Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Apokalips X [2014]

Director: Mamat Khalid
Writer: Mamat Khalid
Starring: Farid Kamil, Jehan Miskin, Iqram Dizly, Adam AF, Peter Davis, Pekin Ibrahim, Zoe Tan, Vasanth, Miera Leyana
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: General
Verdict: "In typical Mamat Khalid fashion, it felt like he made things up as he went along..."

Synopsis
So the world ends. Might have been a movie about people in this post-apocalyptic part of the world struggling for control. I'm not so sure. But, urmm... Farid Kamil was cool in it. So were Jehan Miskin and Zoe Tan.

What to Expect
1. Unsuccessful attempt at an ensemble cast
2. Some really cool ideas
3. A world that looks lived-in
4. But inadequate worldbuilding
5. Some memorable performances
6. Contrived romantic subplot
7. Bizarre uses of jump cuts

What NOT to Expect
1. Coherent narrative
2. A clear sense of plot and pace
3. Rhythm, rhyme or reason to anything
I've forgotten most of it by now
Review
I dare say this marks the first time I couldn't write a proper synopsis because I couldn't follow the narrative. I remember the opening scene which was a reminiscent of Sarah Connor's dream sequence in Terminator 2: Judgment Day [1991], which was cool and all; not to mention it served its purpose: got me invested in the story. And once we got to the comic book-inspired title card, I was duly impressed.

It was still good when the movie started to take off. There were X (Farid Kamil) and other guys in gas masks in a scene which may or may not have drawn inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns; Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [1966] or Once Upon a Time in the West [1968], for instance. But unfortunately it didn't set the tone for the rest of the movie 'cause everything was a free-for-all from then on in every sense of the word.


What followed was a fight scene where we don't know any of the people involved, who to root for, what they even fought for, or what could the consequence be should either of them lose the fight. Okay, perhaps they fought for power, but since I knew nothing about the characters, I had no idea what were they going to do with it; or why it mattered who was the head honcho of this post-apocalyptic world.

Not that it's a rule to establish such things early on. In fact, in the hands of a good screenwriter and director, they could have created intrigue. The problem for Apokalips X, as you might have already guessed, was it didn't address any of the questions above. Kala (Jehan Miskin) was evil, sure, and he wanted all other clan chiefs out of the way. But his motivation was unclear, and we never found out why he must be prevented from rising to the top. After all, nobody was a good guy per se.

My only guess is that none of the other clans were death metal fans like Kala.


The root of the issue, for me, is the same with any other films by Mamat Khalid: the writing. He has ideas and they're always interesting, but he doesn't strike me as someone who enjoys writing as much as he does sitting in the director's chair. Hence why Apokalips X felt like the work of someone who made it up as he went along. Like he had ideas of what he wanted to see in the movie, but how they all serve the narrative wasn't really a concern. No characterisation, no arc, no nothing.

And no point.

For example; one moment there were people wearing gas masks, but it was a one-off thing and didn't factor into anything. It didn't disrupt a battle just when the "good guys" were about to lose; nobody died as a result of it; nobody used it to their advantage / disadvantage; and so on. In short, it was only there because why not. That's what it felt like.


The whole movie could serve as an example of ideas not followed through, or how good ideas don't necessarily tell a story; but I'm not about to dissect the whole film. Suffice to say I found it to be a snorefest despite some very commendable things about it:

The post-apocalyptic world was rendered well enough, and it looked lived-in. Nice work.

Performance-wise, Jehan Miskin did his best to justify Apokalips X's existence and, oddly enough, his conflict (and fight scenes) with Kulat (Zoe Tan), a minor character, was about the only thing that worked because at least there was some kind of tension between them. Farid Kamil, if it weren't for his strong screen presence, would have totally been upstaged by his co-stars. Not his fault. He did the best given the material.


In a nutshell, there was no rhyme or reason to anything in Apokalips X. Throw in a contrived attempt at a romantic subplot between Whatshisname (Adam AF) and Whatsherface (Miera Leyana), it made this fantasy flick feel twice longer than its actual running time. The effort of the cast and crew is definitely worthy of praise, but as a movie, Apokalips X was like a cockroach that survived a nuclear blast.

Of all things that could have made it, why does it have to be you?

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