(Editor's Note: In support of the Metro Manila Film Fest and the local entertainment industry, New Media PH will do some reviews of the MMFF entries that we're able to watch.)
On Christmas night my friend and I, with great trepidation, decided to watch RPG Metanoia. It was either that or Rosario, and after watching Rosario, I’m glad we ended up with RPG. I’ll tell you why on another review.
I was half-expecting the movie to bomb, but hoping against hope that it wouldn’t. I read somewhere that the movie took 4-5 years to produce; and I remember hearing about this movie a good 2 years ago in Level up Live 2008 where Mr. Gerald Salonga with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra performed a suite from RPG the movie with a short Teaser trailer.
RPG Metanoia is the first full-length 3D animated Filipino film. The story is fairly simple. It is a self-discovery of Nico (Zaijan Jaranilla) of his true self (and self-worth) both in the online world of Metanoia and the offline world through the help and influence of his friends and family members. Oh, and I failed to mention a world crisis brought about by the game that, obviously, only Nico and his friends can find a way to avert it.
But what makes RPG Metanoia notable is its total production value. Let me breakdown my review from this point onwards.
STORY & PLOT
Don’t expect something as sophisticated as any Pixar you’ve watched, but the story and plot of RPG is pretty tight. In fact, versus most Pinoy film production, the story of RPG follows a pretty basic linear progression that conveniently has a start and a happy ending. At the heart of it all, RPG delivers a very entertaining, epic-Pinoy adventure movie that lightly touches up on some niche social issues like single-parenting, OFW-parenting, gamer lifestyle and attributes and such. At one point in the movie May (Mika Dela Cruz) challenges Nico to take hold of his offline (real world) life and points out that he needs to gain experience points there as well (and not just in the online world of Metanoia).
If I have to give a clear analogy about the story and plot, RPG Metanoia is comparable to Disney 3D movies (note: Disney not Pixar) like Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons.
SOUNDTRACK & SCORING
The soundtrack was nothing short of amazing! It has all that big orchestra epic-feel especially during crucial boss-fight moments in-game and will shift its tone and mood when we see Nico in the real world. My only gripe with the soundtrack is that it doesn’t have very memorable theme. However, the music did its job in heightening sequences and really giving you one grand adventure to the point that, during a long lull in the movie where Nico spends more time in the offline world, I was literally dying for him to log back on to Metanoia for some epic Adventure music!
The sound effects were also done with great care and attention. Everything from the hiss of Bryan/ Mang Ernie’s ultimate magic projectile to Bobby/Sumpak’s Gundam-like rockets was of perfect pitch! I think the movie also made good use of 5.1 surround sound technology as you can feel noises zoom past you as it does on screen. Voice dubbing was also done very well. I read a lot of reviews about how the lip-syncing isn’t as smooth as it was suppose to go, but then they based this all on the trailer. I suggest watching the movie; you’ll see how exact the dubbing is.
GRAPHICS, PRODUCTION & ART-DIRECTION
I really have to hand it to the guys at Ambient Media, Thaumatrope Animation and Star Cinema (ABS-CBN) for really pouring in the hours to make the graphics, art-direction and overall production value of superb quality.
The first 5 minute or so of the film, it felt like I was watching a claymation or a 3D-cell shaded version of the film. The frame rate was also a bit off, and I almost wanted to throw in the towel and walk away. Good thing I didn’t. ‘Cause when Nico logged off, the animation became smooth and seamless. The direction of giving the online world a bit of “lag” was purely brilliant! If you’ve ever played an MMORPG, you’d know why. And if you haven’t, this is a good way to artistically differentiate the game world from the real world.
Fight scenes get better in the end and everything just spelled E-P-I-C!
This is also one of those productions where a keen eye in detail was made. From the design and setting of Nico’s neighborhood (from the interiors to the hyper-realistically drawn tricycles and jeepneys to the food choices, utensils—take note of Lily’s peanut butter look alike and Medeeplast Bandaid)to the vast landscape of Metanoia, you know the people behind this took out the “pwede na yan” mentality of their vocabulary list.
RPG Metanoia is definitely on top of my “Will Buy” list when the DVD (or God-willing Bluray) of this comes out. Not only did the movie set the bar in Philippine Feature-length animation, it set the bar in Philippine Cinema Production. I’m a bit sadden to see that it only got 2 awards, one for best song and for best sound recording, I really think that the MMFF isn’t really a good venue in weighing a film’s potential.
What I truly love about the film is that it fully recognizes the audience’s knowledge and intelligence which really set the script apart from the likes of Rosario where everything was force-fed to you. RPG Metanoia unapologetically will not explain what mana is, nor what a greater potion does or what MMORPG really means. Instead they relied on viewer’s pop-culture knowledge and in-movie context clues to draw these small conclusions.
Overall if you ever picked up a video game as a kid (or until now) and would seriously want to have a pretty epic Pinoy adventure, I suggest catching this movie in the next couple of days. You kinda owe it to yourselves, not just as gamers, but as people who can (finally) catch a quality film during the MMFF period. Tops off the RPG, I hope they extend their run and please please please do come out on Bluray!
OVERALL RATING: 4/5