Thursday, December 11, 2008

Malaysian Blockbusters Busting No Block

Watching Antoo Fighter was a painful task. It's a case of bad story, bad direction, hammy overacting, regressive CGI effects and unoriginal ideas. With this, it's easy to develop a rash when thinking of whether to fork out money for a ticket to Cicakman 2: Planet Hitam.

The first Cicakman was a terrible bore; for a superhero movie, there's little action and completely no sense of wonder. The background CGI left a lot to be desired. And most baffling was the decision to set it in an unknown futuristic city, which looked closer to New York (complete with yellow cabs! in winter!) than Cyberjaya. Why? Our cities not good enough? Our tropical weather not "cool" enough?

Taken together with Antoo Fighter, a couple of conclusions can be drawn about our local special-effects blockbusters. One, our SFX extravaganzas always involve bad CGI and hammy acting. Two, we're nowhere near competent with this type of blockbusters.

The simple rule is, if you can't do it, then don't. Trying on effects-laden films when your technology is not yet up to scratch is putting the cart before the horse. And it's so easy to forget that expensive CGI isn't all there is to making movies like these. The bottom line is, you still need a good story.

But what do we have? Cicakman bitten by a radioactive lizard? Spider-Man, anyone? A squad called Antoo Fighter battling a band of demons and monsters? Does The Monster Squad or Ghostbusters sound familiar?


Another recent "blockbuster," the supposedly kungfu actioner, Kinta, was previously hyped up so much that we'd expect no less than at least a decent martial arts flick. The initial artwork looked great, as did the trailers. And now comes the actual movie itself, but what a huge disappointment it is.

Not only is it laughable, it's also incoherent and with action that is exciting as a fly hitting the windscreen of a car.

No, actually, where's the action? Whatever few fight scenes it has are repeated in flashbacks, in their entirety. What's that for? Beats me.

Apart from the completely illogical plot, there's the bad dubbing and out-of-place music track. And then there's this story that appeared more than a week ago, where the director basically blames everyone else for the final result. If what he says is true, then everyone from the executive producer to foreign buyers are to be blamed for forcing him to compromise on his original vision of a grand historical epic, including, gulp, western audiences.

Granted what he says is in a very diplomatic tone, but still, it doesn't sound quite right for a director to be seen as basically putting the blame on others. A good director, if forced to compromise (admittedly it does happen all the time), would do his best to strike a balance that everyone would be happy with it.

But having seen the incomprehensible mess that is the film, no amount of explanations can help to justify or clarify matters. It's just simply a bad film. But credit must be given to the lead actors, who are all real-life martial arts exponents, who really gave it their best. Their passion and dedication are really the only good things about the film.

And also, a good journalist, once told that the film was shown in Cannes, would have asked which section of the festival it was, and if it was in competition or otherwise.

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