‘Voltes V: Legacy’ review: Finally, a Filipino movie that could rival Marvel, DC

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
�Voltes V: Legacy� review: Finally, a Filipino movie that could rival Marvel, DC
‘Voltes V: Legacy’ cast
‘Voltes V: Legacy’ via Instagram

MANILA, Philippines — If there would be a movie that could put the Philippines into the mainstream Hollywood map, it would be “Voltes V: Legacy: The Cinematic Experience,” no doubt!

“Voltes V: Legacy: The Cinematic Experience,” the teaser film for the “Voltes V: Legacy” series about to premiere on GMA primetime on May 8, opened yesterday exclusively in SM Cinemas to long queues and standing ovations. 

Here’s why:

Proudly global Filipino

Doing a live-action production of a cult Japanese anime classic has its perks and perils – the good news is there has been a huge leap in technological advancement since the 1977 “Voltes V.” But the downside: Hollywood’s big Marvel and DC superhero flicks have set standards so high and this is the Mount Everest that GMA has to scale minus the billion-dollar budget. 

Indeed, it’s a make or break for the Filipino company: If the movie and the series are good, then these would catapult GMA as the Philippines’ number one TV network. If these are bad, then people would just echo what they usually say of Filipino productions: “Oh well, what can you expect?” Fortunately, the movie is good, and so the series that is yet to premiere should be the cherry on top.

Although the original “Voltes V” already has a huge following and brand recall that assure of the live-action flick’s instant success, “Voltes V: Legacy” the movie carves its own niche for not only living up to very high expectations, but also for showcasing a mostly Filipino ensemble and production crew composed of some of the best in Filipino talent – from big names such as Mark A. Reyes as director, Ricky Lee as scriptwriting consultant and Albert Martinez portraying Dr. Richard Smith, to a younger generation of actors and production staff who are now assured of their place in history given the film’s world-class production value.

Moreover, though the film has been adapted from Toei Company and Sunrise’s Japanese TV series “Chodenji Machine Voltes V,” the live-action version has been very Filipino in terms of look and morale – tanned actors, tropical in topography, funny and “pilosopo,” multi-lingual, family-oriented, very strong in Bayanihan (unity) – all these while staying faithful to the original cartoons’ look, storyline and even soundtrack that many generations of anime lovers grew up with. Thus, more than just a quality production that Filipinos worldwide can be proud of, the film is an ambassador of Filipino arts and culture to the world – especially if the Filipino dialogues are retained for international release and for this once, it’s the foreigners who must adjust in reading subtitles.

Animation, editing, musical score

Except for some scenes that need further polishing, as characters sometimes seem floating and not seamlessly blending over their computer-generated backgrounds, and also despite that some scenes show the actors’ heavy contouring and uneven makeup, the film is generally flawless in all aspects.

Gone are the days when Filipino films’ obviously low-budget computer-generated imagery (CGI) were the subject of laughing stock. The fear that the live-action “Voltes V” film’s CGI might put Filipinos into more shame has been killed with a laser sword. The cinematography is very tactile – you can feel even atmospheric details such as dust and water splashes. The holograms are at last now really floating on air like in “Star Trek.”

The fight scenes of both robots and people, though sometimes still slower in choreography than in Marvel or DC, already give a realistic element of danger. The robots’ muscular and cellular realism is hands down the best Filipino three-dimensional animation that it is inching closer to be at par with the life-likeness of Steven Spielberg's live-action “Transformers.”

And of course, the most pivotal scene – the volting in – did not disappoint! As soon as the reinterpreted “Voltes V no Uta” or “Voltes V” theme kicks in, people in cinemas started tapping their knees, swaying and singing along with their improvised Japanese lyrics including the Filipino food “Caldereta," "Menudo" and “Kare-Kare” – like they did while watching the animated classic as kids. Likewise, the juxtaposition of the live-action heroes with nostalgic scenes from the anime, in the closing billboard for example, bring in a rush of happy childhood hormones and memories.

