Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Resiklo (2007)

Resiklo (Mark Reyes, 2007)
English Title: Recycle

Mark Reyes' Resiklo (Recycle) is set in the near future, where Earth will be dominated by invading aliens (the film's computer manufactured prologue begins with a space-bound asteroid breaking apart to reveal a triangular shaped aircraft, supposedly carrying the evil invaders out to wreak havoc on planet Earth). The remnants of the human race will spend years evading death, capture or being transformed into pale and emotionless minions (referred to as Mutanos, probably derived from "mutant"). In the Philippines particularly, the survivors of the invasion found a walled and hidden community called Paraiso (Tagalog for "Paradise"), thriving in the midst of depletion of natural resources and constant threats from the roving Mutanos (out to collect humans to accomplish their so-called quotas) by foraging for food and recycling materials for further use.

It sounds like a compelling scenario for what could have been a good science fiction movie, something Philippine cinema has been deprived of, unless you count Lav Diaz's poetic sojourn into the hauntingly familiar near-future in Hesus Rebolusyonaryo (Hesus the Revolutionary, 2002). Several foreign films have successfully exploited the idea of a future where the theme of survival against a grave scarcity of resources resounds (like George Miller's Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2 (1981), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), or L. Q. Jones' A Boy and His Dog (1975), a low-budget post-apocalyptic and trippy journey of a man and his telepathic dog). Unfortunately, Resiklo has none of the innovativeness or the overt campiness both Miller and Jones infused to their films, nor does it require the prerequisite contemplation Diaz demands of his audience. What director Mark Reyes sought to achieve is idiotically simple: to sustain the audience for one and a half hours with what essentially is an utterly mindless exercise of visual and aural spectacle passing off as cinematic art. Even with that very shallow goal, he barely succeeds.

Resiklo is one expensive spectacle. Millions of pesos, well above the normal budget of a local mainstream movie (but still a fraction of the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster) were spent on post-production and special effects. The results of the hefty investment are apparent as Resiklo is riddled with special effects-heavy sequences (including the already mentioned prologue, a fight off between a robot and an alien, a battle scene featuring robots and aliens; the effects are not really at par with current Hollywood standards, but is a step forward in local cinema) and features state-of-the-art sound mixing. Unfortunately, jazzing up lifelessly directed scenes featuring soullessly portrayed characters eschewing badly written lines with computer-generated visuals and eardrum-pumping sound effects is not the panacea for bad cinema. Sure, Hollywood may have ignited an illusion that digital effects can pass off as great cinema and it seems that local mainstream studios are trying to apply that that illusion, substituting traditional directing and storytelling methods with an influx of cheaply-rendered special effects thus producing recent junk of varying degrees like this film, Mulawin: The Movie (Mark Reyes & Dominic Zapata, 2005), the entire Enteng Kabisote franchise (Tony Reyes, 2004-2007), Super Noypi (Quark Henares, 2006), and Exodus: Tales From the Enchanted Kingdom (Erik Matti, 2005), all of which were entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Then there are those gems that surprisingly emerge from the Hollywood imposed illusion of special effects as barometer for cinematic excellence. Erik Matti's Gagamboy (Spider-Boy, 2004), for example, is a studio-financed effects-laden spectacle with Matti creating a living and breathing slum city in an ordinary sound studio. Underneath the eye candy however is a hilarious parody on Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies; the film nevertheless tangentially comments and pokes fun on the Filipinos' incurable fascination with Hollywood. Instead of merely entertaining and aping Hollywood, Matti crafted something more worthwhile: a deliciously entertaining satire.

Resiklo, on the other hand, took itself too seriously, stealing from a multitude of Hollywood flicks (mostly from Michael Bay's Bad Boys 2 (2003) and Transformers (2007) and George Lucas' Star Wars franchise, among many others (I had more fun pointing out which movie Reyes stole from, than actually watching the movie). I was actually surprised that Reyes took sole writing and directing credits, when all he did was stitch together a story that utilized the various styles he can imitate from recent Hollywood imports. It's one truly promising concept, that of Filipinos crafting Japanese type mecha from what essentially are junk materials (something which is very likely, considering the Filipinos' knack of turning garbage into functional items), is wasted by simply turning it into an opportunity to show off the expensive special effects.

is buried in its own self-importance. There's a nauseating hodgepodge of virtues the movie wants to instill in its viewers: unity, the importance of family, nationalism, environmentalism, camaraderie and a healthy dose of Yuletide cheers (yes, we are entreated to an entire sequence that felt like it was plucked from a television Christmas commercial, complete with a lethally syrupy jingle). Aside from that, the movie also desperately tries to reach the younger (perhaps middle-class) audience by incorporating extreme sports and hobbies (a chase sequence features biking and skateboarding, with the characters donning Airsoft uniform). Resiklo wants to be at par with Hollywood; it wants to be the harbinger of Filipino virtues (as well as the proper vanity project of its main star, Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr.); it wants to be the it-movie that can reach out to both the masses and the snotty middle class; it wants to be properly entertaining but without sacrificing its moral core. Resiklo wants to be so many things but only ends up being a yawn-inducing bore.

