“Wonder Woman” is the hero we need right now

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Although I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan (mostly because my introduction to superheroes came primarily from movies and animated shows rather than comic books), I really have been rooting for the DCEU to come into its own because (1) I love superhero films, and (2) DC has a lot of great heroes in its stable.

When I first heard that DC was planning on making a “Wonder Woman” movie, I rejoiced. Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic and popular superheroes so why shouldn’t she have her own movie?! If Batman, Superman, and Spider-man can have multiple big screen versions, why shouldn’t Wonder Woman get a franchise of her own?

Anyway, now that Diana’s solo movie has finally debuted, I’m happy to report that, despite the fact that it took so long for this movie to get made, “Wonder Woman” is most definitely worth the wait!

“Wonder Woman” is the story of Diana (Gal Gadot), the princess of Themiscyra, an island inhabited by female warriors called Amazons. Her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) molded her from clay and prayed to Zeus to bring her life. Being the only child in the entire island (and the daughter of the queen) meant that Diana lived a very sheltered life, unaware of the dangers that lurked beyond the borders of their island paradise. Nevertheless, when an American soldier named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) accidentally crash-landed his plane in their realm and made her aware of the war going on in the man’s world, Diana knew that she had to help them and that she had to find a way to prevent more innocent people from getting killed.

I’ve always thought that what made DC’s superheroes stand apart from Marvel’s is the fact that they work best when they are portrayed as symbols and ideals to aspire to. For me, Marvel heroes seemed more human, grounded, messy and flawed while DC heroes seemed like they were created to represent the best that humanity has to offer. The “Wonder Woman” movie is at its best whenever it embraces this.

Diana is both a fighter and a pacifist, a princess and a servant, a realist and an optimist. Gal Gadot manages to portray the duality of Diana’s nature magnificently well. She exudes elegance, competence, and compassion.

While Diana is most definitely not perfect (she can often be naïve and bull-headed), much like other DC heroes (Superman in particular), she is an inspiring figure. Her story and character arc in this movie feel very relevant to the current political climate in our country.

Human beings are complicated. We are all of the same species but we are all so different. We tend to do terrible things to our fellow humans.  By the end of the movie, Diana finally understands that humanity is not as black-and-white as she had been led to believe.

We often hear of corruption, poverty, war, terrorism, and crime. We are privy to all the darkness that exists in the world so I don’t blame people for growing cynical and weary but, as Diana soon realizes, humanity is not beyond hope.  Yes, we are capable of such great cruelty and hatred BUT, in the same vein, we are also capable of great kindness, empathy, compassion, and love.

I highly recommend that you go see “Wonder Woman” in the theaters. Not only is it a fun, entertaining origin story but it also has a great central message that relates well to the state of the Philippines (and of the world, really).

“Wonder Woman” is, to me, the best DCEU movie so far and one of the best superhero movies period. As for Diana, as said in the movie, we really don’t deserve her… but she truly is the hero we need right now.

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017): A Tale As Old As Time Gets A Modern Update

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If I were to be fully honest, I wasn’t too keen on seeing this new “Beauty and the Beast” remake. This was mostly because the original animated Disney movie is one of my all-time favorite films. I already thought that the original was the greatest–the songs, the characters, the visuals, everything about that movie was amazing! So when I heard that Disney planned on making a live-action version of the classic, my reaction was… let’s just say “far from enthusiastic”.

Anyway, now that I’ve actually seen the film… I’m happy to say that I really liked it! Was it different enough from the original? No. Was it really necessary? Not really. Was it enjoyable? Definitely yes!

Here’s what I loved about 2017’s Beauty and the Beast: Though it is about 85% similar to the animated movie, it managed to add in more details that I felt brought greater depth to the characters. For instance, (spoilers ahead!) in the original animated movie, there was no stated reason for why Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth and the other castle staff were included in the curse. In this movie, we are told that it is because, since they pretty much helped to raise the prince after his mother’s death but only stood idly by while his father taught him to be vain and cruel, they were indirectly responsible for how he turned out as an adult.

