Directed by: Toranong Srichua
Starring: Suchao Pongwilai, Phanudet Watanasuchart, Pisarn Srimunkhong, Sirinya Jantzen, Nichapa Prakornkitwattana
Melodramatic acting, weak CGI and a big fake beard are the most memorable ingredients of this Thai take on the Roland Emmerich school of mega-disaster epic.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wreaked havoc on south Asia and claimed more than two hundred thousand lives. 18 years later, these losses still haunt the characters in 2022 Tsunami, as seismic activity in the area is once again on the rise. This time, however, a warning system devised by the impressively bearded Dr Siam is in place. Dr Siam and his team of pretty young assistants track earthquakes, underwater volcanos and other rumblings in the Gulf of Thailand. Prompted by Dr Siam’s warnings, the environmentally minded Prime Minister is (unusually for a disaster movie) only too willing to order evacuations sooner rather than later, something that draws the ire of his fiercest political rival. After some less than riveting intrigues, sermonizing about environmental and social issues, handwringing and general running around disaster finally strikes as an immense tsunami strikes Bangkok, and the Prime Minister transforms into a dashing action hero, saving a group of children from the waves, before the film concludes with some speechifying about how mankind needs to come together and save the planet.
The above summary doesn’t quite do the movie justice, but I find I’m having some trouble describing the details of the plot in an intelligible manner. The movie is full of silly (and sometimes inadvertently amusing) details, but there isn’t really much in the way of plot, and I found the storytelling somewhat incoherent. The cutting between the different plot threads is a bit haphazard, several characters don’t really have much to do beside worrying, and the vague plotting leads to repetition. Behind all the melodrama with evil drug dealers and debauched politicians it honestly gets a bit boring.
Most of whatever fun I had watching this one derived from stupid details. Dr Siam’s magnificently fake beard, for instance, is a keeper. Also the eminently ridiculous scene where one of the doctor’s sexy sidekicks takes off out to sea in the face of looming disaster to warn her pet dolphin to get out of harm’s way. As for the ending, it climaxes with a kitsch apotheosis of one of the main characters, as a giant Buddha statue rises from the waves to save his life.
When the main tsunami finally strikes about two thirds into the film things pick up a bit, if only because of the primitive pleasure I gain from watching big cities being destroyed. Most of the CGI is, unsurprisingly, rather low-end and unconvincing, and the absence of any really spectacular deaths is disappointing.
Few as they are, I very much enjoy watching non-American disaster movies since they oftentimes have a slightly different flavor, but 2022 Tsunami is unfortunately not up there with South Korea’s Haeundae. This one is for genre aficionados only.