Is a Darna movie still needed?

This past summer, the production of the pending Darna movie project suffered a major setback when Liza Soberano dropped out due to a serious injury of her finger. I wrote about that months ago and the fact that Soberano cried during the ABS-CBN interview (she admitted she let the fans down) only showed how heavy and painful the loss of the Philippine pop culture icon was to her deep inside. Not only that, the original director Erik Matti is no longer involved and has since been replaced by Jerrold Tarog.

As of this writing, the filmmakers are still quietly searching for a suitable replacement for Soberano.

As the search goes on in this age of social media and Hollywood-produced superhero movies that dominated the Philippine box office, the hot question remains – is a Darna movie still needed?

To understand things better, let’s go back to the beginning.

The past

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Darna with the Philippine flag on display at the Ravelo Komiks Universe booth during the recent Toycon.

Created by the late Mars Ravelo, Darna debuted in 1950 in illustrated print media and went on to appear in comic books, comic strips, magazine special features, television and movies to name some. Through the decades, Darna went on to become a Philippine pop culture icon and there were those who even compared her with Wonder Woman.

In Philippine cinema, Vilma Santos (who is now a public servant) made her mark with the public when she played Darna more than once. Other actresses who played the superhero in other movies were Sharon Cuneta, Anjanette Abayari and Regine Velasquez to name a few.

The 21st century

In the 21st century, Darna was unsurprisingly modernized in a TV series starring Angel Locsin and produced by GMA Network. The series became a hit nationwide and helped keep Ravelo’s icon relevant to Filipinos while also boosting Locsin’s popularity. A few years later, GMA lost Locsin to its rival network ABS-CBN and “replaced” her with then newcomer Marian Rivera who went on to become a star. While still holding the rights to Darna, GMA launched in 2009 a new series with Rivera as the superhero. Like the 2005 series before it, it became a hit as well.

While it was a success, the deal between GMA and the surviving members of Mars Ravelo came to an end. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, the Ravelos signed up with rival network ABS-CBN with upcoming Darna projects in mind. What made this new deal different was that it was in the form of a motion picture project through its movie-making arm Star Cinema.

Making a live-action Darna movie turned out to be tricky and time-consuming. In 2017, the project generated a lot of buzz and excitement when the young and pretty Liza Soberano was hired to play Ravelo’s creation. She was easily referred to as the “Millennial Darna”.

Of course, in this age of social media and smartphones, Filipinos expressed their reactions online. While there were those who welcomed Soberano as Darna, there were some who had problems with the actress’ American accent and heritage (note: Soberano was born in the United States) and some even claimed that she was “not Filipina enough” to play Darna who in the realm of fantasy is Narda, who is often portrayed as a simple Filipina.

And then there were some people who preferred Angel Locsin over Soberano. Take note that almost a decade before Soberano signed up to play Darna, Locsin was hired by ABS-CBN and starred in many big projects with the network achieving lots of success in both television and movies. As such, it was no surprise that there were still many craving for Locsin to play Darna under the banner of ABS-CBN.

Before losing the role, Liza Soberano worked really hard to play Darna. Videos and images of her physically training for the role were released online and it has been reported that she researched the icon behind the scenes. Soberano, by the way, studied at SISFU (Southville International School Affiliated with Foreign Universities) in BF International, Las Pinas City.

Do people really want to see a Darna movie at all?

While Star Cinema is slowly making the Darna movie, it is only fair to ask if people really want to see the movie at all. Do Filipinos, who collectively paid a good amount of money to enjoy Hollywood-made superhero movies in local cinemas since the year 2000, really need to watch Darna on the big screen?

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Pick a Darna.

Now I am not a filmmaker nor have I gotten involved in the nation’s film industry but as a long-time geek, observer and former journalist, I should say that the odds are against Star Cinema.

