Movie Review of Panday 2: Spectacular effects but weak characters and poor mythology

Last Christmas day, I watched Panday 2 in Cavite with my sister’s family.  The line for Panday 2 is long.  There are no more seats left.  It’s standing room only. We managed to sit at the back on the aisle.

Panday 2 was enjoyed by the children.  They memorize the Panday theme song.  They had a good laugh with Benjie Paras as comic relief.

The spectacle was superb.  I think the monsters were inspired by the Clash of the Titans: the giant scorpion and the Kraken.  The dragons are also believable.

But the story line fails.  The movie tried to introduce conflicts outside of Lizardo: the overreliance of Panday on his sword at the expense of not believing in the capacities of his companions or putting the sword greater than his relationship with his friends.  But these conflicts were too shallow and immediately resolved.  The betrayal of Kris Bernal and opting to side with Lizardo has weak motivations.  The sudden conversion of Eddie Garcia from pacifist to a dragon warrior is difficult to appreciate.  The conversion of Marian Rivera from a dragon princess who loves Flavio to letting go of her love so that Flavio can focus on defending the free peoples is also too sudden.

There are two reasons for these weak characterizations.

The first is too many characters.  All characters must have a conflict to resolve, and they all resolve them by one-liners.  If there are fewer characters, then the movie can give more time to develop each character.

The second and more fundamental reason is weak mythology.  Panday cannot always fight Lizardo over and over again.  There is no sense of history.  Panday cannot live in the eternal now and depend on resurrection of Lizardo so that a story can unfold.  What is needed is true mythology: a world governed by its own rules and inner logic, so that the writer ceases to dictate the events but describes the events as they unfold.

Here are my suggestions to the writers of Panday 3:

1.  Define the geography of Panday’s world

The Engkantadas should be close to Panday’s town.  Otherwise Panday won’t meet Enteng Kabisote and Iza Calzado.  Locate the towns where the fire and rock golems attacked.   Where was Panday inundated by a tsunami and attacked by sirens and mermen?  Where is the land of the dragons of Marian Rivera?  Use a ruler and draw to scale.  If the writers want to simplify things, let the setting be Philippines. For example, locate Panday’s town in Pampanga, the place of the mermen in Zambales, the land of the dragons in Sierra Madre, and the Witch’s cave in Mount Mayon.  Geography would limit the towns that Panday can save from attacks, and a wise villain would attack piecemeal, knowing that Panday cannot defend all borders alone.  So he needs to rally the people to his cause and inspire the young men to fight.  A ragtag group of twenty armed men do not make an army that can challenge the might of the Evil Lord.

2.  Make a chronology of events

Define dates.  The setting can be 16th century Philippines.  On what date did the asteroid fell?  When did Panday forged the sword?  When did Lizardo appear?  When was his first death?  When was his second death?  When will Panday die?  When did the talking animals settled where they are prior to their driving out by Lizardo?  When did the dragons left their land?  Time is a limitation that both the hero and the villain must overcome.  How much time does the witch need to resurrect a dead man or create a giant monster?  How long is a one day’s walk?  How fast can dragons fly?  Without a timeline there is no sense of history.  The peoples in Panday world  will have no history, so that all story lines would fail, which can never be prevented by fantastic one-liners.

3.  Define economics and politics

Who governs the towns in absence of Panday?  Where is the national government in the picture?  Was the Philippines a collection of independent barangays governed only by a datu?  How do they earn money?  What countries or towns do they trade with?  What is the medium of currency?  Without Panday, the world must go on.  Is there a trade among the free peoples in Panday world.  What does the Engkato have to do with talking animals?  How did the evil men get their costumes?  Surely they bought them or robbed them from somewhere.  Who manufactures weapons?  Who makes the best swords?  Was the Panday phenomenon unique in history?  Or was there other Pandays long before him, as implied by the prophecies.  Do Pandays appear only once in a hundred years in times of greatest evil?  Who is the voice that commanded Flavio to make the sword?  Aliens or angels?