I thought that was an interesting detail to add. Not only does it resolve a plot hole in the original, it also adds layers to the castle staff’s plight. In the original, it seemed as though the castle staff only helped the Beast gain Belle’s affection in order to get out of their curse. But in this movie, the castle staff’s efforts to help the Beast seemed more like a genuine effort to not only help the Beast become a better person but also to make right the fact that they did not help the prince while he was still a vulnerable little boy.

Another detail I enjoyed was the fact that they added more scenes of Beast and Belle bonding. In the original movie, even though I do love that film, Beast and Belle’s emotional connection felt a bit too sudden for me. One moment she’s running away from him, then after he saves her from wolves, they’re already in love. In this film, I was happy to see little moments of intimacy like them connecting over books they’ve both read, their childhood memories, and their shared status as outsiders in their respective homes.

Emma Watson was, predictably, great as Belle. Despite not being the best singer, she brings a real spunk to the role. Dan Stevens’ Beast was also very well done. The actor was best at selling the Beast’s more vulnerable side. All of the supporting cast (like Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen) were spot-on (though Ewan McGregor’s French accent was a bit iffy).

Overall, I thought it was a solid modern update on the classic tale. Though I still feel like it was an unnecessary remake, it did manage to add a lot of new details that I thought worked very well. Go see it!

Ranking ALL the X-Men movies

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The X-Men films are unique among all the superhero franchises. This is, first and foremost, due to the fact that this is the longest running superhero franchise. Back in 2000, when the first X-Men movie came out, superhero movies were scarce. Flash-forward to today (2017), things are vastly different.

Back then, only popular heroes like Superman, Batman and Spider-man got big screen adaptations but nowadays even more obscure heroes like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy get to have their moment in the sun. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of Marvel’s mutant family that even in today’s crowded superhero movie landscape, they  remain relevant. The X-Men franchise does this by doing what no other superhero franchise has done yet–evolve.

So, in honor of Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart’s final outing as Wolverine and Professor X, respectively, I thought I’d rank all ten of the X-films (so far)!

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#10: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Hugh Jackman’s first solo movie as the iconic character was, for me, the messiest film in the franchise which is sad because there are a lot of good elements in it. Hugh Jackman’s in fine form, as always. Liev Schreiber does great work as Sabretooth. Ryan Reynolds is fun as Wade Wilson, though this film butchers Deadpool (Thankfully, we all know that the studio would get him right the second time around).

The montage at the beginning of the film, showing Logan and Victor participating in all the world wars, was fantastic. And it really is a shame that the rest of the film couldn’t be as epic as those first few minutes.

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#9: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

While I don’t necessarily think that Apocalypse is a bad movie, it is a very forgettable one. I’ve seen the movie twice and even as I rack my brain, I can’t remember much about it apart from a few great moments that stood out for me–like (spoiler alert!) Magneto’s wife and child being killed, Quicksilver’s funny slow motion scene (that seemed to only be there because of how much people liked the similar scene that happened in Days of Future Past and not because it was actually needed in the movie), and Logan’s brief (bloody, badass) cameo.

Anyway, the X-kids are pretty cool but they didn’t get enough to do. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be excellent as Professor X and Magneto while Jennifer Lawrence sort of seemed bored as Mystique. I’d just skip re-watching this one on my next X-Men marathon.

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#8: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Most X-Men fans hate this one because of how it handled classic comic book storylines like the Dark Phoenix saga and the Mutant Cure… but I enjoyed it as its own thing. It is a very entertaining though overstuffed movie.

I do think that it fails at giving justice to some of its main characters. Jean Grey, despite being at the center of the main plot, was not given any agency as a character. She spent the entire movie being manipulated and used by the other characters and, in the end, she didn’t even get to sacrifice her own life, instead Logan killed her to save the others… which really is a shame because Jean Grey in the comics and the various animated series was always shown as a smart, capable hero in her own right. Rogue and Mystique also had their powers taken away. And Cyclops was unceremoniously killed off.

So… yeah. This movie had problems.

