompassing aural arrangement during the battle sequences. Extras: four short, low-def behind-the-scenes featurettes and music video.
The quality is unquestioned, but is Kingdom of War worth half your day? Not so sure about that.
Guilty of being too epic.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
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