4.  Define the limits of supernatural powers

Human beings have difficulty relating to infinite power.  Only God has infinite power; creatures should have limited power.    Lizardo is technically a comic relief and not a villain.  The audience just wants to know how he will die.  But there is no sympathy.  Was he pure evil from the beginning?  How did he acquire so much power?  By becoming more evil day by day?  What is the limit of his power?  Did he ever doubted that he is evil?  Was there no glimpse of goodness left like that in Gollum?  Like Lizardo, Flavio is also two-dimensional.  It is difficult to sympathize with him.  Yes, his sword is powerful.  But does the sword’s power have negative side effects?  The Lord of the Rings is also powerful, but it corrupts the wielder.  Some talking swords have their own personalities and they can even make their wielder fight even if they do not wish.  And since the sword was forged in fire, so we assume it is a fire element.  Is it weak against water elements?  Can the Engkanto like Iza Calzado really die?  Or did she die because it is the rule of the Engkanto that the moment they fell in love with a mortal, they shed off their immortality, just like Arwen did when she fell in love with Aragorn?  Can a powerful witch summon all the monsters?  What is the radius of effectivity of her summons?  Does the strength of her summons affected by the strength of the monsters?  Or did she make the monsters by putting something of her own native power in them, thereby reducing her own native power,  just as Morgoth did when he made the dragons and other evil creatures?

I hope that the Panday writing staff think about these things very carefully, so that Panday can grow into a true Pinoy mythology just like Lord of the
Rings or Star Wars.  Let me end with the words of Aristotle on Poetics:

The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy; Character holds the second place. A similar fact is seen in painting. The most beautiful colors, laid on confusedly, will not give as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait. Thus Tragedy is the imitation of an action, and of the agents mainly with a view to the action.

Third in order is Thought- that is, the faculty of saying what is possible and pertinent in given circumstances. In the case of oratory, this is the function of the political art and of the art of rhetoric: and so indeed the older poets make their characters speak the language of civic life; the poets of our time, the language of the rhetoricians. Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids. Speeches, therefore, which do not make this manifest, or in which the speaker does not choose or avoid anything whatever, are not expressive of character. Thought, on the other hand, is found where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated.

Fourth among the elements enumerated comes Diction; by which I mean, as has been already said, the expression of the meaning in words; and its essence is the same both in verse and prose.

Of the remaining elements Song holds the chief place among the embellishments

The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.

In sum, Panday 2 is all spectacle and good song.  But the story fails in plot, character, and thought.  In Panday 3, there is a hope of a bigger dramatic conflict essential to tragedy: Panday shall love/fight against the child of his beloved Engkanto Iza Calzado and his ArchEnemy Lizardo.  So let us all look forward to Panday 3.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

9 Responses to Movie Review of Panday 2: Spectacular effects but weak characters and poor mythology

  1. grace says:

    Wow, this is a good review. It also feels like a mini tutorial on how to make an effective fantasy story. You really have the point.

  2. Derek says:

    This is exactly what I had in mind when I watched Panday 2 with my nephew last Christmas Day.

    I cringe specifically at scenes where Flavio looks at the horizon and spews his lines. I hope they’d bring something new to the table and not just re-use character bahavior and scenes.

    It’s frustrating that they keep on saying that the movie took a year of preparation, and Panday 3 would take more time to produce (Bong says the movie will be released on 2013), and then the plot is like this.

    Thank you for this post. At least I am not the only one who thinks this way of the movie so praised by directors and producers (at least in the commercials).

  3. Andy says:

    wow, nice suggestions!

  4. Eddy says:

    I fully agree that the characters, geography, and time of Panday are ill-defined. I hope Sen. Bong gets a new set of writers for Panday 3. Sayang ang effort.

  5. harley says:

    very good suggestions, how I wish you were a part of the panday production team, I just couldnt watch panday’s sequel, the trailer alone makes me sad…

  6. Panday by Carlo J Caparas the National Artist by prerogative. hahahaha

  7. spyhopper says:

    good review

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