Wednesday, December 29, 2010

RPG Metanoia (2010)

RPG Metanoia (Luis Suarez, 2010)

Luis Suarez’s RPG Metanoia is the first Filipino-made 3D and CG-animated feature length film. Sadly, it seems that the distinction has overshadowed the film, which, even without the label that points out its historic significance, is quite a solid endeavor and must be seen, instead of read about, to be really enjoyed.

The film opens with a lengthy action sequence where Zero, a heroic kid who is quite adept with the yoyo as a weapon, makes his way through a horde of robots and defeats a three-headed monstrosity who looks like a cross between a hydra and a jack-in-the-box, revealing a prize, a mysterious mask that is supposed to give its wearer god-like powers. The computer hangs. The mother scolds. Zero is Nico (voiced by Zaijan Jaranilla), a frail kid who spends his days and nights leveling up his character in Metanoia, an online role-playing game where he can be everything he can’t be in real life.

The story’s less of a stretch than what can be expected from animated features. When it is not concerned with the plotline of an in-game character wreaking havoc on the real world via a virus that transmits images through the computer that effectively turns humans into gaming zombies, the film spends time exploring the domestic life of Nico, his intimate dinner conversations with his mother (voiced by Eugene Domingo), his webcam communications with his father (voiced by Aga Muhlach), who is working overseas, his blossoming crush with a girl next door, his role in his gaming troop, and his inefficiencies in sports and other physical activities. A bulk of what makes RPG Metanoia so charming is how it translates these relatable elements of living into gorgeous animation.

Thus, RPG Metanoia’s greatest asset is that it satisfies itself with telling its story with refreshing simplicity. The animation, unremarkable if compared to bigger-budgeted extravaganzas produced elsewhere, is lovely in a way that its imperfections and limitedness in terms of frames per second give the film the feel of a stop-motion animated feature, which is more organic, more human than anything done by the animation factories of Hollywood. Instead of belaboring the world of Metanoia with needless spectacles and ornaments, it focuses on creating an emotionally palpable feel for the film’s “real world.” It isn’t simply the comparably polished animation that contributes to the film’s modest powers. The script, written by Suarez with Jade Castro and Tey Clamor, is both far-reaching in its attempts at science fiction and beautifully intimate in its depictions of the joys and conflicts of growing up. The voice acting, most especially by Eugene Domingo as Nico’s mother and Aga Muhlach as Nico’s father, is consistently delightful. The musical score, by Ria Osorio and Gerard Salonga, complements the visuals with fanciful melodies and exciting rhythms.

Suarez and his team peppers the world of Metanoia with details. For example, the portal where the characters of players from the Philippines is replete with fantastic creations inspired from a wellspring of Filipino traditions and artifacts, from the robotic kalesas or horse-driven carriages that roam the cobblestone streets to the Vigan-inspired exteriors of the buildings. Moreover, in keeping true with the massiveness of the multiplayer online gaming experience that Metanoia is envisioned to be, the film introduces elements and characters that establish the fictional computer game’s reach and influence beyond Philippine shores, adding a multicultural flavor to the viewing experience.

There is of course a danger in putting such a game, whose popularity is limited to a specified niche, as the point of interest in the film. The mechanics of the MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game which could be material to the appreciation of the niceties of the film may seem foreign to the demographic it seeks to market itself to. Thankfully, the film does not drown itself with the complexities of the gaming phenomenon and limits itself to its essence, which is basically the threat of living vicariously through the near-perfect lives of computer-created amplified personalities thriving in a world where rules can be bent. Instead of functioning merely as a reflection of what could be a passing fad in video-gaming as with almost all films adapted from video games, it explores the dynamics between gamer and game, and why such relationship, hardened by some symbiosis where both benefit from each other, thrives. In that sense, RPG Metanoia has the capacity to be timeless notwithstanding the possible and probable obsolescence of its thematic source.

(Cross-published in Twitch.)


Fred said...

This wonderfully entertaining entry to this year's Metro Manila Film Fest deserves a much bigger audience than the current frontrunners in the box office. People should watch "RPG Metanoia" in the theaters during this festival.

Sharing with you my own personal review of this enjoyable film:

Will said...

Best film this festival.

ventomachine said...

I totally agree with your review. I have been encouraging friends and relatives to what this film. It saddens me that this didn't receive the acclaim it so richly deserves in the recent MMFF. I hope they market this abroad. It's an ingenious, more promising representation of Philippine mainstream cinema than Ai Ai's tiresome hysterics.

Gershom Chua said...

Always had an eye out for this film but haven't gotten around to seeing it, but do thank your blog review for totally whetting my appetite :) Praise for such a well-written, eloquent review! :) Will comment back for my own take soon!