SIFF 09: Nak

Nak/ dir. Natthapong Rattanachoksirikul/ 2009/ Thailand

Nak_ext3Out of all the animated features at SIFF, I was most excited to watch Nak. The big reason for my excitement was that Nak was a Thai animated movie, and I was looking forward to seeing some Southeast Asian animated cinema. (Because from my observations, if the animated feature isn’t from China, Korea, or especially Japan, nobody is really taking notice. ) Plus, the guy who produced Nak, Prachya Pinkaew, was the same dude who produced Ong Bak, and Nak featured Thailand’s most famous ghost, Nak, alongside  some other mythical ghosts from Asian lore.

Although Nak is a solid animated effort by director Natthapong Rattanachoksirikul and cast and crew, (and yes, I was thoroughly entertained)I can’t front, after watching Nak I was a little disappointed…

Here’s the basic premise of Nak. The world has two types of ghosts, “good” and “evil”. The king of the “evil” ghosts kidnaps a little boy named Tee, who is the key to opening the pathway to the living world. The king’s plan  is to invade the lving world. Tee’s sister, Gam, along with Nak and a ragtag bunch of other “good” ghosts set off to save Tee and the world.

Not the greatest narrative ever, but there was a twist or two (with one that was sooo obvious). The story was executed well and I did enjoy the characters (I especially like the Sadaka character/ Ring reference) and the action ( Nak vs. Sadaka were the highlights).I have to hand it to the Thai animators too, they used an outdated cel-shaded cgi animation, but somehow made it work. It seems as the film progressed the animation got better. The character designs roughly reminded me of AkiraToriyama’s Dragon Ball Z characters. The subtle moments of emotion were animated smoothly and were staged in a style reminiscent of Miyazaki films. And the action and hilarious moments took a cue from 90’s Disney cartoons. They even tried incorporating the Disney-esque songs in the movie, but that failed horribly.

Nak-posterAll this leads to why I was so disappointed. Yeah the movie was a cross between Dragon Ball characters, Miyazaki soft moments, and 90’s Disney flair. And all this combined with a well executed story made for an entertaining experience. BUT… in this way there was nothing that made Nak truly unique, something that gave me that “wow” factor. I wanted a film that distanced itself away from anime, away from epic Chinese animated films, away from Korean animated dramas, away from Disney.! Maybe I’m being unfair, but I was hoping Nak would be that film that defines Thai animation. 

I guess I’ll settle for an entertaining ride with a couple of bumps. If this ever comes to netflix, I recommend it…

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