Traditionally here in the Philippines, local film productions that became hits were the romantic comedy and horror types of movies. There were a few historical epic films that became hits along the way. A few fantasy movies were released and made some good money. Given the fact that these kinds of films became hits with Filipino moviegoers and given the fact that the Filipino action film genre has faded away since the early 2000s (note: Filipino action movies have been rarely produced since then), it comes to show that Filipino moviegoers are not that interested in locally made action scenes.

Action scenes combined with computer-generated images (CGI) are among the most attractive features of Hollywood superhero movies to Filipinos. There is nothing like watching Spider-Man’s classic fights with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 (2004), Wonder Woman leading the fight against the Germans in the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman (2017), Batman fighting a gang of thugs in the warehouse in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and the massive battle between the superheroes and the evil ones in plains of Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) all happen on the big screen!

Definitely those forms of spectacle look great, feel intense and were enjoyable to watch again and again. Moviegoers here in the Philippines paid good money to experience those sequences. For sure, all those on-screen action sequences were carefully crafted, choreographed and painstakingly laced with CGI at a high cost.

That being said, what can the Darna movie offer local moviegoers in terms of spectacle? Can the filmmakers come up with something stylish (if not original) with the action with Darna that can convince moviegoers to come back for more? How much money can the filmmakers afford to invest in such spectacle? For sure, there will be moviegoers who can’t help but make comparisons with Darna’s on-screen spectacle with those of movies from Marvel and DC.

There is also the challenge for the Darna filmmakers to tell a compelling story and have the moviegoers connect with the characters. Sure there is Darna (Narda is her civilian identity) but who else could they add as key cast members? The least the filmmakers could do is involve supporting characters who would end up annoying moviegoers. If the Darna movie would have humor, the producers should make sure that the comedy players should avoid annoying the viewers as they try to make comic relief.

Challenging also is the implementation of the villain to give Darna problems and compel her to act heroically. There is the long-time enemy Valentina but how can the filmmakers make her relevant and not look corny to the locally viewers who have gotten so used to villains in Hollywood superhero movies. Creating a brand new, all-original villain for Darna on the big screen could be a last resort if ever none of the Mars Ravelo-created villains would fit in. A weak cinematic villain is a big no-no.

And then there is the challenge of dramatizing and modernizing the origin of Darna on the big screen. This can make or break the movie because emphasizing the origin requires a good amount of build-up and however the story is written (with the expected big battle near the end) the movie should have balance. It is key to entertain the viewers, to connect them with the characters and make the plot relevant to them. If there is way too much build-up (read: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), moviegoers will end up getting burned out and the spectacle won’t save the movie. If the film has too much social commentary, it could turn off moviegoers.

Another issue is maintaining the relevance of Darna with the Filipinos as time passes. Each year that passes, a superhero movie of Marvel or DC Comics gets released in cinemas nationwide and adding more to the relevance of the superheroes in those movies is the presence of comic books and trade paperbacks of superheroes in retailers. I’m a comic reader and no matter how hard I try, I could not even find a Darna comic book at the retailers (including the comic book specialty stores) and not even reprints of old comics are available. As for the past TV series and movies of Darna, they can be viewed on YouTube but those productions are not too appealing to me.

Merchandise of Darna and the other Mars Ravelo heroes Lastikman and Captain Barbell are not that common commercially. The Ravelos however, in partnership with ABS-CBN, sell such merchandise (under the title Ravelo Komiks Universe) online.

During my time at the recent Toycon, there was a Ravelo Komiks Universe at the main exhibition floor which showcased statues and some merchandise of Darna, Captain Barbel and Lastikman. There were even hired models portraying the Ravelo superheroes in full costume.

One last issue to discuss here is movie competition. Hollywood superhero movies pretty much made tremendous commercial, and even social, impact here in the Philippines since the year 2000 when X-Men proved that superhero films can be taken seriously and be enjoyed for what they are. There is no denying that Marvel and DC Comics movies are major moneymakers among Filipinos. Wonder Woman grossed over P520 million nationwide in 2017. The disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse made over P400 million in 2016. Iron Man 3’s gross in 2013 was over P625 million. Lastly, Avengers: Endgame made over P1.6 billion this year!

