A truthful film review: 'Adiwiraku' is not quite the hero we deserve.

Origin: Malaysia · Language: Malay, English
Director: Eric Ong
Jason Chong, Eric Ong
Genre: Drama · Release: March 9, 2017

Casts: Sangeeta Krishnasamy, Xavier Fong,
Ahmad Adnin Zidane, Nur Idina Tasnim,
Rizal Fahmi, Balqis Sani, Wan Azlyn Maasyah
Farra Safwan, Khairi Mohd Kamal, Ajwad Mohd Sobri,
Faez Reezme, Alif Abubakar

SOL Pictures, Filmmecca Studio
Distributor: Empire Film Solution

So, long story short, I already reviewed this film on the surface on my Facebook page, which can be read HERE (the plot summary is also mentioned here, in case you want an outline of what the movie is all about) and is actually the first preview I saw before the oh-so-dreadful silver screen debut by Fauzi Nawawi, a long time actor and writer/director for TV movies called Pak Pong in the same week. I don't claim to be a movie expert, but let's get a tad dirty to the film everyone is very excited to see because its decently-edited trailer which was cut as if it's a heart-wrenching melodramatic tale of a struggling teacher dealing with seemingly difficult band of pupils to get them in shape for an upcoming choral speaking competition. This is only my own personal opinion, so don't take my word for it entirely.

Throw in some emotional shots and dramatic music, plus scenes which references superheroes, and of course the school setting of the film, in addition to it being based on an actual story, and you get a trailer that would woo the easily-impressed who are usually not the kind to wanna watch local films. A very delicious bait, I'd say, since I was also initially sold by it.

A bit of a warning before going through: this review MIGHT CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS. If you don't mind, then you may proceed.

Yes, I get the point of trailers: to promote the film. But the way it was cut, maybe this should be a short film instead, as the director originally envisioned it, according to what he said. Maybe I'd watch the hell out of this trailer and not the actual product that he stretched for his feature debut. Yes, it feels very long when in fact the overall story of this film is actually quite thin, and that feeling overstays its welcome. The following paragraphs shall explain why is it so.

In my opinion, the filmmakers doesn't really know how to translate the intensity and mood that was shown on the trailer onto the film itself. Instead of going for "show, not tell," they went ahead and make Teacher Cheryl (Sangeeta Krishnasamy) spew out her thoughts on everything: about her feelings in a very tacky, "poetic" way; about the background, characteristics and well-being of her students; and about WHAT ARE WE CURRENTLY WATCHING (which would work way better if she DIDN'T DROWN ME WITH NARRATION AND LET ME THINK FOR MYSELF as some moments were pretty interesting to be honest if it was elaborated better); and I call that lazy storytelling. How I wish they have a much cleverer way to work around that under tight budget and time constraints. It didn't give room for the characters to develop themselves and that deter audiences from gaining any kind of emotional payoff. Also, most of the time, they tried to force emotions by cuing sadness-tinged acoustic guitars or fist-pumping dramatic orchestra on scenes that does not need it. This actually happened during the eventual choral speaking competition the kids have been working so hard to get into for the dramatic side of things. A drama like this needed that for the climax to be more fulfilling, and by doing things like that, it kills the momentum that has been built throughout the movie.

Next up, the way the kids was introduced. It was rather chaotic and unfocused, since the filmmaker didn't quite know how to juggle between these characters and not quite sure how to develop them. Some characters were only introduced on the surface, but the next scene later in the film, he suddenly threw a tantrum as if the things that was announced really messed his head up bad or something. The character Zidane for example, suddenly cries when the teacher criticised his ways of leading the choral speaking team when the audience was not even informed of how and why the competition is very important to him. I was only informed that he is psyched about it and that's it. Throw in a gallon of tears for all I care; I didn't get any sort of involvement in them emotionally, even at the slightest. There is no emotional or dramatic urgency as to why they really need to win the competition so badly other than the fact that they are practically losers and why exactly Teacher Cheryl is bent on making them a winning team. If I was the filmmaker, maybe make a series of vignettes or short films regarding the core members of the choral speaking team or the pupils they think they'd want to focus on on their YouTube channel or something and flesh them up there before including it in the film so that the exposition can be minimised and more effort can be put to further flesh out Teacher Cheryll's and the less prominent students' character development.

Lastly, let's talk about the inclusion of the male teacher portrayed by Xavier Fong. Why is he there? What contributions does he have on the story other than to balance out the cast for whatever reason? Maybe a romance between them would be interesting; at least his inclusion would be justified, as a boyfriend would do whatever it takes to make his girlfriend happy, and that includes getting his hands in training a bunch of kids how to talk like they're singing a song, and that would maybe create an even more plausible and tangible emotional center to the film that would not feel forced. Also, that would also give him a solid reason to utter a line in the film in which he said that he connects and resonates deeply with the kids when in fact, it was Teacher Cheryl who does most of the "emotional" heavy-lifting.

What I'm trying to say here, while it's a novel attempt in trying to highlight a Malaysian school life as it should be, it falters a lot in a number of crucial departments. While a triumphant victory of a rural school in an English choral speaking competition that doesn't know how to fluently speak English in the first place sound like a great premise for a movie, that doesn't make it a good fit to become an actual movie if it's not at least on par with the pitch. Nonetheless, it's still a rather earnest effort from the team. Kudos for trying.

It's in cinemas nationwide now, starting from March 9, 2017.

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