This review is also published in The Oblation.


shinjishinji said...

No other effects-heavy movie will reach the level of suckage that Mulawin: The Movie achieved. That movie was bleak.

Oggs Cruz said...

Bleak is too nice a word to describe Mulawin. A better word is "tae." Mulawin is "tae." Butch Francisco will never recover from the loss of whatever credibility he has when he praised the "tae" to heaven heights. The CEB will forever be haunted by giving a 100% tax rebate to the "tae" when it should be taxed triply as example to future producers who might repeat spreading "tae" upon our beloved cineplexes.

adolf hitler said...

sakit mo naman magsalita!!!

shinjishinji said...

Yes, Oggs. I was being nice actually. Since you put it that way, I'd have to agree with you man.

adolfhitler, I'm sorry man. But what Oggs said right there is so awesomely true.

zanjenica said...

What a moron. Reserve your movie reviewing skills to Hollywood. This is a FILIPINO film and in the context of the local industry your review is unfair. I find Resiklo endearing in its efforts and the story extremely adaptive to our culture AND audience. Regardless of how many Hollywood movies you've watched, and you find yourself attacked by aliens, and you need to defend yourself and your community, who is to say that you wont build yourself a robot to fight the intruders? the storylines may not be fully original but whos to say they didn't do it on purpose to make sure that it will click with the pinoy audience? And besides the important thing is the adaptation. What Resiklo has done that any other hollywood film about aliens has not done is give the movie a lot of heart and emotion. And that's not a weakness, its Filipino. Gets mo?

Oggs Cruz said...

So Filipino films are immune to criticism? No wonder every year we get the same thing over and over. If this is your cup of tea, enjoy. As for me, I will write about anything I want and no one can say I'm a moron for doing so. Oh yeah, I never attacked the film for the robots (I actually said that it was one of the film's underutilized good points), I just said that it paid more attention to making it look and sound good than putting a story that really mattered. I will not call you a moron zanjenica, even if our views are different. Moron is a term that refers to IQ; your deficiency is attributable to the EQ. I'm sorry, not everyone sees things like you now go throw your tantrum elsewhere.

John Santos said...

zanjenica, you only invoke context if you're going to argue that people make the best out of it. Letting "context" fully dictate what you make as an artist and filmmaker is merely pandering, and that calls for as much shit talk and hatin' as one could possibly muster. And I'm sorry, "to click with the pinoy audience"? Who's being condescending?

Anonymous said...

what zanjenica is saying is that okay lang ang pangit, pinoy lang naman manonood e.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks john,

and I completely agree with everything you've said. We've turned into a nation vehemently apologizing for what we try so hard to achieve but can't help achieve, throwing around subjective excuses such as heart and emotions to our inability to fit into the "cool" international crowd. Unfortunately, the so-called heart and emotions these big-budgeted cashcows have are as manufactured as the computer generated effects and sound mixing that were imported from neighboring countries. That is precisely the problem with the mainstream, "the" Filipino cinema zanjenica tries so hard to defend, "the" Filipino cinema that is what I perceive as a by-product of the ignorance that is perpetuated by the big television studios. Alas, cinema has been turned into a huge idiot box, where so-called network wars, indiscriminate fandom, and embarrassing yet highly-paid rumormongers are the norm. Fortunately, there's another Philippine cinema that is quickly being revealed, and without being overly kind with the criticism, deserves all the attention the world can give it. Now why do we have to be kind to the dinosaurs that never seem to grow up, when there's cinema in the country that does not need special treatment or further privileges? Let's show why Mark Reyes, Joel Lamangan, and Mother Lily's stable of so-called directors for what they are, uninspired studio employees and hardly artists.

marjie said...

having said that, how about doing a best and worst of 2007 list? that might be a good read.

Oggs Cruz said...

I'll make a top ten list sometime in January. I'm not sure about the worst of 2007 list, since I'd rather celebrate the coming new year than lament the misfires of the past year.

shinjishinji said...

I'd love to read that, Oggs!
Worst of 2007? Definitely Hannibal Rising for foreign and I've Fallen For You if it's a local release.

Anonymous said...