Superhero movie competition is already tough and for sure moviegoers will compare Darna to those foreign superhero flicks on every detail. As if that was not hard enough, there is also movie competition with non-superhero flicks like Jurassic World (over P500 million) and the Star Wars movies to name a few. Some comedies and romantic comedies occasionally sell a lot. There are also those computer-generated animation films as well not to mention some Filipino movies that sometimes turn into major blockbusters.

Conclusion

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I wonder if this classic Darna design will actually be used in the delayed movie. Whoever gets hired as the star should be ready to wear this swimsuit-type costume.

With these issues discussed, making a Darna movie is hard to do and selling it, if ever it gets made at all, is an even bigger challenge for Star Cinema. As a movie market, the Philippines and its moviegoers have an undeniable appetite for foreign movies and if it is spectacle they crave for, they search for it from Hollywood from the superhero movies, the sci-fi movies, the hard action films, fantasy movies, etc. Adding further to the challenge of making the Darna movie succeed is the advanced publishing of schedules of releases of future movies like Wonder Woman 1984 which will be released worldwide on the first week of June 2020.

If ever the film will be made, could Star Cinema’s Darna turn out as the complete package of really special superhero fun, engaging storytelling, memorable characters and great spectacle in the near future? Will it be released during the Metro Manila Film Festival or during the January-November period? How can Star Cinema make Darna relevant to young moviegoers, geeks and the many Filipinos who love watching Hollywood superhero movies?

The answers should unravel in the near future. There is, however, the possibility that the Darna movie would end up getting cancelled. Personally, I would not be surprised if that happens.

Don’t get me wrong. While I am not a fan of Darna, I still am interested to see a modern day film adaptation of Mars Ravelo’s superhero and hope it will happen with an engaging story, characters worth connecting with and carry lots of entertainment value. While I enjoy watching Hollywood superhero movies, I still will give the Darna movie a chance if it ever gets made as a solid film.

How about you, readers? Do you want to see a Darna film on the big screen?


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

My Observations: Orient Cable told by Optic Media Board to Explain Piracy of Avengers: Endgame

Orient Cable has been ordered by the Optic Media Board or OMB (the national government’s arm on regulating the production, use and distribution of recording media) to explain to them why they should not be charged over the piracy of the mega blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame.

According to a report by Philippines News Agency (PNA), a “show-cause order” was served by the regulator to the Dipolog City-based company on May 6. The action was the result of a formal complaint issued by Teatro de Dapitan, a movie house that was authorized to show Avengers: Endgame to paying customers.

Atty. Hywel Vergara of the OMB’s legal division was assisted by police officers when the order was served to Orient Cable. It was reported that the company’s officials were reluctant to receive the order.

“With it is an order for the owners (of Orient Cable) to attend hearings at OMB in Manila on May 7 and 14,” said Vergara, referring to the show-cause directive.

For his part, OMB Chairman Ansel Adriano warned establishments and individuals to respect the intellectual rights of the film industry, especially local productions.

The movie opened around the Philippines on April 24 along with many other countries that same day. There were people who claimed to have seen the illegal airing of Avengers: Endgame on April 25 through Orient Cable. Subsequently Teatro de Dapitan complained to the local police the same day the airing happened.

As of this writing, the management of the cable firm is still silent over the issue.

Whatever questions the OMB has for them, it would be nice for the cable TV operator to answer the following questions:

  1. Who within Orient Cable had the capability (or connections) of getting a pirated copy of the movie and make adjustments to show it publicly?
  2. Where did the pirated copy come from?
  3. What could the company gain from showing Avengers: Endgame in pirated form?
  4. How is the financial health of Orient Cable and just how many paid subscribers do they have now?

Check out my review of Avengers: Endgame here.

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame

I’ll just say it straight and clear – Avengers: Endgame is an epic superhero movie that, like its predecessor, is great to watch again and again although there are some noticeable differences.

