Sunday, January 22, 2006

Exodus

I wanted to watch Underworld: Evolution while I was in Manila. I never got the chance. So this afternoon, when I arrived in Dumaguete, I watched Exodus instead.

Big mistake.

Yes, yes, this is going to be another of those Filipino-movies-suck rants but what makes it different is that I actually went to a theater and paid to watch it. I have the right to rant.

From the get-go, I was already snickering. Apparently, they wanted to kick things off with a big battle. You know, beleaguered humans versus the mystical Forces of Darkness(TM). The dark horde, riding a dark tide, was actually passable. But the humans? They looked like a ragtag band of extras. They had some makeshift armor and all, but underneath it, their clothes looked like they came from the local ukay-ukay. I mean, one guy had his shirt on inside out and you could see the manufacturer's tag sticking out.

Puh-leeze!

I would have been willing to let the whole thing pass. We don't have big Hollywood budgets, after all. But once I got to the story....

Well, there was no story.

Okay, there was, but very little. Here it is:

Exodus is a Mysterious Warrior(TM) hired by the humans to fight off the Forces of Darkness(TM). There's a big battle (see above) and...we don't really know who wins or loses. The humans are shown in retreat in the next scene, but the Forces of Darkness(TM) are also worried about this Mysterious Warrior(TM).

The humans decide that the only way to beat the Forces of Darkness(TM) is to send Mysterious Warrior(TM) to capture Four Mystical Beings Representing the Elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water(TM). Mysterious Warrior(TM) says "I am not your champion" but in the next scene he is going after the FMBREEWFW(TM).

See? What little story there is isn't very original. Again, I would let that pass. After all, scriptwriters are paid peanuts in this country. And you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. But...but...but...the scenes just don't make sense!

I mean, how can you botch a cliche?!!

What makes the whole thing much, much worse is that Mysterious Warrior(TM) captures FMBREEWFW(TM) without even breaking a sweat. He fights each one briefly, but captures them just like that. There's nothing to show how clever he is, nothing to show that he discovers anything within himself. Heck, there's not even any witty repartee! And they all follow him meekly, except with the water fairy Romantic Interest(TM) who then proceeds to give him some of the usual Filipina sass.

I really wanted to like this movie. I even paid to see it. And there were some genuinely good character concepts going for it: the creepy king of the Forces of Darkness(TM) in his doll-like masks, the equally creepy three-as-one leader of the humans, and the tarot reader with the floating cards. The Tagalog voice-overs, pure and unadulterated, just flowed beautifully, showing that it can be the language of fantasy.

But darn it! If I'm not even getting a passable story, it just ain't worth watching.

If I had paid a hundred bucks for the ticket in Manila, I might have borne through it just to get my money's worth. Luckily, I paid only P35 (they raised prices recently), so I had the satisfaction of walking out of the theater in mid-movie.

Yes, ladies and gents, I made my exodus from Exodus. That was sooooo satisfying.

Should I have asked for my money back? H'wag na! Bigay ko na lang. Mukhang mas kailangan nila yung treinta'y singko kaysa sa akin. Pwe!

9 comments:

  1. treinta'y singko pesos? haha.

    almost watched that one. buti na lang, i detoured to Blue Moon. later, i found out that it won best picture. despite Mark Herras, it worked! (o baka mababaw lang talaga'ng luha ko, hehe.)

    exodus! parang 'Pinas, ah. =)

    uy, you forgot to mention. the movie's lead is no other than... one of our Honorable Senators. hay.

    regards. =)

    ps.

    underworld evo? didn't quite like it (though i waited so long to watch). parang mas natuwa pa ako sa little manhattan (brought back memories of sweet young first love. hay.)

    but believe you me, seeing beckinsale's well worth your Php35. =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. i actually liked exodus very much. i didn't mind the simplicity of the story because all myths -- which exodus tries to be -- are really simple stories of personal journeys. look at all the examples from lord ot the rings to narnia, and you will find the simplicity of their narrative. when star wars tried to complicate things with subplots of trade wars in the second set of trilogy in the series, it went bonkers. i liked exodus' preference to be nothing more than an adventure tale, but to do it with aplomb. i also like the productiom design as well: i found erik matti's homage to david cronenberg and the wachowski brothers and terry gilliam very exciting, without being derivative. true, the special effects still need work, but it is a vast departure for a filipino film, given that, in the same year, the industry also produced such lameducks as mulawin and enteng kabisote. over all, it was imaginative, and it entertained me very, very well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hiya. Thanks for posting.