"Regardless of how many Hollywood movies you've watched, and you find yourself attacked by aliens, and you need to defend yourself and your community, who is to say that you wont build yourself a robot to fight the intruders?"

AHAHAHAHHAhAHAHAHAHAAAA! THIS MADE MY DAY! in essence she's saying "hey man, if you were attacked by aliens wouldn't YOU rip off every Hollywood movie YOU'VE seen to make super battle robots?"

happy new year!

i just saw Resiklo, and i didn't think it was that bad. it had its moments. and what the hell are you saying, "it wasn't campy enough?!" what about the part where the little kid crashes the car and pops up somewhere else to laugh about it later? or the Bad Boys and the way they recited lyrics to The Greatest Love of All?! Or how the enemy ship seemed to be right next door and anyone could pop in any old time they wanted? or Bambam, the child who seems to always be looking at the assistant director and/or her mom half the movie?

Granted, dude, it's not TATLONG BARAHA (one of the best films of 06. hands down), but it has its pluses. sayang nga lang it did maintain a certain degree of originality until the last 20 minutes. oh well.


Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks intrigero,

Didn't watch Tatlong Baraha last year. I really wanted to (especially with the trailer showing enemy clowns, you can never go wrong with clowns as villains), but my MMFF-induced migraine induced me to just stop. As for camp, Resiklo's camp is annoying camp, (the Bad Boys bit, while hilarious for being a rip-off, is oozing with "we can do that too" mentality; the little jokes is something I'd grab daily from GMA's skits; and the lapses in logic are results of plain laziness). If it's in it for camp, it could have gone the Gagamboy route but it didn't, it decided to be a quality film trying to be at par with Hollywood, which it obviously isn't.

Maybe ten, twenty years from now, when the self-importance of the festival has gone out of our minds, I'd revisit Resiklo and enjoy it for it's badness. Right now however, I'm simply not in the mood to dig camp from a film rated A by the CEB, not for the reasons you've mentioned.

Thanks for dropping by again, and happy new year!

juan said...

"what zanjenica is saying is that okay lang ang pangit, pinoy lang naman manonood e."

racist bullshit.
di ginawa un para sa mga pinoy actually, ginawa un para panoorin ng mga taong tulad mo.

Oggs Cruz said...

Oh yeah, this won Best Festival Picture. Like I care, it's now in the company of Enteng Kabisote 3, Mano Po and its several sequels, all of which are Best Festival pictures. In the words of Borat, WOWOWEEWOW!

devlin_w said...

"dinosaurs that never seem to grow up"

make that dinosaurs that refuse to die oggs or better yet dinosaurs that are already dead but the paleontologists who discover and showcase them in public are still stubbornly making them appear as though they're still alive and are roaming around free in the cenozoic era

Zanjenica said...

That;s just the problem with the Philippines ehh, you compare everything to foreign counterparts, saying always na ginaya lang. We are in the Philippines and we are Filipinos, why the hell have a baseline comparison that is foreign? Given that it was somewhat inspiored from foreign films, it wasnt 100% copied, and the point of making a movie like Resiklo is to provide simple entertainment, not to be original. The movie and producers took effort and spent millions to upgrade the quality of movies released and prduced in the Philippines, and for that they deserve a commendation. Period. Filipinos love to paly nagmamagaling and criticize each other instead of enoouraging, and supporting industries here to develop, and then blame the government for all the missery. tsk.

Anonymous said...

Great thing about the internet: I still can join in the fray after all these years. Just saw the movie last night on DVD. Best thing about watching these "sucky" movies is I can join in the intelligent discourse. Must agree with Oggs and the others.

Oggs said it best in a previous review: "The irony of our culture, we support mediocrity and punish excellence." I really feel sad for people like zanjenica for they are a huge reason - I believe - why our country...culture...is what it is now.

The corruption, poverty, violence, mediocrity....? "That's who we are, let's live with it," they seem to say.

The politicians in power, movers and shakers, producers and "artists," etc? They're in great shape because, yes, they're immune to criticism. No, actually, even better: They are defended from criticism.

True, that the issue here is Emotional Quotient. How'd we get to this point? Easy, we've long lived under the shadow of our colonizers who treated us as second class citizens in our own land (!!).

Somehow, we've clung to this belief for 400 years that we'll never be as good as them: "Deal with it."

Naturally, there are those - telling the emperor that he has no clothes - amongst us who tell the truth.

As F. Sionil Jose has written about the critic: "(to) show what is excellent and what is shoddy. By doing so, he helps create that cultural foundation of any society which endures because it is excellent."

Oggs, thanks.

PS. Shoot, now that you've mentioned Mulawin as "tae," am forced now to go and rent it at my local Video City.