Monday, January 2, 2012

Movie Review: ANG PANDAY 2 - Film Forgery?


First of all, let me just say that I'm a fan of Ang Panday. I really like the character and have always thought of it as one of the most original concepts to come out of Philippine comics. However, what with the controversies surrounding its creator, self-proclaimed komiks king and UNPROCLAIMED "National Artist" Carlo J. Caparas, my fondness for the franchise comes with a certain amount of guilt. And after seeing the new film Ang Panday 2, I've found myself feeling even more guilty for patronizing it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Ang Panday 2 ("The Blacksmith 2") is the sequel to the 2009 Panday remake starring Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. While this is the second film in the rebooted series, this is technically Revilla's third Panday movie, having initially played the part (or rather, the descendant of the original) in 1993's Dugo ng Panday ("Blood of the Blacksmith").


Not only is this film a sequel to the remake, it is practically a remake of the original Panday sequel as well. It borrows certain story elements from 1981's Pagbabalik ng Panday ("Return of the Blacksmith"), but with a few modifications. In both films, the arch-villain Lizardo is resurrected by a witch. In the 1981 version, our hero Flavio was aided by a tribe of bird people; in Panday 2, he meets a race of dragon people. He even battles a mer-creature in both movies; a siyokoy in the 1981 film and a sireno in the new one (personally, I prefer the siyokoy in the original. It just looked much more threatening than a "mermaid man," you know?).


Interestingly, Panday 2 also samples a bit from the 1993 parody film Pandoy, Ang Alalay ng Panday ("Pandoy, The Blacksmith's Apprentice"). During the obligatory desert battle scene, Flavio makes the blade of his sword grow to an extremely enormous length, much like Pandoy did in the spoof.

Just as the original Flavio, the late Fernando Poe, Jr., was the King of Philippine Movies, Bong Revilla may as well be crowned the King of Philippine Fantasy Movies. Revilla has often professed that the Panday character has always been his dream role, and considering that his past fantasy films usually had some Panday-like elements in them (particularly in Ang Agimat: Anting Anting ni Lolo and Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom), it would seem that his career has been in preparation for playing the sword-swinging champion.



Unlike FPJ, whose eternally heroic screen image mandated that his Panday could only be portrayed as the pure and perfect hero, Revilla's interpretation(s) of the character is allowed to be a bit more flawed. In his first actual Panday film (Dugo ng Panday), he played the brash and arrogant delinquent descendant of the original Blacksmith. In the 2009 remake, his Flavio was shown to have bouts of self-doubt. As for the sequel, at some point there's an indication that the hero worship is getting into Flavio's head and he's relying a little too much on the sword. It's an interesting angle to develop, but unfortunately, it's never really fully explored. This potentially intriguing bit of character development lasts for all of one scene, and after getting chastised by his blind mentor, Flavio instantly reverts back to full-functioning do-gooder mode for the rest of the film.


Another difference between the old and new series is their approach to romance. In the original series, there would be a new leading lady in each film, and except perhaps for the first one, there is hardly any romantic subplot. Girls may fall for Flavio, but he rarely ever reciprocates their feelings. In the current Panday films, however, there is an ongoing love affair between Flavio and the mythical Filipino fairy Maria Makiling (played by Iza Calzado).

In one scene, Maria is seen trying on her wedding gown when a couple of women show up to tell her that it's bad luck to do so. You know, if there's one thing I really hate in a lot of Pinoy films and TV shows, it's how they insist on perpetuating old superstitions. For instance, like if a glass or any breakable object falls to the floor and shatters, it means something bad has happened to the person who owns said object (usually, a car accident); stupid stuff like that. In this film, the superstition of the day is that a bride-to-be should never put on her wedding gown on the night before her wedding. Because if she does, flying demons will come and take her away.


The other female lead in the film is Marian Rivera as the human alter-ego of Flavio's pet dragon. In the scene where she reveals herself, a villain asks who she is, and she answers "AKO ANG IYONG BANUNGOT!" ("I AM YOUR NIGHTMARE!") It's funny, we always hear that old "I'm your worst nightmare!" line used in a lot of movies (I don't even remember where it's originally from), but this is the first time I've heard it in Tagalog. And Marian's delivery of the line just sounded so bad-ass.



Fun Fact! Actor Phillip Salvador, who plays Lizardo in the movie, also appeared as Flavio in the first episode of the 2005-06 Panday television series, making him the only actor to date to have played both the original Panday and his arch-nemesis!

Anyway, Lizardo, as portrayed by the late Max Alvarado in the original films, has always struck me as a "happy evildoer," and that's basically how Salvador plays him, but dialed up to lunatic levels and with extra sleaze. Some may find the portrayal somewhat Joker-ish, considering the pasty-faced make-up and the maniacal cackling. Just the same, I like that the character is played here as a total depraved freak. Compared to the previous versions, Lizardo actually comes off as literally lizard-like in the reboot.