    Yup, the main draw for Underwold has always been Kate Beckinsdale. Vampire in leather corset! w00t!

    And as for Exodus, de gustibus and all that. Never mind the constipated look on Bong Revilla's face that is supposed to pass for angst, the basic failure of the story is that fails to set up any conflict from the get-go. Whatever motivations Exodus might have had are never made clear in the beginning (constipation, maybe?); if it was supposed to have come in the middle of the film, then it's too late. Viewer interest is gone.

    Besides, if he can off the FMBREEWFW without breaking a sweat, what was the point of the quest?

    ReplyDelete
  4. to hint of the motivation at the start would have been too obvious. many clumsy movies do that, and all we can do is say "of course," and then proceed to dismantle the plot by numbers. mulawin did that, and it proved too ho-hum for comfort. what i liked about star wars, for example, was the fact that, in the middle of empire strikes back which is the last of the first SW trilogy, we get the surprising punch of darth vader being revealed as luke's father. it just came out of nowhere -- and yet that "surprise" actually perfectly follows the greek formula for much of its mythology.

    i'm no fan of bong revilla, but i like the weariness of his character -- which came as a complete surprise for me. constipated it's not, but i won't say it's great acting either. it was just ... okay. mulawin, on the other hand, sports a booming aguiluz making the Grand Speech to boost army morale, but i didn't buy it for a second.

    as for the "quickness" of his quest, especially the snaring of the four engkantadas, i was actually ready to demolish the attempt with my knives. mulawin's version of the snaring (the tres aves in this case), i remembered, was barely a fart in that department, and i didn't expect any better in exodus. to my surprise, the "struggle", the fight scenes -- with the tikbalang, with the aswang, with the fire boy -- were actually longer than usual. but i can also see why you say exodus preposterously did all of that without "breaking a sweat". then again, i just see it as a matter of economics and a matter of acknowledging the constraints of a two-hour narrative: exodus certainly does not have the narrative leisure of Lord of the Rings. If it had the same budget and the same planned trilogy (with the leisure of packing in details for a total of NINE hours), I bet we can get something more than the "without sweat" quest. given its limitations, it was a success. what the movie proved to me was this: filipino filmmakers can no longer make the same excuses about the lameness of their production (no budget, no technology, etc.), given that a movie from their ranks have actually achieved more than a semblance of competence. see mulawin, enteng kabisote 2, and exodus back to back (they all basically tell the same story), and you will see what i mean.

    in the end, though, movie criticism ultimately boils down to singular prejudices and matters of personal taste. i have my own reasons for liking exodus: it surprised me, it looked competent enough for me, and i eat enough fantasy for breakfast -- from pratchett to gaiman to alfar to le guin -- to know its nuance and geography and to tell just enough to determine which story takes it too easy. i sincerely believe exodus passes that standard. but then again, that's just me.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn't get to watch Mulawin so I have no basis for comparison.

    That said, establishing some motivation (even if it's a red herring) early on is essential to capturing viewer interest. Exodus didn't do that. Not at the start of the film, and certainly not in the middle when I left. The main character is obviously conflicted, but why? You can't tell. Maybe if there was a bit more dialogue, we might have had something. But nada!

    Star Wars? Yes, there was that twist in the middle of the trilogy, a luxury only a long epic can enjoy. But take the first film: you had different simple motivations that just happened to coincide. Get the plans to the rebels, save the princess, escape Darth Vader.

    You don't need more than two hours and big budget special effects to tell a good fantasy story. The Princess Bride managed to do so with a minimum of special effects. And people still remember it to this day ("Hallo, my name is Inigo Montoya....")

    Exodus had so many things going for it, but ultimately, it was the lack of a serviceable story that did it in.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We don't have big Hollywood budgets? Hahaha, isn't Exodus the movie which was being touted as having been more costly in special effects than LOTR? I'm guessing they spent so much on FX that they ran out of money for a good scriptwriter. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, Miguel. More costly special effects? At P70-M? I don't think so. The deficiencies in SFX are understandable; deficiencies in story, less so.

    ReplyDelete
  8. PhP 35?

    I bet you'd be ranting more if you'd watched the film here in Manila, with the skyrocketing theatre tickets.

    Cheers.

    Angelo
    http://jangelo.racoma.net

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for visiting, Angelo. He, he, one of the advantages of living in the province. Now, will I dare watch Mulawin now that it's showing? Hmmm....

    ReplyDelete