Luis Suarez's RPG Metanoia is the first Filipino-made 3D and CG-animated feature length film. Sadly, it seems that the distinction has overshadowed the film, which, even without the label that points out its historic significance, is quite a solid endeavor and must be seen, instead of read about, to be really enjoyed.
The film opens with a lengthy action sequence where Zero, a heroic kid who is quite adept with the yoyo as a weapon, makes his way through a horde of robots and defeats a three-headed monstrosity who looks like a cross between a hydra and a jack-in-the-box, revealing a prize, a mysterious mask that is supposed to give its wearer god-like powers. The computer hangs. The mother scolds. Zero is Nico (voiced by Zaijan Jaranilla), a frail kid who spends his days and nights leveling up his character in Metanoia, an online role-playing game where he can be everything he can't be in real life.
The story's less of a stretch than what can be expected from animated features. When it is not concerned with the plotline of an in-game character wreaking havoc on the real world via a virus that transmits images through the computer that effectively turns humans into gaming zombies, the film spends time exploring the domestic life of Nico, his intimate dinner conversations with his mother (voiced by Eugene Domingo), his webcam communications with his father (voiced by Aga Muhlach), who is working overseas, his blossoming crush with a girl next door, his role in his gaming troop, and his inefficiencies in sports and other physical activities. A bulk of what makes RPG Metanoia so charming is how it translates these relatable elements of living into gorgeous animation.
Thus, RPG Metanoia's greatest asset is that it satisfies itself with
telling its story with refreshing simplicity. The animation, unremarkable if
compared to bigger-budgeted extravaganzas produced elsewhere, is lovely in a
way that its imperfections and limitedness in terms of frames per second give
the film the feel of a stop-motion animated feature, which is more organic,
more human than anything done by the animation factories of
Suarez and his team peppers
the world of Metanoia with details. For example, the portal where the
characters of players from the
There is of course a danger in putting such a game, whose popularity is limited to a specified niche, as the point of interest in the film. The mechanics of the MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game which could be material to the appreciation of the niceties of the film may seem foreign to the demographic it seeks to market itself to. Thankfully, the film does not drown itself with the complexities of the gaming phenomenon and limits itself to its essence, which is basically the threat of living vicariously through the near-perfect lives of computer-created amplified personalities thriving in a world where rules can be bent. Instead of functioning merely as a reflection of what could be a passing fad in video-gaming as with almost all films adapted from video games, it explores the dynamics between gamer and game, and why such relationship, hardened by some symbiosis where both benefit from each other, thrives. In that sense, RPG Metanoia has the capacity to be timeless notwithstanding the possible and probable obsolescence of its thematic source.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)