For starters, the creative led by the Russo Brothers came up with a story that somewhat defied most people’s expectations in relation to the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Considering what happened in the previous film, it’s too easy for moviegoers to anticipate another uniting of remaining superheroes to defeat the omnipotent Thanos who wields the Infinity Gauntlet.

Quite daringly, the filmmakers came up with a story that focused more on time travel and time paradox. Since Endgame is still a new film, I won’t spoil the plot details and will focus on the technical aspects as to why the film is great.

On time travel and time paradox, Endgame felt somewhat self-aware by referencing other popular movies that had time travel concepts. The inevitable time machine gets set up obviously and when the superheroes went their own ways through time, Endgame suddenly felt like The Empire Strikes Back mixed with elements of Back to the Future. What do I mean? What I’m saying is that character development ramps up when the superheroes go their separate ways (not individually but by pairs or small teams) and their time travel exploits brought moviegoers back to the past, especially the unexplored segments of what we saw in previous movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The good news here is that the Russo Brothers did a great job telling the story even though the concepts of time travel and time paradox were so challenging to execute on-screen. Clearly the co-directors did their research to ensure that the story still made sense. Of course, there is the expository dialogue designed to explain to readers the film’s time travel concept.

When it comes to performances, just about each member of the cast performed nicely on bringing to life their respective characters. I felt Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man is his best since Iron Man 3. Still, I think the standout performer of them all was Mark Ruffalo who proved to be creative not only with his smart Hulk but also managed to deliver the solid performance the movie script required from him. Personally, this cinematic Hulk is the best one yet and we can forget about the mindless, rampaging Hulk of years ago.

Josh Brolin returned as Thanos and his performance was great (as expected) but in order to understand this film’s version of his character, you need to watch the previous appearances of Thanos from the past years especially with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

When it comes to superhero spectacle, Endgame delivered the fun stuff – the flying, the energy blasts, powerful strikes, collateral damage, cosmic powers, futuristic sci-fi technology and the like. However, I felt that Infinity War was much more loaded with action, stunts, special effects and superhero spectacle. This is understandable because the first 30-45 minutes of Endgame was more about story build-up, heavy dialogue and character development delivered with little action. The good news is that the pace of the film ran faster when the time travel sequences started. Of course, there is also the anticipated giant battle near the end of the film. A very action-packed final battle indeed although I felt the darkness (lack of light on the setting) somewhat lessened the impact.

Overall, Avengers: Endgame is an epic superhero movie that must be seen and it also justifies replaying Infinity War. While both Endgame and its predecessor are epic movies heavily loaded with spectacle as well as a lot of heart in the story and character development, the major differences go like this – Infinity War carried more shock value while this new movie was more about the pleasant surprises related to time travel.

Does Endgame deserve its massive commercial success? Absolutely! More than that, this film is also the undeniable climax of the 11-year buildup of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with Iron Man.

Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will go next after Endgame will most likely be another uncharted territory of superhero cinema.

Note: When watching Endgame, I highly recommend viewing it on an IMAX screen as it was filmed entirely with IMAX cameras. Go for it if you can afford it!


Thank you for reading. If you find this movie review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

My Observations: Philippine Government Takes Action Versus Cable TV Company Over Avengers: Endgame Piracy

The national government of the Philippines, through its agency the Optic Media Board which is in charge of regulating the production, use and distribution of recording media, took action against Orient Cable for the illegal showing of Avengers: Endgame.

According to the CNN Philippines report, the Optic Media Board announced on May 2 that it has ordered the cable TV company in Dipolog City, Zamboanga Del Norte to explain why it should not be charged over the alleged acts of piracy. In that particular province, movie house Teatro de Dapitan complained about Orient Cable’s illegal showing of the Marvel Studios film even as it was still playing in cinemas nationwide. Teatro de Dapitan is the lone theater licensed to show the movie to paying customers in the province.