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#7: The Wolverine (2013)

Wolverine’s second solo outing was a lot better than the first. Unlike the first solo movie, The Wolverine had a much tighter plot, interesting themes, and some more dynamic supporting characters like Mariko, Yukio, and Yashida. My biggest complaint about this movie is that the first 2/3rds of the movie were excellent and the last act felt like it came from a different movie altogether.

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#6: X-Men (2000)

As far as first installments go, the first film in the X-Men franchise is a solid, cerebral take on Marvel’s mutant heroes. It does a good job of setting the tone for future films, introducing the characters and the world they inhabit, and it does a magnificent job of hammering home its themes about prejudice and discrimination.

The only reason I put this on the lower end of the list is because some of the next movies were able to expand on and improve all the themes and plots set up in this first one.

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#5: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Though many fans believe this to be the best X-Men movie, I’ve decided to place it at fifth. Now, don’t get me wrong… Days of Future Past is super fun and enjoyable. The time travel plot was used well. And, for a movie which was (let’s be real here) only really made in order to fix the continuity errors in the previous films, it’s pretty great! It’s definitely the most comic book-y X-Men film (aside from Deadpool).

BUT… and this is my personal opinion, the scenes set in the future were pretty boring and didn’t really hold up to the fun scenes set in the past. Also, why did they waste Ian McKellen in this movie??? He didn’t do anything. As a matter of fact, none of the future mutants, aside from Wolverine and Professor X, really contributed to the main plot… which is just a waste of so much potential.

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#4: X2: X-Men United (2003)

Of all the X-films, I’d say X2 is my favorite. There are just so many excellent moments in this one like Magneto’s escape from his plastic prison, Nightcrawler’s attack in the White House, Jean Grey’s sacrifice… The cast was wonderful, the story was thematically-rich (although similar in many ways to the first one), and the action sequences were top-notch.

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#3: Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is definitely the most unique film in the franchise. Unlike the other X-films which are all serious and moody, Deadpool doesn’t take itself seriously AT ALL. It is very funny, irreverent and FRESH. This movie’s willingness to poke fun at the very franchise it is housed in is part of its appeal (“I’m taking you to the professor!” “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing!”). Its other secret weapon is Ryan Reynolds’ awesome performance. Definitely looking forward to the sequel!

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#2: X-Men: First Class (2011)

In my personal opinion, of all the X-Men films, First Class was the one that was most able to capture the feel of the original comic books and the ’80s animated series.

Here are the reasons why I loved it: Well, first of all, I’m a sucker for origin stories, so seeing how Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Beast, and the rest of the gang came to be the way they were in the first three movies was, for me, a sight to behold. Second, it was very well-paced, largely fun and greatly entertaining. Third, it is also helped me to forget the rather dull Wolverine and Last Stand movies. Lastly, where else will you be able to watch a young Charles Xavier using his mutant power to hit on girls or young Magneto hunting down Nazis? This movie is awesome, is what I’m saying.

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#1: Logan (2017)

I don’t want to spoil anything since this movie just recently came out… but I will say that this is definitely the best movie in the X-Men franchise and probably one of the best superhero movies. It has a very mature and grounded plot, and the dark tone works well for the character of Wolverine.

Go see the movie! GO SEE IT RIGHT NOW!!!

 

Well, there you have it… My rankings of all ten X-Men movies so far! Do you agree? Disagree? Please feel free to tell me what you think! BYE!

 

 

Ranking ALL of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies (So Far)–PART 2

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Alright, alright, alright.

I shall now rank the Top 7 MCU movies! (If you haven’t seen my rankings for #14-#8, you can read part 1 here.)

 

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#7: Ant-Man (2015)

Of Marvel’s many superheroes, Ant-Man seemed like the silliest and most unlikely candidate for a big screen live-action adaptation. Though Ant-Man (the Hank Pym version, at least) had always been a core Avenger, very few people outside of comic book aficionados knew who he was.

