Medieval pirates, assorted sorcerers, giant cannons and Thai star Ananda Everingham riding a giant stingray are just some of the visual attractions in “Queens of Langkasuka,” a long-in-the-works fantasy actioner that rarely fulfills its inherent promise. Helmed by one of the country’s leading directors, Nonzee Nimibutr (“Nang Nak”), and the biggest Thai production of the year, the pic finally delivers in its last three reels but is elsewhere hampered by stiff direction, immobile camerawork and choppy plotting. Casting and hype will ensure an initially big opening locally Aug. 8; cutting by a good half-hour could sharpen offshore chances.
Known during production as “Queens of Pattani,” and originally planned as a two-parter, the movie is likely to open locally in a version different from the international cut that preemed in the Cannes market. In whatever version, this will never be an Asian “Pirates of the Caribbean” — the pic is not even in widescreen — as Nimibutr seems out of his depth helming such big-budget fare. In fact, “Queens” lacks even the visual sheen of his best movies.
The time is the early 17th century, when Queen Hijau of Pattani (vet Jarunee Suksawas) faces overthrow by a rebel prince working in conjunction with pirates led by Black Raven (Winai Kraibutr). The pirates plan to capture some giant cannons, invented by Dutch engineer Janis Bree (Andre Macchieisen) and his Chinese sidekick, Lim Kium (Jakkrit Phanichphatikram), from a Dutch vessel, but the plan fails when the vessel blows up and the cannons sink into the abyss.
On that same day, Pari, a boy with hereditary gifts, is born in a fishing village, but his father is killed by Black Raven. Several years later, the boy Pari (Kunanek Naiyanaprasert) is taken by his uncle, Anjar (Preecha Katkham), to learn the Du Lum magic arts from a sage in a cave, White Ray (Sorapong Chatree). Anjar tells Pari he must avenge his father’s death once he’s master of Du Lum’s nine levels of learning, which establish empathy with the ocean and its various creatures.
Pari grows into a playful young man (Everingham). Meanwhile, Black Raven, who was once a student of White Ray’s, has been trying without success to raise the cannons from the ocean floor.
Still threatened by internal factions, Queen Hijau gives orders to find inventor Lim Kium to build her some big cannons. For their safety, she sends away her two daughters, tomboy Ungu (Anna Ris) and cute Biru (Jacqueline Apithananon) under the protection of her loyal commander, Prince Jarang (Chupong Changprung).
Final hour, with Jarang and Pari battling the pirates, starts to deliver the action goods. But it’s not until the final assault by the evil Black Raven & Co. that the pic realizes its true potential, with some wild, hugely entertaining action (including paragliders, multiple cannons and even a giant whale).
Everingham largely gets by on good looks, with most of the real acting left to Suksawas, Kraibutr and Phanichphatikram. Alas, martial-arts star Changprung (“Born to Fight,” “Dynamite Warrior”) gets only occasional chances to demonstrate his impressive whiplash style.
Production and costume design are fine in a cartoonish way, with the three royal women jaw-droppingly accoutred in gold and silver armor for the climactic battle. Music is unmemorable, and visual effects are so-so.