“Ang Panday” is definitely a big movie. In it’s roughly two-hour running time, there are huge crowd scenes, a chase sequence on foot through the streets of Tondo, a world of fairies, a mob of aswangs and ninjas, and dozens of special effects.
It quickly establishes the mythology in an impressive animation sequence and the backstory with a stylized coverage much like “300” and “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.”
It’s big and action-packed and quite thrilling.
When everything is set, it flashes forward to present-day Tondo in a huge chase sequence with a meticulously shot fight sequence between Flavio (Coco Martin) and a whole gang of men. Flavio is of the line of Pandays and is the saviour of the world from the forces of evil led by Lizardo (Jake Cuenca), and the next hour or so is spent establishing it.
Establishing Flavio’s world and character takes a large chunk of the story with varied subplots including an underdeveloped love story (the romantic interest, Maria, barely has any dialogue and people like her just because she’s pretty and nothing else), a romantic sidestory for Flavio’s sister that never really goes anywhere, a gay subplot for Flavio’s younger brother, and more opportunities for our lead character to ride around a motorcycle through Tondo.
Halfway through the movie, Lizardo decides to unleash his plan to cover the world in darkness and Flavio must accept his fate as the saviour of the world when an old man comes to him to tell him his destiny. Then the whole plot moves to Flavio retrieving the magical sword that will help him save the world from Lizardo’s evil plans.
It’s a huge story that keeps jumping from subplot to subplot. It’s audacious in its presentation of this narrative. There’s a rap battle during a mob scene, a music video montage to encapsulate the whole love story of Flavio and Maria (Mariel de Leon), a gay beauty pageant, a fight scene on top of the roofs of the houses of Tondo, a large attack of aswangs over the residents of Tondo, and so much more.
As a blockbuster film, it delivers in size and scope, if not in cohesion or narrative flow. It jumps from scene to scene without really building up the characters. Everything is absolute and black and white: Flavio is good (even if he is a troublemaker) and Lizardo is bad. There are no nuances or layers to any of this.
And this can be passed over for light and breezy watching if “Ang Panday” did not rest on a sole saviour plotline — that the solution to the world’s problems lies in the hands of one man. And not for any reason other than he is the grandson of The Panday. It is a hereditary title and all Flavio has to do is to claim it.
Yes, he trains and, yes, he cares for his family and the people around him. But he’s also a troublemaker, who is not above starting fights and stabbing people with a knife because they got into a fight. The film takes time to state that you need a good heart to beat evil but all the movie ever shows is that you have to be Coco Martin, wielding a magic sword, to truly defeat evil.
And when the entirety of the film lies on that belief, it takes away the idea of heroes being just any one of us. Flavio’s own capacity for good is taken away from him because it’s not a choice. It’s his destiny and he never fights it.
As a consequence, “Ang Panday” fails to live up to the audacity and bigness of its ambitions.