In the film's climactic battle, Lizardo fights Flavio by transforming himself into a giant monster... just like he did in the previous movie (although he was a giant snake that time around, but still...). It's basically the ending of every Power Rangers episode. And like in those shows, predictably, the bigger they are, the easier they are to chop down.

And speaking of giant monsters, we come to the part of this review where we address the elephant in the room. Or, to be exact, the kraken in the picture...



While the local press has largely ignored the issue, less-biased reviewers have noted the Panday 2 monster's resemblance to the Kraken from the 2010 Clash of the Titans remake. But just how closely do the two creatures resemble each other? Well, to be fair, Clash did only partially show the Kraken as it popped out of the water, whereas the P2 monster was shown in its full glory. So for all I know, the design of the creature's body may well have been somewhat original.


But the fact remains, as evidenced by the images above, that at least the creature's head is a dead ringer for that of the Kraken's. Assuming that the rest of the creature really is an original creation, why didn't they bother to come up with a new design for its head? I mean, come on, how hard could it be? There's so much room on that big ugly lump for improvement. They could've put, oh I don't know, a large rhino horn on it maybe? Then they could've had spikes jutting out all over the place, maybe spiny fin-like ears, sort of resembling huge dragon wings. Or they could have given it six eyes, and they could have also changed the tentacles a bit so they look more like serpents. Make it look like a giant mutant triceratops/crustacean hybrid creature with a 7-headed hydra growing out of its humped back. See? Was that so damn hard?

But no. The filmmakers opted for the lazy way out and got themselves a second-rate, trying hard copy-kraken. And while this may well have been a decision by the producers and the director (Mac C. Alejandre, the genius behind the horrible 2004 Lastikman movie), I don't lay the blame solely on them, but also on the effects artists themselves for going along with this con. Talented as you guys are, couldn't you have at least tried to tweak things while nobody was looking? Sure, there's a good chance that you might have gotten your @$$es fired for it. But on the other hand, maybe you might have impressed the hell out of your bosses with your creativity, and they might have realized that it's actually much better to be original. Wouldn't it be worth the gamble to express your original ideas and show the world what Filipino artistry is really capable of?

No? You're just in it for a quick buck? Oh, okay.


Oh, and look, they have a giant scorpion, too. They couldn't have used another type of animal, like maybe a giant spider? Or a monster cockroach? Or a carnivorous worm-thing? Anything?

The copying is so shamelessly obvious it's ridiculous. It's not just that they're trying to fool the audience, it's like they don't even care if anybody notices. They might as well have flashed "HEY, LOOK! WE'RE RIPPING-OFF CLASH OF THE TITANS!" on the screen. And they have all these promos for the film stating how it looks so "world-class." Uh-huh, sure. Just try releasing this internationally, let's see how the rest of the world reacts to it.

Look, showbiz-land, times have changed. This isn't like the old days when a local movie can just rip-off any popular foreign film, but it's okay, because no one else outside the Philippines is going to see it anyway. That's not true anymore. Through the miracle of modern technology, you can break wind now and people on the other side of the globe will hear and smell it in ten seconds flat. Even if you never do officially release your little movie overseas, somehow, someway, everyone is going to know about it. The world is watching. Whatever virtues this picture does have will be overlooked. They'll notice the kraken, the giant scorpion, the hero on his flying steed and his extendable sword (it won't even matter that Panday had the extendable sword first), and all they'll see is a Clash of the Titans knock-off. As a Panday fan, I find it sad that this is the version of the character that the world will come to know. As a Filipino, I find it shameful that the world will look at us as nothing more than a bunch of rip-off artists.

I have to admit, I did rather like the 2009 Panday film. I thought it was cool that in a Metro Manila Film Festival that is essentially a showcase for quickie movies (let's face facts here), here was a film that actually took its time, having been in production for about a year; much longer than the scant few months that a typical filmfest entry takes to get made. And while not perfect, I thought it was a pretty well-made film as far as MMFF entries go. Panday 2 was about 2 years in the making, an even longer production time than the first installment, so I had very high hopes for it. Unfortunately, the great legacy forged by the heroic Blacksmith has been tainted by an act of film forgery.

9 comments:

  1. Nice review. Looking forward to seeing this on TV someday. :)

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  2. GMA makes garbage rip-offs out of fan-favorites. I'd like to see TV and film rights be given to TV5 or ABS-CBN and I hope they have good writers for it. Effects were already getting perfect although they literally trashed a comic icon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mas basura ang kalalabasan ng movie na yan if ABS gumawa. Papangit nila gumawa.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. all i need is the cast and their roles :/ why do our websites lack information?

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