My 10 cents worth on: RPG Metanoia

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is Christmas… Its Christmas time! And we know what that means! Its a time when the theaters decide to band together and rob us of high-budget, entertaining Western films, and replace them with Bong Revilla, Kris Aquino and Vic Sotto doing the same thing they’ve done for the past 20 years. Its that time once again when films offer us nothing but local stars in the spotlights, and receive awards and profits for it. In general, I never liked what the film fest had to offer, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I tell you now, I have found a diamond buried underneath all that rough.

RPG Metanoia is reported as the first ever Filipino full-length computer generated animation film ever made, and for a first attempt, it is unbelievably good. The basic plot follows a boy named Nico, a boy who, along with his friends, constantly plays this game called Metanoia, a massively mutli-player on-line role playing game (MMORPG for short, MMO for short-short). His real world experience seems dull and mundane compared to those of his level 125, yo-yo wielding, swashbuckling avatar, Zero, in the virtual world of Metanoia. When something happens in the game that starts to affect all the gamers in the real world, it is up to Nico and his friends to save the day.

So now that you’re up to speed there, I’m going to dive right into it:

+ Visuals

If you haven’t seen the trailer, take a look:

Now, before you go saying that it doesn’t look as good as other animated films, (and yes, I have heard some people make those comments after watching the trailer, saying that Wall-E and Up of all things looked nicer) I must remind you that these guys had less than 30% the manpower and 10% the budget of anything Pixar makes, so don’t you dare compare.

That being said, I still find it prettier than some Hollywood CG movies. (*cough* Happily N’ever After *cough*). It does have parts where the rendering gets a bit choppy, and the real world looks quite plain, walls and roads are the same color throughout for example, but these things aside it was a masterful first attempt. There are some parts (especially during the opening credits) where the real world scenes ALMOST look real.

The game world is pretty. the level designs are something you would see in a final fantasy game. They range from dark and dreary mechanical worlds to Spanish-architecture inspired towns, to floating plains where jelly-like monsters flourish. The characters move well, especially within the game, and their designs are memorable. All in all, it looks cute and fun, and thats what the movie’s all about.

+ The Story

The plot is pretty simple and straight forward.The real stand out for me about the story was the way it was executed. Without going into too much detail, the movie had a lot of moments using foreshadowing, irony and other literary devices to tell the story, and it made it interesting. I was never bored with the flow of the story, they knew when to speed up and when to slow down. It never felt forced. This was supplemented by the movie’s…

+ Editing and Cinematography

The editing was nearly flawless. I learned from my film classes that “The less you notice the editing, the better it is.” This film’s montages were shot with smooth transitions, so much so that it never feels disjointed. There is a part in the film that cuts seamlessly between simultaneous events in the real world and virtual world, and it never ever feels cluttered. I know what’s happening despite all the cuts. I think I’ll chalk that up to the simplicity of the story as well.

The cinematography is an element that most local directors tend to be lazy to fix, especially when you have MMFF entries which hold a certain actor’s name as the whole selling point. RPG Metanoia had so many shots that were executed with technical proficiency, with great framing  and angling. Simply put, some shots were really really really puuuurrrrdyyyy.

+ Subtle Culture

If you have seen any films talking about Philippine culture, they tend to ram our culture down someone else’s throat. This gets to the level that one of the main thrusts in a lot of the films is how exotic (in both senses of the word *wink wink*) the Philippines is. This movie, it all just seems so natural. The kids play street games, sipa, patintero and the like, ride a trike to get to the “bayan”, being chased by a random dog while walking along the street. You know, the parts of our culture that’s just there, you see it everyday. You don’t have to go into the province, or abroad, or into the lives of Filipino sex workers in order to reference Filipino culture. Like RPG Metanoia, you can simply just get stuff from everyday life, its a pretty rich source of material.

+ The Characters

As I said before, this movie does a fantastic job of making you care about the characters. They’re distinct enough in design and they are given enough time to let their personalities come out, to the point that you feel like you’ve grown closer to these guys as the movie progresses, unlike say in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where you don’t really get to care about Wolverine’s old teammates, just him. So whenever something dramatic happens to any of the other characters, you really could care less.

They do however get a bit stereotypical. (There’s a white Chinese guy, who’s avatar is a Chinese warrior practicing Wushu, and he spends all his extra time answering sudoku puzzles, very original, I know) I believe the filmmakers are just playing it safe, and I understand that, but the movie would have been even better if the characters didn’t originate from local stereotypes and did something more unexpected.

Despite this, they are fleshed out pretty well. The famous philosopher, Plato, once said: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” This is very true in this movie. You learn to love these characters because they play a lot together, and they’re characterized way better by their actions in this film than by any of the dialogue.

This movie isn’t perfect though, as it does have a few problems as well.

– Sound

The sound recording was off. A lot of the time, it became obvious that a lot of the dialogue was captured in a studio, as the echoes could still be heard even in locations that shouldn’t have an echo. Sometimes when the kids were playing on the street, the ambient noise was weak, so it seemed too silent for a street.

The dubbing and sound effects on occasion seemed off-sync. It was a bit difficult placing where some sounds were coming from, and by halfway through the movie I stopped looking at lips altogether. Its like how when you have a hand puppet, the mouth moves and you hear the sound so you just assume that the hand puppet is the one talking. The dubbing kind of felt like that, with some effort to get it right at least.

The soundtrack in general though was okay. I mean, its no Daft Punk giving you an eargasm, but I think that it did supplement the emotions of the scenes well enough.

– Marketing

This is where I believe the movie is shooting itself in the foot. I mean, without any connotation, without any idea of what its about, would you be attracted to a movie called Metanoia? Let alone when you slap RPG in front of it. I mean I think Final Fantasy: Advent Children sounds much better than Final Fantasy RPG the movie. :P I honestly think that’s one reason why it isn’t doing as well as the other films. In a film festival known for notoriously bad films, would you give the time of day to one with a bad movie title?

AND a bad poster? It just looks like something you’d see posted outside a computer shop. I know this was what they were going for, but the thing is, the art on those things frankly are better, and lets face it, for RAN online and Ragnarok, the art on the posters is better than what you see in the game. So in the end, it just comes off as a cheap version of those posters, and another bad point against the movie, and another reason people won’t really shell money out for it. And its such a shame, this movie is like a Gucci bag gift-wrapped in manila paper and string. Another casualty of bad marketing.

My Cent’s worth: 8.5/10

Run to the theater, buy a ticket, tell a friend! I don’t think this movie will win the MMFF (especially with 60% of the vote being how much money it earns), but I hope that in my own way I help this movie do well. We need more of this, Philippine Cinema needs more of this. This movie gave me hope. It made me believe that we can come up with good movies. I know that we have good movies already, but sometimes you just have to be reminded that we do make some, and as a Filipino, it is good to see that we can make a good movie by ourselves.

I’m opening this thing to anyone on facebook, I’m putting my rep as a movie buff on the line. I love this movie, and what it could mean for mainstream movies in the future, and I want more of these to come up. So please, support and watch this movie. I promise you, you will not be disappointed, and you will leave the theater much happier than when you went in.

Posted on January 5, 2011, in Film Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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