(Might contain spoilers and no, I don’t care if you care about them)
Having read the book years ago, I wasn’t too thrilled about this getting a movie. Mainly because I don’t like the book that much (and was surprised by its popularity even years after I read it). But if there’s one Indonesian book that should be getting a movie, this is a good choice. The book’s hiking second half is perfect to show scenery porn, but scenery porn without context is a cigarette ad. How was the context?
My initial criticism comes from the book’s tendency to tell its stories rather than show. We are told that the main characters are childhood friends. We are told that they are bored with their activities now. The writers tell us the story and most personality of the characters in the beginning of the book (and the movie). The book did quite well in showing each of the character’s personality and quirks later on, but sometimes it felt more like a gimmick as opposed to character building.
Then there’s the sudden infusing of the writer’s personal opinion–the most apparent ones is Ian cancelling his education in Manchester to stay in Indonesia after one mountain climb. I’m not questioning his opinion, but the inclusion felt so sudden and forced it felt like he’s constructing a relatively minor subplot just to drop that line.
Rizal Mantovani is a good choice. The second half of the movie is basically scenery porn, and he did take some great pictures of Mahameru, even though sometimes there’s too much of the mountain view and not much the characters.
Casting was fine and I particularly like Igor’s performance as Ian. For the others, the performance are usually good, but sometimes brought down by the flat and at times completely cheesy script.
And talking about cheesiness, this movie is filled with them you can almost smell it. Some movies embrace cheesy scenes as a moment of self-parody–this one takes it seriously. As a result, many scenes was unbelievable, ranging from awkward to cringeworthy. This was brought to the extreme when every character finish each other’s line, Power Rangers style. I seriously expect the backdrop to explode as they finish. The epilogue (which was faithfully adapted from the book as most of the movie) felt contrived, the same reason why I don’t like Harry Potter’s epilogue chapter.
Speaking of characters, there’s no main character to speak of. One might argue Zafran is one, since he narrated the introduction, but he’s not moving the story in a significant way. Each character has their own respectable screen time and subplot. Most of them deal with love and love triangles, though it wasn’t really a triangle until the very end (giving the impression of a plot twist for the sake of a plot twist).
Criticisms aside, I’m pretty sure many people will like this. And if it happens, it’s a victory for quality Indonesian movies (and books!). It might not be the best, but it’s a right step towards better quality movies. It’s a positively inspiring movie that is best watched with friends.
What to expect:
Scenery porn, cheesy story that just works. Lots of friendship and hiking.