Darna No More

It’s all over the news here in the Philippines. Actress Liza Soberano will no longer be playing Philippine pop culture icon Darna as she withdrew herself from the long-delayed movie superhero movie project. The network ABS-CBN (which controls movie company Star Cinema) confirmed the withdrawal.

“I have decided to withdraw from the project of Darna,” Soberano said in an interview.

It is no secret that the Philippines is a hot market of moviegoers who pay a lot of money to enjoy the latest superhero movies from Hollywood and so far Philippines-made superhero productions just cannot keep up with those foreign productions in terms of quality and entertainment value. This is why local production companies prefer to play it safe by making superhero (or superhero-inspired) productions in the form of TV series or anything that has nothing to do with movies.

The Darna movie project, which was first announced in 2014, was perceived to be a project of hope for Philippine superhero passion. Soberano was announced in 2017 as the new actress to play Darna and she even went as far as promoting the character and the movie project by gracing the 2017 edition of the annual Toycon which back then had a booth of Darna and other Philippine superheroes created by the late Mars Ravelo. Back then there was a lot of hope that the movie project will indeed push through and possibly break new ground for Philippine-made superhero movies.

Darna
A figure of Darna which I photographed during my visit of the Mars Ravelo superheroes booth at the 2017 Toycon.

But then, as I observed, the years passed by and there were very few updates of the Darna movie project made. Today’s news of Soberano’s withdrawal from the project is not only the latest development, it is also the saddest not just for Darna fans but for the actress herself.

During her interview, Soberano revealed that she had injured her finger (finger bones got crushed) due to an incident and as a result she went back and forth to medical professionals to fix her problem. She even had surgery twice and due to the lack of a breakthrough, she decided to back out from Darna as her injury would have hindered her from doing stunts properly. As she kept on doing physical training subsequently, she noticed limited motions with her hand and her grip was nowhere as good as it was before.

Soberano confirmed that already she and the film crew shot some scenes with her playing Narda, the alter ego of Darna. Those scenes were shot when Erik Matti was still the director. Due to reported creative differences, Matti left the project on October 2018 which was quite a blow to the already troubled Darna movie project. On November 2018, the film went through creative revisions with new director Jerrold Tarog on board. Clearly the Darna woes were not limited to Soberano.

Letting go of the Darna role was very painful for Soberano and she knew a lot of fans were looking up to her and the dream project. You can how painful it is to her during the last 21 seconds of the video interview below.

Now that she is gone, the filmmakers now have a new problem of finding a replacement. The movie company insists that the Darna project is still in the works.

Still there are lots of unanswered questions about the Darna movie. While it is still an active project, how much money was spent during the time Soberano worked on it? How much footage was filmed already? What special effects experts have they hired to ensure the movie would be spectacular? Will the movie be a superhero origin story? Will the Darna movie be an official entry in a future edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival? What can the Darna movie offer Filipino moviegoers who have already been entertained with movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Cinematic Universe?

With Soberano gone, the future of the Darna movie – as well as the future of Philippine-made superhero movies in general – remains very uncertain.

The latest Darna news is quite saddening for the people anticipating it but actress Liza Soberano achieved something big that had NOTHING to do with the Philippine superhero – achieving box office success with Alone/Together which grossed a few hundred million pesos in ticket sales as of March.


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