Marvel Universe and the Contextualization of the Wayang Universe

Marvel Universe and the Contextualization of the Wayang Universe

Who doesn't know the Avenger film, a film made by Marvel Studio which tells the story of a group of superheroes who together fight villains. The Avengers became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. In Indonesia, the last sequel (Avenger Endgame) has even surpassed 11 million viewers, becoming the film with the most viewers in Indonesia.

A movie about a single superhero has attracted many audiences, let alone a film that brings together many superheroes. We can name a number of films that carry a similar idea, such as DC's Justice League or The Expendable, which gathers action movie heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jet Li.

More than ordinary action films, superhero films are usually made much more spectacular. Audio-visual technology, effects, and beautiful scenes will make every action feel jarring. All of that is impossible not to spoil and satisfy the audience.

In fact, the awesomeness of the action in superhero films reminds me of another action that I often see on TVRI Central Java and Yogyakarta, shadow puppet shows. In wayang kulit, usually there are scenes that are also jarring, for example scenes of war of flowers (Arjuna vs Buto Cakil), failed war (initial clash), and brubuh war (summary battle). In these rounds, the puppeteer used to use slashing techniques. The puppets move, dart, rotate, combined with attractive and fast vocal techniques and gamelan rhythms. Like any Marvel or DC-style action-fiction film, the scene in the wayang also has its own spectacular elements.

Stories about a group of superheroes who unite also exist in wayang stories. Take the story of the Baratayudha war where all the "super" characters gather against the Kauravas. Puntadewa, the leader who is skilled at spears and has inner strength. Werkudara, a very tough knight. Arjuna, a clever archer. Gatotkaca, a young man who has extraordinary strength like the Hulk. Abhimanyu, a knight with qualified warrior knowledge. Kresna, the warrior with the power of a god. Hanuman, a magic monkey that can't die. Srikandi, the woman who defeated Bisma, the strongest person from the Kaurava side.

Likewise in the Ramayana epic. The main enemy, Ravana, faces off against "superheroes" like Sri Rama with powers almost equal to a god, Hanuman, Kumbakarna the formidable giant, to the powerful bird Jatayu.

So, basically the interesting elements in modern action films are also present in wayang performances, from the story to the presentation technique. Wayang was once the people's favorite entertainment. Where there is a wayang performance, people will come in droves either near or far. They happily followed all night.

However, it must be admitted that now wayang is not an option. He has difficulty presenting relevance to current conditions. The most influential factors are language and duration. The language used is Javanese which not everyone can understand. The duration of the show can be up to 6 - 8 hours, something that is impossible in an age that worships time effectiveness. Even the highest-grossing film of all time lasts less than 3 hours.

This problem is compounded by the fact that there is still conflict between wayang pakem and non-pakem. For many actors, it is believed that it is not permissible for wayang to go out of style, both the story grip and the technical standard for its presentation. This makes the process of compromise and contextualization of wayang even more difficult. Puppet was finally considered as something of the past and very exclusive. Then, its status as a cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO increasingly emphasizes that it is something sacred and high, we call it noble. Past - exclusive - noble, all of this further emphasizes and widens the gap between society and wayang.

Thus, the challenge of wayang is how to contextualize and draw closer to audiences that are indeed different from the past when wayang was still victorious. Negotiations and compromises are absolutely necessary. There is no need to worry about the preservation of traditional wayang puppets, their sacred and noble status is a guarantee that they will exist.

Wayang must transform both in form and in the meaning of the story. The form of presentation needs to adjust the target audience. The stories deserve to be presented with a fresh interpretation according to the context. Currently, there are many perpetrators who do that. We can take examples of several names such as Nanang HP who presents urban wayang or Sujiwo Tejo with his wayang musicals.

The forms of transformation of wayang performances can also vary, such as comics, music, and films. Film itself can actually be interpreted as a continuation of the spectacle culture that was once established in our society. Both are very identical: based on screen, audio and visual.

One of the advantages of film compared to wayang is of course the real visualization. All aspects of the story can be presented starting from the atmosphere, emotions to space. Thus, film has multiple charms compared to traditional wayang shows. Currently, it is also one of the media that is effective and can reach very broad.

The concept of Marvel films can actually be compared to wayang, if they have the Marvel universe we have the wayang universe (wayang universe). If they have Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk, we have Yudistira, Kresna, Rama and Gatotkaca. They have Thanos, we have Ravana. Like Marvel's stories that have succeeded in absorbing millions of pairs of eyes, wayang stories should be able to. The problem is if one day it materializes, do we want to watch it or not.


Author: Pandu Wijaya Saputra
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