Friday, June 09, 2006
Movie Review: DARNA ANG PAGBABALIK!
DARNA ANG PAGBABALIK aka DARNA THE RETURN is a wacky Filipino superhero film from the early 1990s. It's filled with cheap special effects, poorly choreographed fights, decent enough looking latex creatures, blunt hack-job editing and only serviceable cinematography and acting. It's also completely fascinating and totally entertaining. Darna is kind of a Filipino Wonder Woman rip with a dash of Captain Marvel (you know: "Shazam!") and this is the second and final(?) film in the series. I haven't seen the first, but here's what I can make out about the series from this film. Darna is Narda, a young, pretty and rather *ahem* busty young girl who when she swallows a magic pearl (I'm not making that up I swear!) and yells "Darna!" becomes, well yes, Darna, a flying , eye-laser-beam shooting, bikini-wearing superheroine out to defend poor Filipinos from bizarre supernatural villains, corrupt industrialists and rampant natural disasters. It's the rampant natural disasters that are featured prominently in this feature. Narda/Darna's village is destroyed by a flood which displaces her family to the slums of Manila. Even worse, during the disaster Darna loses her Magic Pearl! It's been stolen by Valentina (or something), Darna's medusa-headed archfoe who needs the pearl to keep her medusa-headed mother alive (or something). She also happens to be attempting to take over the Philipines by sending out subliminal messages through the television, which is slowly winning the populace over to her weird, new age-y cult thing. Narda's mother falls for it. Eventually Narda gets her pearl back, falls in love with two men, one a cop with a secret and the other her cousin (!?!) and it all ends with some wonderfully inexpensive special effects, silly fights (the ultimate showdown reminded me of a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episode at about 1/3 the production cost)and some sentimental exposition. It's all pretty weird and well, y'know, foreign. But it keeps up a terrific pace, with a constant barrage of cheesy fantasy and fighting. The inept film-making, acting and (on the DVD I viewed anyway) really horrible subtitling only enhances the bizarre spectacle of the whole thing. Go forth and find it, now!