Ant-Man’s relative obscurity and perceived silliness turned out to be its greatest asset. The Ant-Man movie embraced the inherent goofiness of a character who can shrink and talk to ants and turned it into a funny, heartfelt, lovable heist film. It also helps that our main character Scott Lang is portrayed by the always likable Paul Rudd and is surrounded by a colorful cast of supporting characters (like Michael Peña’s Luis, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne, and Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym).

 

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#6: Doctor Strange (2016)

Marvel’s most recent superhero film is a doozy. I remember watching Doctor Strange in the theater with my dad last November. I already had a general idea of who Doctor Strange is and what he does because of all the Marvel animated shows I watch but my dad was 100% unprepared.

“What is even happening right now???” He’d whisper to me. Indeed, there are moments in Doctor Strange that need to be experienced to be believed. I could tell you about the FOLDING CITIES or the dimension with HANDS GROWING OUT OF HANDS or the TIME LOOPS but simply describing some of the trippier sequences would not really do this film justice. You need to just go watch it. Go watch it right now.

(General non-spoilery review: Much like all the other MCU films, Doctor Strange has a great cast, an interesting central protagonist, a redemptive story-arc, and thrilling action set-pieces but has a somewhat underused central villain. The fantastic, innovative visuals are what sets this movie apart from the rest of the pack.)

 

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#5: The Avengers (2012)

Like a red carpet for superheroes, The Avengers showcases Marvel’s finest crime-fighters (except for Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, and X-Men) as they battle Loki and his Chitauri army.

The Avengers tapped into that little fangirl inside of me that was just waiting to come out. There was that surge of happiness that came over me, watching all my favorite superheroes come together on the big screen to fight a battle they were never prepared for.  Filled with action, humor and heart, The Avengers has redefined what a comic book movie should be and has set a pretty high standard for all the next superhero flicks to come.

You have a problem with the movie? We have a Hulk.

 

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#4: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

In all honesty, I’ve never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy before I saw the film so when Marvel first announced that they were making this movie, I didn’t really have high expectations. When I did see it, I ended up falling in love with every single Guardian (especially Groot. Groot is love, Groot is life).

If you had asked me, before seeing the film, whether a movie that heavily featured a gun-wielding raccoon and a walking tree that can only say 3 words would be good, I’d have been skeptical. But Guardians of the Galaxy managed to make a seemingly bizarre premise work! Guardians is more of a light-hearted space opera featuring a lovable band of misfits rather than a straightforward ‘superhero flick’. This is a superhero story that even non-superhero fans could enjoy.

 

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#3: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

What makes the Captain America movies stand apart from the other MCU movies is that it is not afraid to make statements and observations about the political, social and cultural landscape of the world we live in. Captain America: The Winter Soldier does not deal with the more fantastical elements of the Marvel world and plays out more like a 70’s era spy thriller.

It has a clever plot that manages to feel somewhat realistic despite its more comic book-y ties, along with fantastic performances from Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sebastian Stan. The Winter Soldier is definitely one of Marvel Studio’s best films. (I actually had a lot of difficulty deciding where to place these last three films.)

 

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#2: Iron Man (2008)

Ah, yes. The one that started it all. This one has a very special place in my heart. A lot would argue that The Avengers or Winter Soldier would be better candidates for the #2 spot in a ranking of MCU flicks and I don’t exactly disagree. The Avengers is amazing in every sense of the word but I find that after watching it repeatedly, the magic slowly fades (not completely, of course). The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, has a lot of brains but I also feel like it isn’t as balanced as this film.

Iron Man, which I’ve watched more times than I can count, still brings me the same joy I felt when I watched it onscreen for the first time. Not only is the movie funny and entertaining but it is also deeply moving.

 

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#1: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I really ,really love this movie. It feels like both a continuation and a culmination of all the movies that had come before it. It manages to make a story that, in the wrong hands, could’ve felt overstuffed and overcrowded. Thankfully, the Russo brothers (who directed the film) knew what they were doing. Civil War feels both epic and personal.

I won’t give away any more details. Just go see the film. DO IT! DO ITTTTT!

 

Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my personal ranking of all 14 MCU films! Did you agree or disagree with the way I ranked them? Feel free to let me know! Bye!

