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Review: Heneral Luna, or Manood na ang mga hindi pa nagsisipanood, puñeta!

John Arcilla IS Antonio Luna.

I have been waiting for the film that would bring Da Couch Tomato out of retirement. And I never expected it to be a Filipino film.

Viewers and critics have been hailing this as “the hope of Philippine cinema”. That would, of course, be unfair to other contemporary filmmakers, because we wouldn’t call their films “hopeless” now, would we? But I think we all agree that Heneral Luna is definitely a breath of fresh air in this Hollywood-saturated market. And as Hollywood continues its downward spiral of remakes and reboots, we definitely need more films like this.

Here are six reasons why you should go see Heneral Luna on the big screen, and not wait for the torrent to come out. (Shame on you!)

Box office sales mean revenue for the filmmakers
Which in turn is the yardstick by which a film’s success is measured. If it makes enough money, that means people actually watch films like these, and that means studios need to make more of these movies so viewers can watch them and generate money for the studios to make more movies… you get the drift. It’s a cycle, and also an upward spiral.

It’s Philippine history
Granted, the filmmakers have posted a disclaimer at the beginning about taking creative liberties and artistic license. But if it’s films like these that would make grade school students head to the library to borrow actual history books, if only to find out what really went down during the Revolution, then the filmmakers have done a good job.

It’s a great production
The entire production, from the costumes to the make-up to the sets to the cinematography to the camera movement to the special effects, were excellent, especially the visual reference to the older Luna’s masterpiece “The Spoliarium”. If ever there were any lapses or inconsistencies, I either didn’t notice them, or I let them slide. No viewer would let nitpicking get in the way of an awesome viewing experience.

Probably one of the most awesome frames and references in this film.

It's got an awesome acting ensemble
John Arcilla, of course, was the true star, and like a general on the battlefield, his mere presence in the film practically raises the other actors' performances to their A-game. Epy Quizon as Apolinario Mabini was brilliant. Archie Alemania was great as the film's comic relief, while Mon Confiado as the stoic president of the First Republic nailed the look on the old 5-peso bill down to the flattop. I just thought the young Manuel L. Quezon wasn't mestizo enough, and Arron Villaflor as the writer Joven was probably this film's weakest link, maybe due in part to him sharing most of his screen time with Antonio Luna. And speaking of screen time, we wish we'd seen more of Nico Antonio as Supremo Andres Bonifacio.

It utilised the Unified Cinematic Universe Theory (patent pending)
I had this same idea a few years back, and I call dibs on the UCU Theory, should I decide to write an academic paper on it. This technique was started by television spin-offs, such as Cheers - Frasier, and more recently Breaking Bad - Better Call Saul. Its cinematic use was popularised by the Marvel superhero film franchises, wherein different films share a connected universe, utilising the same actors and a shared inter-connected storyline. This film has a sequel, which we can surmise will be about Heneral Gregorio "Goyong" del Pilar, and will still star Paulo Avelino as the boy general, which was revealed in a very, very short segment stuck in the middle of the end credits. Just like in a Marvel movie.

It achieved its intended effect(s)
Some of which are: renewed nationalism, historical rediscovery, national pride, new perspective on old history lessons, collective online conversations and debates, an Oscar-nomination campaign, new-found respect for Filipino movies, and countless and priceless Heneral Luna memes.

Heneral Luna, scanning the horizon for an Oscar nomination.

Heneral Luna.Philippines. 2015.

Rating: 8.9 / 10


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