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The malady caused by the proliferation of loud but predominantly empty Hollywood blockbusters in Philippine shores is most evident in Mac Alejandre's Ang Panday 2. The bombardment of special effects has never been this harmful to the eyes and to the mind. This sequel to the 2009 reincarnation of one of Fernando Poe, Jr.'s most beloved cinematic alter-egos is hardly a film. Its characters which are proudly advertised as based on Carlo J. Caparas' creations actually reflect the weakness of Caparas' imagination which seems to be fuelled only by stereotypes and derivations. In Alejandre's hands, Flavio (played by Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr.), who transforms into the heroic Panday with his elongating dagger that detects evil, is a hollow vessel, a tool for ambitious Revilla to transform his political ambitions into something as simple as a battle of good against evil.

Its story is nothing more than an excuse to chain together scenes that are supposed to inspire spectacle, the special effects of which are sometimes delightful to look at but are mostly just numbingly repetitive. After defeating Lizardo (Phillip Salvador), Flavio decided to settle with fiancée Maria (Iza Calzado) in a little town whose citizens are more than grateful to the hero for getting rid of their oppressor. However, Lizardo is hardly dead. Awakened by Baruha (Lorna Tolentino who braves to wear make-up that makes her look like a subpar version of Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch), who opts to wreak her brand of evil from atop an ominous looking peak, Lizardo begins his quest for world domination, first, by kidnapping the town's female folk including Maria, second, by murdering the men folk through his many minions, and third, by attempting to disarm Flavio by stealing his magical dagger.

Along the way, he discovers that his pet dragon is in fact a foxy lady (Marian Rivera) who is a member of an ironically peaceful race of people who can transform into powerful dragons. He also meets a couple of his friends from his first adventure. All this is of course a bunch of nonsensical filler. The film has lost all ambition to entertain beyond its brainless showcase of what it intends to be as international-caliber computer-generated extravagance. Every now and then, jokes are cracked, slapstick happens, or hints of a probable darkness beneath all the fakery are exposed. However, all those attempts are quickly shelved as soon as Revilla, who seems to have lost all humanity in his exertion to be an effective action hero despite his age and his unwieldy heft, sucks all the possible fun with his mug of contagious indifference.

Alejandre horribly mistakes pageantry with aesthetics. From the small town and its colorfully costumed townsfolk to Lizardo's grimly dressed monstrosities, the film looks like a hodgepodge of miscommunicated pegs and influences. Like a zombie in search for a living human brain to feed on, the film gnaws on your sanity. It actually forces you to wish for random calamities that would salvage you from the misfortune of sitting through a confused and disastrously taxing film. 

By the film's end, when Baruha announces that this is just the start of the reign of evil, the aches stopped with the promise that this part of Flavio's saga will finally close. But then, Revilla, donned in his heroic garb and flicking his symbol of being macho for all the world to see and mouthing cryptic words that may or may not be his battlecry for the next elections, appears in another one of Alejandre's painfully pretty backdrops that are too reminiscent of every torturous episode of TeleTubbies to be taken seriously. Baruha indeed has played propher. This, ladies and gentlemen, is really just the start of the reign of evil.

(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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