Fueled by huge expectations and fanboy anticipation, Wisit Sasanatieng's The Red Eagle (Insee Daeng, อินทรีเเดง) has become one of the year's most wildly hyped Thai movies, with huge billboards all around Bangkok and all kinds of other advertising, stunts and campaigns.
But will Red Eagle live up to the high-flying, CGI-assisted superhero hype?
That's the question that must be weighing heavily on Wisit as word has leaked out that he's leaving the film industry once Red Eagle is released on October 7.
News of Wisit's departure from the industry has apparently been whispered in the Thai media, and Twitch mentioned it on Twitter last week.
The Nation's Soopsip gossip column picked up on it today, citing a "mysterious source" that the director is "quite serious" about the move and that he has been "telling close friends and colleagues that he’s fed up making mainstream drivel for the studios."
Wisit confirms the news in a response to an e-mail:
I have decided to quit my director role and do something else instead.
I am too tired and don't want do studio feature films anymore.
But if someday I come back to direct a film again, that means I have found a story that I really want to tell, but in my own style and in the independent way, not with the studio.
Maybe I will do a comic book. That's something I've planned to do for a long, long time.
But actually, I have not made my decision on what I will do next.
After I've finished The Red Eagle, I just want to have a long break first.
Whatever Wisit ends up doing is going to be awesome. He's a vivid illustrator and imaginative writer, and a comic book will be very cool.
It could even lead him back to film, but only if, as Wisit says, he can do it his own way, in his inimitable style.
It's a style that was in full flower in his 2000 debut, the colorful 1950s-set western Tears of the Black Tiger (Fah Talai Jone, ฟ้าทะลายโจร), but hasn't really been seen since his second feature, 2005's fantasy romantic comedy-satire Citizen Dog (Mah Nakorn, หมานคร, except for perhaps his short film Norasingh Avatar, his Sawasdee Bangkok segment, Sightseeing, or maybe his many commercials and music videos. Wisit's 2006 feature, The Unseeable (Pen Choo Kub Pee, เปนชู้กับผี) did bear some of the hallmarks of his nostalgic outlook, with shoutouts to 1930s pulp-novel artist Hem Vejakorn, but seemed muted compared to his first two features.
Wisit's move to distance himself from the film industry echoes that of Tony Jaa, who has taken vows as a Buddhist monk and turned his back on a movie business he obviously felt betrayed him after budgetary constraints and creative differences led to his abandoning the set during the making of Ong-Bak 2 and offering a comparatively lackluster swansong with Ong-Bak 3.
The news of Wisit's departure from the business is also dampener to the excitement that has been building over The Red Eagle, a project that was announced to great fanfare nearly three years ago.
With Thailand's current superstar actor Ananda Everingham stepping into the role of a masked vigilante crimefighter, first portrayed by the legendary 1960s leading man Mitr Chaibancha – who died playing the part – Red Eagle studio Five Star Production obviously felt the movie was ripe for the hype.
But we shall see on October 7.
I have to admit, watching the English-subtitled trailer for The Red Eagle, I'm still pretty excited.