The OMB added that Orient Cable could face administrative and criminal raps for violating Republic Act 9239 (the Optical Media Act of 2003), which carries a penalty of up to six years of imprisonment and a fine of up to ₱1.5 million.

According to Teatro de Dapitan owner Lovely Nice Custodio, Avengers: Endgame was played on channels 10 and 18 on Orient Cable.

As of this writing, Orient Cable still has yet to issue an official reaction to the charges and accusations of piracy.

It would be nice for the cable TV operator to answer the following questions:

  1. Who within Orient Cable had the capability (or connections) of getting a pirated copy of the movie and make adjustments to show it publicly?
  2. Where did the pirated copy come from?
  3. What could the company gain from showing Avengers: Endgame in pirated form?
  4. How is the financial health of Orient Cable and just how many paid subscribers do they have now?

As far as the Philippine government is concerned, piracy is a crime.

Stay tuned for more!

My Observations: Cable TV Company In Dipolog City, Philippines, In Legal Trouble Due To Alleged Illegal Airing Of Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame is all over the news and social media. It is breaking multiple box office records. Its high level of anticipation compelled many movie theater operators to adjust themselves to accommodate the moviegoers. Of course, there are these people who, for some reason, found it enjoyable to spoil the plot and surprise of the movie online.

And then there was another type of news about Endgame that caught my attention lately…..the piracy of the movie allegedly done by a cable TV company in Dipolog City.

According to a news release by Philippine News Agency (PNA), the company Orient Cable and Telecommunications, Inc. showed the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie which made a certain movie house to complain to the local police. Orient Cable stopped the showing of Endgame after the legal representatives of the movie house went to the police.

Even so, the movie house pushed through with filing a case against the cable TV company.

Apparently Orient Cable is liable for violating three Philippine laws. Republic Act Number 10088 (Anti-Camcording Act of 2010), Republic Act Number 8293 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines) and Republic Act Number 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012).

To put things clearly, showing the movie locally is clearly illegal given that Endgame is still brand new in cinemas. I doubt that the Walt Disney Company (parent company of Marvel Studios) gave Orient Cable special authority to show it. At the same time, showing the movie via cable TV is itself a way of spoiling the movie to members of the public.

This, of course, leads to questions…

  1. Who within Orient Cable had the capability (or connections) of getting a pirated copy of the movie and make adjustments to show it publicly?
  2. Where did the pirated copy come from?
  3. What could the company gain from showing Avengers: Endgame in pirated form?
  4. How is the financial health of Orient Cable and just how many paid subscribers do they have now?

According to the PNA report, Orient Cable remained silent about the issue as of April 26.

If any breakthrough happens, I’ll keep you readers updated.

For now, if you have not seen the movie yet and you really want to watch it, go for it while you still can! Spoilers are constantly spreading online and there are still many people who believe that spoiling the movie is a good thing (in fact, it is not).

 

 

A Look Back at Avengers #366

Back in the early 1990s, collecting comic books that had #1 on their cover or had a special cover on the front was a trend among comic book collectors. Marvel Comics back then was well known for releasing comic books with gimmick covers using material like foil, holograms, embossed art and the like. They also released comic books with gimmick covers when a comic book series reached its “anniversary” with the 25th issue, 50th issue, 75th issue, 100th issue and so on.

Then something happened in 1993. Marvel celebrated the respective 30th anniversaries of the X-Men and the Avengers that year and that meant releasing comic books with gimmick covers as well as some related merchandise to entice the fans and the collectors.

Here, I discuss with you Avengers #366.

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The “gold” gimmick cover of Avengers #366.

Released in 1993, Avengers #366 marked the 30th anniversary celebration of its franchise and for a cover price of $3.95, it had a gimmick cover and over 60 pages of content.

