Friday, December 12, 2008

Cicakman 2 - Planet Hitam

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lizard

I had some mindless fun watching the first Cicakman years ago, which was billed as Malaysia's first superhero movie, that I thought I'd give the sequel a go too. And if Sharifah Amani's in this one, it can't be all that bad, can it? Almost all the main cast return for this sequel, albeit some in cameo roles such as Yusry Kru as Danny and the Ginger Boys duo AC Mizal and Adlim Aman Ramlie in reduced roles as flying fireballs, and as with all sequels, new villains are created but the story's nothing to shout about, being rooted to the usual formula that belongs to kids cartoons.

Saiful Apek returns as the titular hero Hairi, who is now finding it tough to hold down a regular job given his tendencies to dash off to rescue the day. Living under the grace of the late Danny's family, in which we are introduced to his blind sister Iman (Amani), she adds a dash of innocent trouble for him because of her heightened sense of presence as well as sense of scent, which brings about some close shaves to unwittingly bust our hero's identity a few times.

While the first movie had taken a huge leaf from the Spidey mythos, that continues into Cicakman 2 as our hero faces some serious Peter Parker-ish tendencies of self doubt and second guessing of himself, while also juggling his lack of confidence in confessing his feelings for the woman he loves. Saiful Apek had to balance this emotional struggle as well as his more gung-ho persona when in costume, but alas the slapstick moments tend to mar any sense of emotional depth, and you can't help but to associate cheap comedy with this superhero, who now has a jazzed up, sleeker costume than his first outing.

The returning cast seemed to all have taken a step back from the earlier movie as well. Tania (Fasha Sandha) gets reduced to a flower vase role as a ditzy rookie broadcast journalist with zero personality and remains pretty much clueless in her quest to uncover Cicakman's true identity (which she was led to believe to be Danny). Aznil Nawawi's Professor Klon returns as the sequel's chief villain, and still continues to be over the top with his punctuating every spoken line with hysterical laughter. And he's a fan of Tony Stark too I guess, as he goes about designing a pirated version of his own Iron Man suit. His diabolical plot this time round? To pollute the world's water supply by pumping blank ink first into Metrofulus' reservoirs, then the world's oceans (cue diabolical laughter).

Aiding him is a new character, a hired assassin named Rrama (Tamara Bleszynski) who's modelled after the Catwoman, though here she adopts a busty butterfly motif complete with butt-kicking action and an arsenal to rival that of Batman's. She has a strange fetish for recording her kills, with Cicakman in her sights and billed as a personal challenge to defeat him in battle. I must admit though that the finale battle between these two animals was quite well done in plain wire-work kung fu terms, but the motorcycle tangle was overly long, and very cheaply shot and designed despite framing it against a green screen for the most parts.

Ah yes, the green screen also provided for the return of the Metrofulus futuristic landscape, but this time the results were somewhat of a mixed bag. The inhabitants (and therefore cast) were decked out in winter clothing most of the time to be in sync with the environment, but rather than being impressed with the backdrop, it seemed a little cheap this time round and not refined. Even the images of Cicakman swinging around the rooftops with his incredibly long tongue was rendered clearly, and came across as a blur, with some cringeworthy moments of posing beneath a Malaysian flag - if Spidey can do one for his country, so can it.

While the first Cicakman might be a novelty for some, the sequel has actually taken a step back with weaker characterization. There were some attempts in the first movie to mirror some real world commentary into the film, and I felt this continued here especially with Klon's attempt in overthrowing the politicians in power through charismatic mass rallies to convince the general public of his ability to clean up the mess created by the incumbent. But alas there were more slapstick comedy moments here to root this firmly back to children's territory, so unless you have kids to bring to the movies, you might find yourself squirming in your seat each time you see familiar elements coming on screen, with predictable outcomes.

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