Warrior King (2005)
By: Devon B. on August 22, 2010  | 
DVD
Premier Asia | Region 2, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Thai DD 5.1 | 106 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Bongkoj Khongmalai, Xing Jing
Screenplay: Napalee, Piyaros Thongdee, Joe Wannapin, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee
Country: Thailand
External Links
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Warrior King was originally called Tom Yum Goong, which is a Thai soup. I guess Soup: The Movie wasn't dazzling overseas distributors, so the title was changed. In the US and Australia the theatrical version of the film was heavily edited and retitled The Protector, which was a silly thing to call it because there's not a lot of protecting going on and there's already a Jackie Chan movie called that. In the UK it's called Warrior King, but these new titles are missed opportunities because the movie really should've been called Where's My Elephant?

Tony Jaa and company wowed the world with Ong Bak, and their follow up was hugely anticipated. This time Jaa is a guy who loves his family's elephants, but especially loves the baby elephant. I'm not sure how quickly elephants grow, but in Where's My Elephant?, it looks like the baby elephant is conceived when Jaa's character is a young boy, but it's still a baby when he's an adult. The only thing I can think of is that Jaa's character is suffering from a rare, and unmentioned, disease that accelerates his growth. Anyway, the baby may soon be his only elephant because the father elephant is taking part in a Royal Inspection where it might be selected to become some sort of Royal Elephant...like Babar. The inspection goes poorly when papa elephant recognises one of the inspection party as a bad guy from an earlier scene, and in all the resulting chaos, Jaa loses not just the father but the baby to elephant-nappers. Jaa learns his elephants have been take to Australia, customs be damned, so he's off to the lucky Country to retrieve...wait a minute, this is sounding awfully familiar. Guess the plot of Ong Bak was good enough the first time, so the writers swapped idol heads with elephants. Fortunately Where's My Elephant? handles the material far better than Ong Bak, and the international location helps make the two films feel different. Plus this time Jaa gets mixed up with cops, conspiracy, and cross dressers as well as crims.

Where's My Elephant is a much more competent film overall than Ong Bak, but there're still some points that leave a bit to be desired. Sometimes the logic lapses are entertaining in their own right, like a feat of strength in the final fight that can on laughed at, but other times they're just distracting. The Anglo actors are often terrible, and those that are struggling with English as a language also have trouble with their lines. Jaa's tired comic relief sidekick from Ong Bak is back as a Sydney cop, but at least he's not quite as annoying this time, perhaps because his character's less of a twonk. Well, slightly less of a twonk.

The fighting is the main thing, and Where's My Elephant? has some corking brawls. Jaa whoops some serious ass in this movie, with a new Muay Thai style that I guess is Elephant Style. This style is more focused on grab and break than the high-flying of Ong Bak, but it's still a vicious, brutal art when Jaa goes off. In one scene, Jaa makes his way into a building and, in a take running nearly four minutes, proceeds to beat up everyone. Some of the hits miss, but c'mon, it's a four minute take! This makes the hallway fight in Oldboy seem like amateur hour. There's a video gamey, almost satirical, quality to many of the fights, with long sequences of enemies coming one after the other, but that doesn't make the fights any less engaging to watch. Jaa's skills are still insanely impressive, and his nods to his heroes, like a tribute to Bruce Lee's light globe smashing kicks or a scene that is like a fevered replay of the gang fight in Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx, show that he stacks up well against his idols. In the fights, anyway; Chan is a far better actor. Some CG compositing is noticeable, and one scene is entirely CG, but none of the CG is done on Jaa himself, so he's still doing everything the old fashioned way. Director Prachya Pinkaew has calmed down on the multi-angle replays and allowed the action to flow much better, and also incorporates some other things to keep the action lively, like elephant rampages and a nifty canal chase.

Keep an eye out for a cameo from a Jackie Chan lookalike, and one from the annoying woman from Ong Bak. Also keep an eye out for another shout out to Steven Spielberg, similar to the one in Ong Bak, but this time Pinkaew seems to think the way to get Spielberg's attention is to name a toilet paper after one of his biggest stars.
Video
The slick says Where's My Elephant? is presented at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but it's actual 1.85:1, which is good 'cause that's the correct ratio. The film is much sharper and more vibrant than its predecessor, or indeed any Thai movie I've seen. In fact, it looks really good. There's still some grain, but this is minor and not distracting.
Audio
The audio is available in Thai 5.1 or a Thai DTS track. My cheap as free player I got when I moved to Australia is still going, so I still don't have DTS capability. Even though the tracks are specified as Thai, since the film is set in Sydney a good deal of the film is in English. On the 5.1 there's some distortion and muffling, but this is otherwise a solid track, and again much better than anything else I've heard on a Thai movie.
Extra Features
On the first disc are trailers for other Premier Asia titles and District 13, and the second disc has various trailers for Where's My Elephant? Also included on disc 2 are some clips of Jaa's press junkets around the world, including Muay Thai demos. There's also an interview with Jaa which runs about 30 minutes and has more demos, one with the co-star that runs about 15 minutes, one with a supporting actress that runs about four and a half minutes (which may be more than her actual screen time), an interview with the director that's also about 15 minutes, and one with the stunt co-ordinator that runs about 10 minutes. A preproduction section gives the viewer a look at fight demos, but these are a very artefact heavy due to the poor quality of the source material. A multi angle comparison of some of the fights is presented, but the theatrical version and the alternate angles are presented side by side so they're both a bit small. It's better seeing the alternate angles this way than inserted in the film like in Ong Bak, but it's still hard to see what's going on. Lastly there's about nine and a half minutes worth of interviews with other cast and crew.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Where's My Elephant? doesn't have the sense of discovering something new that Ong Bak did, but it's still an impressive follow up. The quality has improved overall, which makes Where's My Elephant? an easy recommend. I got a UK import because it was available over there before it was released in Australia, but the local disc is about to get a price reduction and comes with an uncut version of the film. Plus you get a commentary by the incomparable Bey Logan on the region 4, so unless there's one of the extras that is exclusive to the UK release that really captures your fancy, I'd go with the local edition.

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