The story begins with the Avengers – composed of Captain America, Sersi, Black Widow, and Hank Pym watching a situation. Sersi reveals that Dane/Black Knight is being tortured and that they have to rush to stop the bad guys who captured him. Vision arrived suddenly to their surprise and tells them that Black Knight, Crystal, Hercules and Deathcry have been captured. More startling is that the Kree brought a nega-bomb to Earth. The said weapon was used by the Kree to kill billions of inhabitants. Running out of patience, Sersi tells her teammates that immediate action is needed and angrily she flew out of the Avengers headquarters determined to make the Kree pay. Immediately the Avengers assembled and moved on to rescue their friends.

In terms of storytelling, the comic book has a predictable tale about its superheroes moving to help their suffering teammates. Of course, even though I won’t spoil the plot, it’s obvious where the story is going. To fill the many pages, there is a lot of expository dialogue as well as character interaction moments in between scenes.

When it comes to action and spectacle, there is a lot to see here and there although the quality of the art keeps them from being dynamic.

There is also one additional story published and it even has Deadpool in it.

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This is how the Avengers looked like in 1993.

For a comic book celebrating the Avengers’ 30th anniversary, I found it weird that the Avengers #366 lacked any retrospective to the origins of the franchise. It’s like the publisher did not want readers to remember how the Avengers were formed, who were the original members and why the team was formed in the first place. In other words, the story was nothing special and it does not justify the gimmick cover.

If you are a fan who started liking the Avengers franchise because of Marvel Entertainment movies, then this comic book will most likely not appeal to you. The Hulk, Iron Man and Hawkeye are not included and the style of spectacle will most likely fail to impress you. However, if you are an Avengers fan who started reading the comic book series at least a few years before 1993, this one just might entertain you temporarily.

Looking back in 1993 when I barely had enough money to buy new comic books, I’m glad I never bought Avengers #366. By comparison, the 30th anniversary celebration of the X-Men was better and more engaging with the Fatal Attractions storyline.

 

My Coplay Photography (Part 1)

I enjoy taking pictures of people who express their artistry, their concepts and charm through the art of cosplay (costume play) which has grown tremendously popular here in the Philippines over the past several years.

Along the way, pop culture-related events like comic conventions, cosplay gatherings, cosplay parades and other related fan events got organized around the country giving cosplayers even more opportunities to come out in full costume.

Here in the Philippines, I was fortunate to attend such comic conventions like the AsiaPOP Comicon Manila and Toycon which are very similar events showcasing action figures, comic books, movies, TV programs, comic creators and the like. Both AsiaPOP Comicon Manila and Toycon are unsurprisingly popular events that attracted countless cosplayers.

Here are some pics of cosplayers I took in the comic conventions.

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Model and actress Ameera Johara as Wonder Woman during the 2016 AsiaPOP Comicon Manila.
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Also taken at the 2016 AsiaPOP Comicon Manila was this Harley Quinn cosplayer who posed for me.
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This Miles Morales Spider-Man cosplayer surprised me at the 2017 AsiaPOP Comicon Manila when I was searching for old comic books. I took the opportunity to photograph this.
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This picture I took at the 2014 Nexcon in Pasig City.
8
This Wonder Woman cosplayer posed for me during the 2018 Toycon.
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Miles Morales Spider-Man and female Deadpool cosplayers posing with some fans during the 2017 AsiaPOP Comicon Manila.

Apart from comic conventions, there were also times when I took cosplayer photos in other instances or activities. Check out my pics below.

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A few years ago, Festival Mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa City had cosplayers like this one standing in front of shoppers trying to get their attention and convince them to drop some money into the rectangular box on the floor.
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Harley Quinn cosplayer posed for me during the day when Comic-Con Asia had its press conference and media presentation at a hotel in Pasay City in early 2018.
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The Cosplay Craze event at SM City BF Paranaque saw these two “clashing”.

This is my first post of cosplay photography that I took and I hope you enjoyed viewing it. I’m still trying find other such pictures among my files and once I get them organized, I’ll post them here.

Also if you are organizing a pop culture event and you need online media and/or photography coverage, please feel free to contact me so that we can discuss business terms privately. Thank you.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.