Ranking ALL of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies (So Far)–PART 1

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of superheroes. I just love them. I can’t fully explain why. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching superhero cartoons like Justice League Unlimited, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Teen Titans, etc. Or it could be because the Spider-man, Batman, and X-Men movies were so popular when I was young.

For whatever reason, watching men and women in colorful costumes battling villainous threats, overcoming impossible odds, and saving the lives of countless innocent people brings me great joy. So, while I’m waiting for the next batch of superhero movies to come out this 2017 (There are SIX superhero movies coming out this year!), I thought I’d take a look back at all the movies in my current favorite superhero franchise (until the DCEU catches up–which I’m hopeful it will *fingers crossed*).

Let’s rank all 14 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies!

 

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#14: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Though I’ve enjoyed all of the MCU movies I’ve seen, there are some that I’ve liked a lot less than the others. I wouldn’t call it a bad movie but compared to the other films, The Incredible Hulk is probably the weakest link in an otherwise solid chain.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s lots to enjoy in the movie. Edward Norton is a solid Bruce Banner (though I do prefer Ruffalo in the role), Tim Roth is effectively menacing as the power-hungry Abomination, and the action sequences are fairly thrilling. The story was a bit too bland and generic for my taste, though.

 

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#13: Iron Man 2 (2010)

What went wrong with Iron Man 2? Well, its plot was all over the place. The main plot was about Ivan Vanko, a man whose father had been wronged by Tony’s dad Howard, who wanted revenge. Then there was that other main plot about Tony being poisoned by his own arc reactor. Then there were various other subplots like Pepper becoming CEO of Stark Industries, Black Widow’s introduction , Justin Hammer’s greedy plot to best Tony in the arm’s race, Rhodey becoming War Machine, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is that the movie had no focus. There were a lot of great elements but they just never seemed to mesh well into a coherent movie. Anyway, it’s still pretty fun… as long as you don’t think too hard about the story.

 

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#12: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

It’s hard for me to put this movie at the lower end of the list because I like it a lot. Anyway, it had to be done FOR THE GREATER GOOD!

Thor: The Dark World‘s greatest assets are its two leads Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Whenever the two are on-screen together, the movie is excellent. Thor and Loki’s complicated, tense, conflict-ridden, volatile but ultimately loving brotherly bond is a lot of fun to watch. It’s too bad that the rest of the movie couldn’t replicate the giddy energy that Thor and Loki’s interactions brought to the table.

Also, Thor: The Dark World has, in my opinion, the blandest villain ever. Christopher Eccleston’s considerable talents (see: Doctor Who) were wasted in his role as Malekith, the Dark Elf with insanely vague motivations.

 

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#11: Iron Man 3 (2013)

What I loved most about this movie is that we actually got to see Tony Stark mature… a bit. His character development was one of the many things Iron Man 2 lacked. Instead of acting like a selfish jerk all the time (anyone up for dancing drunk in the Iron Man suit?), we actually see him feeling bruised and vulnerable for the first time since his days in the cave. Left with practically nothing, he had to rely more on his intelligence and creativity than on his not-fully-functional Mark 42 suit in order to complete his mission.

Good character development aside, the movie itself is a bit more hit-or-miss. The first act was rather bland. The middle part was a mixed bag with some parts being incredibly entertaining and others being a tad bit confusing. The third act was fun but failed to wrap up certain plot points in a satisfactory manner.

 

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#10: Thor (2011)

I love this movie with a passion. It is invariably fun and entertaining. I’ve watched it a gazillion times and it still doesn’t cease to amuse me. But *sigh* some sacrifices must be made. Storywise, Thor is regrettably on the lower end of the totem pole. The scenes on Earth were considerably less captivating than the Asgard scenes, which is sad because a huge chunk of the movie takes place on Earth.

