The review was made based on the four first episodes of the series.
As HBO Asia has decided, during the latest years, to create original shows using filmmakers from S and SE Asia, Joko Anwar seemed liked one of the most logical choices, particularly since “Halfworlds” falls under the supernatural horror category, where the Indonesian thrives. Let us see the result of this cooperation though.
As explained quite eloquently in the introductory animation, a tribe of bloodthirsty creatures called Demit have been living in Jakarta, alongside humans, for centuries. Their presence has been kept a secret with the help of powerful family of mortals, but as a supernatural event known as the Gift is about to arrive, this secret does not seem safe at all. At the same time, a young street painter named Sarah finds herself caught between a war that seems unavoidable, even affecting her boyfriend Coki and a friend named Pinung. Furthermore, a couple comprised of Tony and Ros, seems to be moving somewhere between all that, having their own agenda.
The basis of the story looks quite interesting, but at times, I felt as if the episodes were unfulfilled, as if something was missing, and that there is a rush to end each one, which does not suit the general aesthetics of the series. The characters in particular, seem to suffer from this tactic, with a number of them seeming like incomplete, and this includes the protagonist, Sarah. On the other hand, Tony and Ros are quite well presented, with their characters being the most interesting in the series.
This last element is benefitted the most by the performances of Reza Rahadian and Tara Basro correspondingly, with the former playing his part with a very fitting excessiveness on the borders of theatricality, while the latter’s omnipresent bloodthirstiness functions impressiveness along her appearance and laconic style of acting. Salvita Decorte as Sarah suffers from the aspect we described before, with her character occasionally being somewhat disconnected from the general concept, and I think that the series would benefit from having Aimee Saras, who plays Ros, appearing more on screen.
Another issue is the action scenes, with a number of them being somewhat badly shot, even seeming out of context in a way, with the one in the toilets being a distinct sample. This does not apply to all of them, however, since the ones including Tony and Ros are quite impressive, with the one with the halfbreed being a testament to the fact.
Apart from the faults though, Anwar’s style still has found a number of outlets in the title, with the noir atmosphere, the use of various locations in Jakarta, the violence, the sensuality and the subtle humor-irony. Fred Emory Smith’s music also functions quite well in the general setting, with a number of very interesting, speedy rock tunes
“Halfworlds” definitely deserves a look, particularly for the presence of Joko Anwar on the helm and a number of performances, but the fact remains that the series would benefit from some better editing, that would let the story bloom in its fullest.
Halfworlds is now available to stream for HBO subscribers in the US on HBO Go/ HBO Now /HBO On Demand. Halfworlds is part of a new HBO offering to bring more international programming to US HBO subscribers along with five other shows.