There are, predictably, those who are willing to write off this film from the get go. It’s not exactly surprising, given that the first film, though it made a barrel-load of cash for the makers, wasn’t exactly a critical success…and that’s putting it mildly. In short, ‘Cicakman’ made considerable steps forward in terms of on-screen technology for Malaysian films, but it still looked like something that wouldn’t look out of place on a Saturday morning cartoon schedule list.
Nevertheless, though apples tend not to fall far from the tree, it is still not the same as the tree. With that in mind, I was more than willing to tick it on the festival list, and give it a go.
And so we pick up where we left off, with Saiful Apek returning as the Cicakman again. His alter-ego (or vice-versa), Hairi, is dealing with the unexpected consequences of being very heroic. That is to say, he’s having trouble holding on to his job (more than just a dash of ‘Spiderman 2’ here…). At least, he is more alive than Danny (Yusry KRU), who makes regular appearances in his dreams.Feeling that there’s more to this, he seeks the helps of a medium, Miss Chee (Louisa Chong) to interprete his dreams. Also trying her best to keep him on the straight and narrow is Iman (Sharifah Amani), Danny’s sister. His love interest, Tania (Fasha Sandha), is driven by her desire to reveal the identity of Cicakman, and has thus been promoted somewhat to green broadcast journalist (shades of ‘Ghost Rider’ here).
Things seems somewhat rosy enough, but Cicakman has to deal with not one, but two villains (inspired by ‘Spiderman 3’, maybe?). In addition to the return of Professor Klon (Aznil Nawawi), who plans to take over the city by infecting its water supply (Malaysia’s attack plan against Singapore, perhaps?), we also have Rrama (Tamara Bleszynski, who’s not actually Ukrainian, but Indonesian, much to my surprise), an ass-kicking, video-recording, butterfly-themed vixen. If the Professor provided the brains, then Rrama provided the brawn, stepping up to the plate and giving Cicakman something proper to think about. The opening scene, in fact, consisted mainly of her going through an army of henchman without so much as breaking a sweat.
In fact, the ones who probably broke the most sweat of them all might well be the graphic production team. If the post-screening Q&A session is anything to go by, then the final product, made by 3 people over a period of 7 months is a fine achievement in itself. I can’t really remember specifically how the graphics for the first film looked, except that it wasn’t as impressive as I thought it would have been. Nevertheless, I feel that we did get to see a lot of Metrofulus as a city.
Perhaps the biggest letdown, then, is the story. Rather, the development (or lack of) of the story. Quite frankly, there are so many plot holes that my suspension of disbelief had as much chance of actually lasting throughout the film as a pig has of not rolling in his own waste. I don’t know why I actually wrote that, but somehow the sentence came to mind. Perhaps, then, I should put it in another way; I couldn’t sit back and think, “Yes, this is an improvement on the previous film.” I want to, but damn, everytime I resolved to give it a chance, we see Professor Klon turning up in Metrofulus in a tank, change the mood of the crowd in an instant, and trundle off back home in his tank without anyone making an attempt to follow him. There are moments that also made me cringe; somehow, the appearance of the Malaysian flag in this context (again, not unlike Spidey leeching on to the top of flag poles). And Jalaluddin Hassan! As our Prime Minister! Lovely. 🙂
Of course, it sets things up nicely for Cicakman to confront him, but beyond that…beyond that, there are simple things that could have been done, I think, that would have further advanced the story and the characters. The new characters did alright, with Iman and Rrama adding more than just a little variety, but playing off their opposites rather well. Iman helped to provide a non-love interest female element, while Rrama, as mentioned previously, also seemed properly built up as decent opposition to Cicakman. Beyond that…oh, beyond that, there are plenty that I think a little more time spent thinking could and probably would have helped to solve it. The rest of the characters are as 2D as 2D could possibly be. Any more, and it would have rivaled ‘South Park’s’ own 2D characters.
There were a fair amount of criticism towards the end of the year not only at the film, but also at the audience participation as a whole. Yes, it made a fair amount of money, more than enough to cover its costs, but its considered failure set the stage for the proposed hike in film ticket prices; in addition to the much-maligned ‘Antoo Fighter’, ‘Cicakman 2’ was used as an example of why ticket prices for foreign films should be higher. I’m sorry to say, but the bigger question to look at is why ‘Cicakman 2’ doesn’t really push the envelope as far as it could. In terms of money and time, I am sure that the filmmakers have enough clout to work within a reasonable time frame. I wasn’t particularly enamoured by the previous film, but I felt that I had enjoyed that one more than this sequel.
I once expressed the opinion that I personally wouldn’t mind having a film like ‘Cicakman’ on my CV. Like I said, it is a fine achievement, but I was shot down for considering the financial implications of such a decision. Yes, I would make a bit of money, but I would also make it a little different, a little better, with a little bit more heart. Films can be commercial, with the sole aim of cashing in on the popularity of its previous and its stars. It need not be terrible.
Is it worth a watch, then? In a word, yes. The film is not without its merits, like the supporting actors, for example. I suppose any sort of film that attempts to go further than it originally did should be applauded for its bravery. The graphics, much talked about, are never going to be reaching Hollywood levels, after all. And of course, never just take my word for it. Nevertheless, I am not particularly happy with ‘Cicakman 2’, because I felt that it could have been something a little more. It could have built upon the first film. It didn’t, certainly not as much as it could have been.
It could have been a lot more.
A lot more.
Despite all that…Fikri would probably leap at the chance of making ‘Cicakman 3’. I wrote of the film’s reception in Pusan here.