Boasting a striking, gritty aesthetic, Halfworlds provides an excellent concept rooted in Indonesian folklore. Set in a present-day Jakarta, demons known as Demit live amongst mortals, the only visible difference the markings of the Gods from whom they descend on their skin. Previously protectors of mankind until the world divided, the city has been left derelict by intertribal rioting. Now, street artist Sarah comes to discover her role as The One caught between the two worlds.
The first episode offers great promise. An animated intro — kept throughout the series, drip-feeding backstory — tells of the supernatural tribes while the show itself immerses the viewer via warm, rich palette into what feels a dirty, seedy world. The effect is instantly absorbing, while the soundtrack is wisely kept on the down-low, allowing the violence to speak for itself. Choreography for the fighting is a little clumsy, but the stage is effectively set.
Unfortunately the potential, particularly from director Joko Anwar who is no stranger to confrontation, is ultimately lost to poor pacing. Progression through episodes is erratic, meaning that at times the story becomes difficult to follow, while bilingual dialogue is a little distracting — certainly the use of English makes for overall accessibility, but for seasoned world cinema viewers, it robs the absorption required for a believable fantasy setting. Some bad casting also lets things down, however praise must be shown for Salvita Decorte, a relative newcomer who stars as Sarah. An understated performance from the actress smooths some campiness — which is admittedly very welcome from a dastardly duo that kill their way through the city — to reintroduce much needed drama to proceedings. Also, Arifin Putra brings a brooding sexuality to his role as half-breed Barata, his fight scenes a cut above the rest — no surprise, post The Raid 2.
The final episode reiterates the promise from the first, offering a slick edit and the excellent imagery we expect from Anwar. While this first season is certainly flawed, events in the final minutes indicate an explosive second instalment.
6 Apr 2017