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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 31, 2017

Ang Panday Movie Review: Narrative Lacks Cohesion But Who Cares? Its Target Are Kids And They're Not Complaining

THE VERY first “Ang Panday” was shown in 1980, starring the late FPJ as Flavio, the blacksmith who is the nemesis of Lizardo, evil personified as played by the late Max Alvarado, with Liz Alindogan as his leading lady. It’s an origin story that FPJ himself directed as Ronwaldo Reyes, based on the komiks novel of Carlo Caparas. The movie made Panday one of local cinema’s most iconic superheroes.

It was such a big hit that it spawned three sequels: “Ang Pagbabalik ng Panday” (1981), “Panday: Ikatlong Yugto” (1982) and “Panday: Ikaapat na Aklat” (1984). All became Metro filmfest topgrossers. Later on, ABS-CBN made a TV series starring Jericho Rosales and last year, TV5 did their own version starring Richard Gutierrez. There was also a cartoon version shown on RPN-9.

In 1993, Regal Films did “Dugo ng Panday” with Bong Revilla and Aiko Melendez, directed by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes. In 1998, Jinggoy Estrada also had his own version, “Hiwaga ng Panday”, with Kris Aquino, directed by Carlo Caparas himself.

It will take 11 years before another “Panday” movie is made in 2009, produced by Bong Revilla, with him playing Flavio and Iza Calzado as his leading lady, directed by Mac Alejandre and Rico Gutierrez. It was a big hit so “Ang Panday 2” was made in 2011, with Marian Rivera as the leading lady, directed by Mac Alejandre.

Now, 6 years later, Coco Martin, in his aim to be the FPJ of today’s generation after the huge success of “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” on TV, comes up with his own reboot of “Panday”, with he himself as co-producer and debuting as a director using his real name, Rodel Nacianceno.

The story is now set in the present. A prologue told in animation recounts the past exploits of the first Panday, narrated by Joonee Gamboa who is a fixture in the Panday movies. Coco as the new Flavio is the grandson of FPJ’s Flavio. His dad is Jeric Raval, who’s also named Flavio, and his mom is Dimples Romana.

His parents are killed at the start of the movie by Lizardo as played by Arjo Atayde. It’s Jaclyn Jose as the midwife who saves Flavio as a baby from the murderous minions of Lizardo and, next time we see him, he’s already Coco running in Divisoria and fighting some goons in a street brawl.

The new Flavio is actually a thug, but old man Joonee Gamboa comes along to tell him he is the new chosen one, like his grandpa before him. It’s his destiny to protect the world and he is tasked to look for the mystical “balaraw”, so he must make a risky journey to the mountains and through a magical forest to retrieve it. He’ll use the “balaraw” against the forces of evil led by the new Lizardo, played by Jake Cuenca.

Well, we already know how the story goes as it follows the same formula in the FPJ movies. Jake might seem to be triumphant at the start sa pagsasabog lagim, but in the end, you know that good will still triumph over evil as Coco is the savior of mankind. The more important question now is: so how did Coco fare as a director?

First of all, he’s to be commended for giving jobs to former action flick staples like Jess Lapid Jr., King Gutierrez, Tom Olivar, Val Iglesia, Dindo Arroyo, and others, whose acting careers were badly affected after the local film industry slackened and action flicks went out of fashion. Even on TV, he has given work to so many idle actors.

Coco also pays homage to his recent TV hits. The scenes where he’s fighting and running through the market place in Divisoria is reminiscent of similar scenes in “Juan de la Cruz”. The cast assembles a lot of people he has worked with before in “Juan” and “Probinsyano”, including Eddie Garcia, Jaime Fabregas, Albert Martinez, Agot Isidro, Lito Lapid, Michael de Mesa, Mark Lapid, Ejay Falcon, and several supporting actors.

Like FPJ, he makes use of child actors, like Bentot Jr. in the original “Panday”. But Coco is a segurista so he doesn’t get just one but several child stars to join him in the movie, some of whom didn’t even do anything at all. The children are led by Awra Briguela who is given a lengthy exposure as a closet biniboy who later on becomes a hero in the fight against aswangs.

The only one missing from “Probinsyano” is Susan Roces as Coco’s lola, who’s now replaced by Gloria Romero. Coco also gets himself a new leading lady, the beauty queen daughter of Christopher de Leon and Sandy Andolong, Mariel de Leon, who looks taller than him whenever they’re shown walking side by side.

But Mariel’s role is too short and their love story is not really shown going anywhere because Coco tries to cram in so many other elements into the movie. He is even shown doing a lengthy song number with some local rappers and their song is rendered on screen in full. Awra is also given his own big moment when he joins a gay beauty pageant that didn’t really work and fell flat on its face.

There’s an encounter with midgets who have homes looking like those of the Hobbits in “Lord of the Rings”. And there’s a whole sequence in the kaharian ng liwanag with Albert Martinez as the king, but made up more like a queen who’s raring to come out of his closet. Then, of course, there are the faux aswangs who attack the innocent people in Coco’s neighborhood but are not even really scary.

Coco actually wants to have a little bit of something for everyone, so he just jumps from scene to scene. Now, who’d say that narrative cohesion is important in telling a story?

Coco is stabbed by Jake and dies, but this is a fantasy movie where the hero is unkillable, so he is resurrected by Joonee Gamboa and is sent to train with Lito Lapid in the mountains and they’re all suddenly garbed like native inhabitants of Manchuria or Mongolia.

Then Coco is ready to face to Jake again and they are suddenly transported to the sand dunes and Coco is now instantly wearing a new and proper costume, like a real screen superhero should, for his final showdown with Jake who, but naturally, he gets to defeat after a long fight sequence.

As a director, Coco obviously just allowed Jake interpret Lizardo anyway he wants to, but Jake seems confused as his performance lacks consistency. He seems campy in some scenes, acting like Heath Ledger’s Joker, but menacingly serious in other scenes.

But don’t worry, the movie is a big hit, so for sure, there will be a sequel and Lizardo will be resurrected once again. If you’re looking for a polished work of cinema, then “Panday” is not for you.

But kids in the audience don’t seem to be complaining. We saw it with our own grandchildren and when we asked them how they like it, they say it’s okay. So Coco has succeeded in pleasing his target audience with his own take on the fantasy-action movie genre. If you’d complain and want a more mature film fare, then go watch “Larawan” and “All of You” instead.