 

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#9: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It seems, dark and gritty superheroes are in these days (hullo, Batman). Cap, on the other hand, is probably the opposite. He’s just a regular kid from Brooklyn who wants to become a soldier. He doesn’t have some deep, wounded past that drives him to become a superhero. He simply wants to help because its the right thing to do…

Steve Rogers in himself is already remarkable, in my opinion. Captain America: The First Avenger benefits from its well-structured story and cool, retro vibe. The movie may be a little old-fashioned but hey, quoting Agent Phil, “maybe the world needs a little old-fashioned”.

 

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#8: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

There’s lots to love in our Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ second outing. The ensemble cast is still top-notch. Every single team member gets a moment to shine, even new additions like Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, and Paul Bettany’s Vision. The main villain Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is given a few more layers than the average MCU villain. The action is thrilling and the dialogue is as fun and quippy as ever.

However, Age of Ultron made the mistake of cramming too much into one film. A few subplots felt like they belonged in a different film or that they were only there to set up future movies (i.e. Thor’s magical jacuzzi).

 

(The Top 7 MCU films will be covered in part 2, which I will post soon. Stay tuned!)

“Himala”: A Film About the Dangers of Blind Faith

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Ishmael Bernal has directed many films that are now considered Filipino cinema classics. One of his more popular movies is “Himala”, penned by Ricky Lee and starring Nora Aunor in a career-defining role. Though the movie was released in 1982, many of the themes and ideas presented in this movie are still relevant today. The notion that we should never question or critique things and that we should just have faith is something that I often hear from many people–relatives, acquaintances, church leaders, etc. “Himala” warns that this sort of mentality can potentially be very destructive.

The story follows Elsa (Nora Aunor), a woman who claims that the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared to her while she was by the place where her mother had found her as an infant. At first, many people were skeptical but then she began faith-healing. Soon after this, Elsa was able to amass a loyal band of followers, who dubbed themselves her “Seven Apostles”.

Word soon spread about Elsa’s faith-healing and their once-desolate town of Cupang quickly transformed into a popular tourist attraction. Many pilgrims, curious travelers and even filmmakers traveled to Cupang to witness Elsa’s “miracles”.

Things quickly backfired on Elsa when she couldn’t save two children who had cholera, and when she was unable to help her friend when they were both raped. People lost their faith in her and blamed her for all the horrible things that happened in the town. But then the rain came and they once again believed that Elsa had saved their town from a drought.

I wasn’t around when “Himala” was first released (mostly because I wasn’t born yet at the time) so I wonder how Filipino audiences first reacted to this movie. I know that nowadays it is considered one of the best Filipino movies of all time but I wonder if it was as warmly-received back then as it is now, given that its main themes were about the dangers of blind faith.

Seeing as how we live in a predominantly Catholic nation and that Filipinos take pride in being religious and spiritual people, I can imagine this movie ruffling a lot of feathers with its somewhat cynical view of faith-healing. Take heed, though, dear reader, “Himala” is not anti-religion or anti-faith (since even our main protagonist acknowledged that her actions have brought people together and have even brought some closer to God) but it does warn us about faith taken to the extreme.

At the end of the movie, (spoiler alert; even though this part of the movie has been endlessly quoted by countless other Filipino films and actors) Elsa confesses to the people that the miracles weren’t real (“Walang himala! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao, nasa puso nating lahat!“). She then gets shot but one of her most loyal followers tells the crowd that Elsa is a martyr and that they ought to finish the work she started. The crowd falls on their knees and recites the “Hail Mary” while climbing the hill.

What does it say about us that even when the facts are staring us right in the face, we turn away and continue believing our own inaccurate beliefs?  I have seen many people turn a blind eye to events going on around us while continuing to tell themselves that everything is as it should be. While there is nothing wrong with having faith, we must all also be open-minded and aware. We must use our brains alongside our hearts. Or else, much like the deluded crowd, we may end up living life in the false reality of our own making.

MARVEL-ous Movie Marathon (Day 1: X-Men)

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Call me an addict but Iron Man 3 premieres in a couple of weeks and I cannot contain my excitement. In order to keep myself occupied, I decided to re-watch and review some Marvel movies. Let us begin with the one that started it all. Before the Avengers, before the Spider-man flicks, there was…THE X-MEN.