Acting, costumes

Although the film is not devoid of the usual Filipino dramatics, at last, Filipino actors are no longer OA (overacting) and have already learned how to control their acting – and the actors in the film – from familiar ones like Albert, Dennis Trillo, Carla Abellana and Christian Vasquez, to newer discoveries like Miguel Tanfelix and Matt Lozano – all fit their characters from looks, to voices, emotions and even multi-lingual pronunciation and delivery of lines.

There is an obvious good mix of new and more seasoned stars, but contrary to those who raised eyebrows when GMA gave the key five characters to relative unknowns, nobody was left out in the film. Everyone had their big moments, including the supporting cast like the soldiers and those monitoring holograms in Voltes V’s headquarters.

Miguel, Matt and Raphael Landicho’s climactic scene as conflicted Armstrong brothers showed a spectrum of grief – from Miguel as the eldest Steve trying to hold back tears but he really cannot that they drip even from his nose; to Matt as Robert or “Big Bert” who displays superb martial arts and helicopter stick moves like in the cartoons but reduces into a mama’s boy; to Raphael as “Little John” – an engineering boy genius but still bursts like a true “bunso” (youngest child). Add to that Carla, who might look like she’s just the three boys’ sister, but nonetheless, broke hearts as the boys’ mom Mary Armstrong with her unconditional love and ultimate sacrifice.

During this emotional film highlight, you might wonder why the other team members – Ysabel Ortega as Jamie Robinson and Radson Flores as Mark Gordon – are not crying and that seems rather unusual and not empathic, especially for those who grew up seeing over-the-top weeping and group hugs in Philippine telenovelas. But later on, you’d realize that they are not as emotional not only because they are not related to Carla by blood, but because their characters dictate that they are trained warriors and tough soldiers. Also them not crying leave the stage to the three boys who deserve the attention at that moment.

Yes, the film has that signature Filipino drama or “iyakan,” but the emotions and reactions showed were just enough to affect you to shed your own tears as a viewer, especially since Filipinos can relate much to being close to their moms or “maka-nanay.” 

All Voltes V team members establish chemistry as real friends and as a real team. Although they all still have much to improve when it comes to fighting footwork, they deliver very believable facial expressions and movements whenever they control their aircrafts and robot. All costumes and props are true to the colors, features and textures in the original cartoons.

As for the villain side, many are gushing at Martin del Rosario as a very handsome Prince Zardoz! He seemed to have really popped out of the comic books and owned that character by looks, perfectly groomed locks, costume, voice and even tiny eye movements. As a royalty, his walking and swordfights do command some scare, but his unexpected banters with Epi Quizon as his beast fighter maker Zuhl are not corny and do break the ice.

Dialogues, storyline

Those who have been taunting GMA Head Writer Suzette Doctolero that she would allegedly insert GMA soap operas’ serial “kabitan” (mistress) themes into “Voltes V: Legacy” might be disappointed to know that there is none in the film. This action-packed project, though, seals Suzette’s forte in fantasy storytelling and at the same time, diversifies her portfolio to include science-fiction.

The dialogues are conversational, not pretentious, and portray Filipinos as smart, well-traveled and well-educated. Although multilingual in dialogues, the movie mostly showcases a more poetic form of Filipino, occasionally injected with gay lingo and modern-day pop culture terms like “fake news,” which help bring the “Voltes V” brand from the ‘70s to today’s Gen-Zs. 

In total, the “Voltes V” cinematic experience is even better than many Hollywood live-action group superhero movies, including the dud “Power Rangers.” Not only does “Voltes V: Legacy: The Cinematic Experience” should make rounds in theaters worldwide. It should also be up there and in the running to collect awards particularly in directing, scriptwriting, cinematography, costumes, production design, musical score, and most especially, for acting. Superhero movies are usually snubbed in awards as CGI and fight scenes typically overtake the acting, but in this movie, there is definitely a healthy balance in shifting the spotlight between the actors and the special effects.

Truly, this is one film Filipinos could be very proud of, so let’s all volt-in to support!

RELATED: 'Voltes V: Legacy' stars share the best summer of their lives

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