Superhero ala Melayu ala bangang ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Superhero ala Melayu ala bangang

Kapoww: Atoi the Ajaib Boy
My rating:

I have had occasion to be accused of being biased against local films in favour of Hollywood ones. A spurious lie, of course - I have given plenty of unfavourable ratings to the latter as well as favourable ones to the former. Still, I can see how a cursory examination of my recent reviews may give rise to this (entirely spurious) impression; my last bad review of a Hollywood movie was a good four months ago. Allow me to offer in my defence that I've gotten a lot choosier when it comes to filem luar negara, so therefore I naturally pick the genres that I tend to like anyway - whereas I watch every local film released, and, well, they are what they are. In fact, I've even admitted to being biased in favour of Malaysian films, simply for being Malaysian.

I'm thinking I shouldn't anymore.

Atoi (Zizan) is a simple kampung boy who has always dreamed of being a superhero. When he isn't being subjected to his friend Aboo's (Bell Ngasri) hare-brained schemes to acquire superpowers, he's helping his mother (Norlia Ghani) out in the fields, flirting with Siti (Lisa Surihani), or getting picked on by village bully Faibo (Khir Rahman). But when he is struck by lightning one stormy evening, he really does gain superpowers - just in time for a superhero audition conducted by K.A.P.O.W.W., or the Kesatuan Antarabangsa Peringkat Olimpik Wira-Wira. And so Atoi joins the organisation that comprises the Astro family of superheroes - Astromen Wau (Awie), Astromen Belalang (Harun Salim Bachik), Astromen Sedut (Delyla Adnan) and Astromen Mak (Rosnah Mat Aris) - led by Jeneral Ucop (Rashidi Ishak), and managed by Din Abu (Afdlin Shauki). But having renamed himself Azroy, the adulation of the masses goes to his head, and he gets all kacang lupakan kulit.

Look, this movie didn't have to suck. Low-rent and low-budget superheroics can still be funny and awesome; cases in point, Mystery Men and The Specials. You can poke fun at superheroes by combining them with other genres; witness Sky High (high school movie) and The Incredibles (family drama). There's a wealth of superhero movies, both parodies as well as serious entries, from which to draw inspiration - and hell, there's no reason not to check out the original comic books while you're at it. Even Japanese tokusatsu has their own set of tropes and conventions, and seeing as how Kapoww's costumes look more Super Sentai than Stan Lee, you'd think perhaps writer-director Azizi "Chunk" Adnan was following that tradition. But watching this movie, it becomes apparent that Tuan Pengarah En. Chunk isn't following any tradition. In fact, he seems utterly ignorant of everything I mentioned above.

For one thing, Atoi/Azroy's superpowers are exasperatingly ill-defined. He has super-hearing and super-speed, and we see him use both abilities only once and never again. The one consistent power he has is shooting energy bolts, but for some reason he does not use it during the climactic fight scene, instead choosing to employ fisticuffs. Wahai En. Chunk, ini filem superhero ke filem kungfu? Thus this film denies us one of the chief pleasures of the superhero movie: singular superpowers and the creative uses thereof. I mentioned tokusatsu earlier, and admittedly, Asian superheroes tend to be less about specific powers and more about martial arts asskickery - but this film just comes across as confused about it all.

For another, Azizi is clearly trying to take superhero conventions and place them in a traditional Malay budak kampung milieu, which... okay. I'm Chinese and I'm a KL boy. This kind of comedy is clearly not aimed at me. But I feel quite justified in calling it stupid. Seriously. Aku tau lah, korang pasti akan try to defend yourselves by saying filem engko untuk masyarakat luar bandar, takkan mereka nak tengok jalan cerita yang sofistikated yang hanya boleh dihargai golongan berpendidikan tinggi blah blah blah. To which my reply would be: korang ingat orang kampung bodoh ke? Korang ingat lawak yang basi dan bahlol sudah cukup untuk memuaskan mereka? Korang ingat kalau ada Bell Ngasri, tak payahlah nak tulis dialog untuk dia sebab dia pandai improvise? All he does is the same stupid schtick he did in his last Malay movie, and he's as annoying and unfunny as ever. In fact, at one point he distinctly says "aku pun tak ingat dialog aku" - and I gotta ask, wahai En. Chunk, kenapaaalah ko left that bit in your movie??

See, I know there's such a thing as "low comedy". But low comedy tak semestinya stupid comedy, i.e. watak-watak yang bodoh dan babak-babak yang memperbodohkan penonton. You just need to look at the films of Stephen Chow to see low comedy done right - comedies that are smart, but that don't need you to be smart to enjoy them. Hell, you've got Afdlin Shauki and Harun Salim Bachik, two genuinely funny comedians, and you completely wasted both of them. So toksahlah ko bagi alasan yang ko buat filem untuk orang desa dan kampung, when all you've done is made a laughably bad movie. Don't think just because superheroes are something fresh and new for Malay films that you can get away with not knowing a damn thing about the genre. And don't think presenting the final fight scene in comicbook panels earns you any style points, when all it does is fail to hide the fact that you've got no fight choreography whatsoever.

I actually considered giving it two stars because of the few things it does right. It actually has a plot, even a somewhat Campbellian one, but hasn't a clue where to go with it. ("You killed my father! Oh wait, another villain just showed up, guess we can be friends then.") And there's one good scene with Lisa Surihani in which she sasses back at Faibo, though that's only because female characters who display any kind of strength are so vanishingly rare in Malay films. But no - no grading on a curve for this movie. Ko sedar tak Tuan Pengarah En. Chunk, filem engko ada potential untuk menarik perhatian antarabangsa? Ramai peminat filem dari luar negara yang teruja kalau mereka tahu ada filem komedi superhero buatan Malaysia. Tapi malangnya, filem engko langsung tak dapat mencapai tahap kualiti antarabangsa. And I think it's high goddamn time we stop making a distinction between tahap antarabangsa dan tahap tempatan. Jaguh kampung tu sama ertinya dengan pecundang dunia.

NEXT REVIEW: Knight and Day
Expectations: no better than a 3-½-starrer, I reckon


fadz said...

bang bang bang! suka tembakan hang! haha

still, ure being nice, 1 1/2 star, dats still "pemurah".. hehe

Anonymous said...

hey collin, w here :)

well, u're right about everything. about the super power (tak specific), about bell ngasri
(annoying) about kapoww actually can attract superheroes fans to watch it but en. director kite just blew it like that. harun salim bachik and afdlin are posed like extras in it. tak klaka. i was sleepy for the first 30 mins into it. its draggy. but the most important thing, it is not funny as it is claimed to be. the concept/idea is there, but not well executed.

Pet Shop Boys said...

oh mr Collin..for u to willing spend RM10 to watch this movie already a winner for the industry...
means thank u for supporting local industry

son of the land said...

I haven't seen it yet; probably never will...
Funny you mentioned tokusatsu, I remember the director mentioned in an interview that he liked Ultraman, so he incorporated the design in the movie's costume...
Like what you said, I'd bet he doesn't know a real damn thing about the Ultraman series, other Japanese superheroes, or even superheroism in general. The costumes are cheap-ass ripoffs. But I'll stop here. I'd need my wn blog post if continue on lol...
When will some of our filmakers learn that even comedy is a serious business?

Anonymous said...

I'm not interested to watch the movie at all after i saw the Kapoww TV series and Antoofighter on TV.

richdude said...

hmmm...atoi kantoi