Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ang Panday (2009, Mac Alejandre)

This is the first film I've seen at the 35th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). I went to the cineplex after the film won the lion's share of the awards. If this is indeed the very best of the 2009 batch, then I'll just wait for cable showings of other entries. The adventure-fantasy film lacked some warmth, was plagued with poor action sequences, and peppered with worthless characters.

Ang Panday is basically a two character slugfest. A blacksmith named Flavio (Ramon Bong Revilla Jr) rushes to the crash site of a meteor, which legend says is the key to the defeat of a monstrous evil. He creates a dagger from the metallic remnants of the meteor. The dagger inexplicably transforms into a sword that helps him confront the diabolical Lizardo (portrayed atrociously by Phillip Salvador). The serpentine villain toys with the sword-wielding mortal and leaves him blind. A lovely spirit (Anne Curtis) helps Flavio regain his focus and his vision. He returns for another mano-a-mano with his powerful foe.

There are other characters in this film although they are basically fluff. A female slave tries to free Maria (Iza Calzado) because she is said to be a tool in the future defeat of Lizardo. A motley gang of young people join forces with Flavio. These groupies are endowed with fighting weapons and skills such as slingshots, bow and arrows, and hand combat. However, they all end up as excess baggage because of their ineptness. Flavio ends up rescuing them from perils and dangers. When Flavio needs some rescuing of his own, the groupies are nowhere to be seen and only the lovely spirit is left alone to help him.

There is a nice opportunity for the archer to show off his skills during Flavio’s encounter with the rolling spike ball. The monster had one large eye and, based on its actions, an almost non-existent brain. The evil fiend stops rolling around and incredulously stares at the chinky-eyed blacksmith. The large eye of the monster becomes a perfect target. This is a great opportunity for the archer to be a hero but the director will not have any of it. Flavio leaps forward and plunges his sword into the eye.

Flavio is all over the film. He vanquishes a platoon of Mongols. He slays a horde of ninjas. He stops a bevy of aswangs. These feats could have been thrilling but alas, the lackluster action scenes are tepidly choreographed. Sure, the special effects are above-par but this is an adventure-fantasy. The action scenes should be thrilling and not wooden.

The original movie with Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ) is dragging but I prefer it over this heart-less remake. FPJ portrayed the blacksmith with some vulnerability. The way he carried out his character may not win awards but he was more human and more heroic.

On the other hand, Bong Revilla’s leaden take on the titular character is that of a reluctant superman. Flavio is so good he doesn’t need other people to stop the evil forces of Lizardo. However, he is no match to Lizardo. The filmmakers erred when they made Lizardo a super-duper fiend. Maybe that is part of the plan of the filmmakers/producers in order to create more money-making sequels. If they do come up with a sequel, I hope the filmmakers come up with more lively and more heroic groupies for the grossly outmatched Flavio. That is the only way for the future film and for Flavio to come up as real winners. Or better yet, let Lizardo utilize his brain and completely annihilate Flavio and this future MMFF regular.

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