 

Truthfully, I wasn’t a big fan of the X-Men movies as a kid. (The movie that really brought me into the world of superheroes was the first Spider-man.) But now that I’ve re-watched the film, I kind of see why I didn’t like it before… I didn’t like it NOT because it was a bad film but because it deals with more mature themes than most superhero flicks and I was too young to comprehend these. Now, I’ve found a newly-formed love for the franchise and a deeper respect for the messages they were trying to convey.

The movie starts on a bleak note, showing us the origins of two mutants: the young Magneto growing up in Nazi Germany and a teenage Rogue finding out about her abilities through the most inconvenient means. Here we see that having special powers isn’t all it’s cut out to be and they can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing. The scene then shifts to the present where a government meeting is being held. People are debating about whether or not mutants are dangerous and should be exposed to the public.

I can definitely see young me not understanding what was happening on-screen. The X-Men movies should be praised not only for the top-notch action sequences but also for the rather complex story-telling.

I’ll summarize the movie in this way: It’s about people with fear.

There are three opposing sides in this movie. First, we have the normal people (much like you and I) who fear the unknown. This side is represented by Senator Robert Kelly who, during the beginning of the movie, supported and promoted the Mutant Registration act which aims to expose all mutants and ban them from schools. Second, we have the “bad guys” who, when you really think about it, aren’t so bad at all. They’re afraid that the world will reject them just as what has happened before. This side is represented by Magneto (played by the terrific Sir Ian McKellen) who grew up fearing the ordinary humans and  is now ready to fight back. Joining him are his mutant cronies: Mystique (Rebecca Romijin), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) and Toad (Ray Park). Third and lastly, we have the heroes of this story… the mutants who only wish to be accepted. This side is represented by Charles Xavier (played by the always awesome Patrick Stewart) who runs a school for “gifted youngsters”. Xavier’s School boasts a large number of different, colorful characters all with varying beliefs, abilities and personalities. They, just like most other mutants, were rejected and feared but through the Professor’s guidance, are now fighting to restore balance and stop Magneto’s evil schemes. Some of Xavier’s students include Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry) and Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).

We are slowly and delicately introduced to the world of mutants through the eyes of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) who had spent their days running from their pasts with nowhere to go. They soon find solace in Professor X’s school and so the adventure begins.

As much as I’d like to analyze every single plot detail, I have neither the time nor the energy so let me just say again what I said earlier: I commend the X-Men films for having such profound themes and a great plot! Let’s leave it at that and move on to the other elements that made this movie so great.

Let’s begin with the characters. The cast was pretty solid. Everyone portrayed their roles very well, particularly Hugh Jackman as the tough-as-nails Logan who can retract adamantium claws from his knuckles. Jackman was very greatly able to balance Wolverine’s internal struggles and feral instincts.

The rest of the supporting cast were pretty good as well. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, were absolutely brilliant. You can totally buy that the two were once great friends who have now gone on separate paths. Anna Paquin as Rogue was alright, I guess. She was a bit too emo, in my opinion. On the other hand, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and James Marsden were a bit underused but I guess it’s because Wolverine is the star so they didn’t focus much on the other mutants…

That’s my number one complaint about this movie. It was a bit too Wolverine-centric. What worked in The Avengers and a lot of other ensemble superhero flicks is that everyone is given equal screen time. But, hey, Hugh Jackman filled the role so well that you wouldn’t mind having Wolverine take center stage. I do kind of wish we got to see more of Cyclops’, Storm’s, and Jean’s powers.

Now, let us proceed to the narrative. It was pretty well-paced. It’s not like most modern superhero fares wherein the filmmakers felt the need to throw in explosions every few minutes. The movie took its time and gave its characters room to breathe after their battles. It was a bit slow for me, I guess, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The deliberate matched the movie’s tone pretty well. The battle scenes were very well-staged and most characters were very well-developed.

Overall, X-Men has a terrific plot and outstanding visuals that is elevated by the charisma of its lead star. But it seemed to work more as a “Wolverine and Friends” flick than as a genuine X-Men movie.

Rating: 8/10