First Thai Superhero to Battle Hollywood at Box Office
(Source: ChannelNewsAsia)Thai filmmakers are hoping that a kickboxing superhero who can scale skyscrapers and deflect bullets will become a box-office rival to Hollywood legends like Superman and Spider-Man.
"Mercury Man", Thailand's first big-screen superhero, burst into cinemas last weekend.
But the producers say their target is the overseas market, with a slick film that has dialogue in Thai and English, and a plot that plays to the sensibilities of a post-September 11 world.
In the film, a firefighter named Chan receives super powers from a religious object as he tries to stop a group of international terrorists from staging an attack.
"Mercury Man" is something of a stretch for Thai audiences, which tend to prefer comedies and ghost stories, the director and screenplay writer acknowledged.
The film debuted at number three at the Thai box office, taking in a disappointing 4.6 million baht (123,000 US dollars) in ticket sales over a four-day holiday weekend.
The producers at Sahamongkol Film, which have found international success with Thai martial arts flicks such as "Ong Bak" and "Tom Yum Goong", say they have higher hopes for international audiences.
"Demand for this type of movie is much bigger in the international market, which is our main target," director Bandid Thongdee told AFP.
"It was very challenging to make it, but it was worth doing even if we can do very little (in marketing) compared to Spider-Man or Superman."
"Mercury Man" was also very inexpensive compared to those films and even local blockbusters, costing only 60 million baht (1.6 million dollars) for two years of production.
The filmmakers said they spent eight months in post-production working on computer animation for fight scenes between Mercury Man -- played by newcomer Vasant Kantauh, better known as "Bombay," a model making his film debut -- and the terrorists.
Trailers for the film have already appeared in Europe, where the producers hope the superhero's "Thai-ness" will set him apart.
"We want to sell the uniqueness of this movie, which is different from any Thai film that has ever been made," a Sahamongkol spokeswoman told AFP.
"In the international market, we think the Thai-ness represented in this film -- through the Thai design of the superhero costume and his style of fighting which is adapted from Thai boxing -- will differentiate our hero and build its success overseas."
During a summer filled with Hollywood superheroes like the X-Men and Superman, Bollywood also unveiled its own masked crime-fighter in the film "Krrish", which became one of India's most successful films of the year.
Film critic Katarzyna Ancuta, a Polish writer who specializes in Thai film, said she believed Mercury Man could find a market overseas.
"The superhero movies are reawakening, with people more and more interested in superheroes. The more global threats we have, the more people need superheroes," she told AFP.
The special effects don't measure up to Hollywood standards, but Ancuta said "Mercury Man" offers something different because of the style of the fight scenes.