The anticipation of seeing Shah Rukh Khan as a sleek, blue-eyed sci-fi superhero battling an invincible villain was great. RA.One starts out strong enough to merit such anticipation and attention as a contender in the world of cinema-meets-superheroes-meets-video games, with the much-touted special effects put in the service of the story. Sadly, it loses steam mid-way through to the end when the story becomes secondary to the special effects. In this regard, the invincible villain becomes a watery script, a villain that not even the grand King Khan can wholly overcome. Nevertheless, RA.One is notable in many respects, especially in relation to being yet another example of Bollywood’s technological growth and global ambitions. Now in this regard, the superhero ends up being Bollywood as the tremendous self-sustaining industry and global, transnational presence that it is.
Author Rowena Santos Aquino
Whenever the presenter for a film screening begins his/her introduction with something like “Are you guys ready to go extreme?!” you know that the film will be something different. When said presenter finishes his/her spiel by chanting “Go to DMC! Go to DMC!” while urging the audience to join in, you can be sure that the film will not only be different but also fun. Even for those who are altogether unfamiliar with the manga, Detroit Metal City delivers on this promise of a different, fun, as well as carnivalesque and highly comical film, from the story to the cast, individually and collectively.
Tetsuya Nakashima kicked off the 2000s with the colorful but ultimately vapid film Kamikaze Girls (2005), which did not warrant all of the raves that it received upon its release (a more interesting take on two young females who are opposites but who nevertheless strike a strong bond is Nana [2005, directed by Kentaro Otani]). In a sense, Kamikaze Girls is a bit of a debut film for Nakashima. Despite the fact that he began to make films in the late 1990s, including two feature films — Natsu jikan no otonatachi (1997) and Beautiful Sunday (1998) — these films have yet to go abroad in any format whatsoever to be seen and examined by a broader audience.
To succeed and accompany the powerful Korean film triumvirate of Park Chan-wook, Kim Ji-woon, Bong Joon-ho, and their varied cinemas of revenge, violence, murders, monsters, and blood in the 2000s is a tall order. But it is a necessary one if contemporary Korean cinema wants to remain at the cutting-edge of Asian cinemas and continually capture the attention of global audiences, niche or otherwise. At the level of market infrastructure and international/regional hub, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and its new 2011 digs (the Busan Cinema Centre) certainly fulfill this challenge. At the level of film production, Na Hong-jin is undoubtedly one of the more recent Korean filmmakers to watch who also takes up this challenge, in a breathtaking way.
Noboru Iguchi’s adaptation of the 1970s robot superhero television series Denjin Zaboga is a bumpy ride into a world of good vs. evil human and android factions. Though uneven in its comical impact and energy, it is also a fun ride precisely because it does adapt and pays homage to that phenomenon so spellbinding to the male species that is the transforming robots. This genre often comes in the form of anime, which is called mecha anime (mecha being the Japanese abbreviation of the word “mechanical”).
Saigon Electric’s unabashed definition of itself as a youth dance film à la the Step Up franchise is initially off-putting. But what saves it from being consigned to pejorative straight-to-video damnation is its colorful visual form, its understanding of the city’s crucial role in “interrogating themes of place, memory and identity” (T.C. Chang, “Place, memory and identity: Imagining ‘New Asia,’” 2005), its referential significance to Vietnam’s currently and rapidly unfolding modernization, and with it the rumblings of an energetic national film industry.