Thai superhero never gets off the ground

'Mercury Man' defeated at domestic B.O.

BANGKOK — Superheroes regularly save the day in America and “Krrish” became a smash this summer in India, but Thailand’s new flyboy has not quite changed the world, let alone save it.

In the latest attempt by Thai film-makers to borrow a Hollywood formula, “Mercury Man” (“Manut Lek Lai”) earned only Baht12 million ($320,000) in its first week at the B.O., according to its helmer Bandid Thongdee.

“Maybe Thai audience still doubt whether a homegrown superhero will be as exciting to watch as ‘Spider-man’ or ‘Superman’,” Thongdee says. “However, we believe that the film has a strong potential for international sales.”

“Mercury Man,” which is produced by Sahamongkol Film, was promoted at the Cannes Market, where it attracted interest from European buyers. Bandit says the film will be featured as one of Sahamongkol’s key products at the upcoming American Film Market.

Actually the formula is not that new. Pic is a remake of an old Thai pic that tells the story of a man who possesses an occult amulet that renders him invulnerable to bullets and other weapons. “Mercury Man” re-interprets the superstitious element and makes the main character a fearless superhero once the amulet gets inside his body.

“The look is inspired by American superheroes,” says Bandit. “But I put a traditional Thai touch into it by making the pattern on his costume look like ancient protective tattoos.”

Despite a budget of $1.1 million, which is roughly double the average production cost of a Thai movie, the film doesn’t boast first-class special effects. The action relies more on physical stunt choreographs than digital manipulations.

Critics’ reception was also lukewarm. “The film shows a genuine effort in trying to localize the American superhero genre, but the execution is below par,” writes one.

In February, Sahamongkol Film released “Chai Lai Angels,” featuring five sexy super-spies modeled after “Charlie’s Angels.” That film also failed to excite both multiplex audiences and reviewers, although it is getting a big push this month for its release in neighboring Malaysia.

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