Cicak Man (Review)
Directed by Yusry Kru
Cicak Man is Malaysia’s first super-hero film and was the first Malaysian film I saw. It is not a straight film, but instead a comedy, something I was not aware of when I watched it. In viewing many films from around the world, one thing you notice is some comedy translates well, and some comedy dies a horrible death under your sink. Usually, the more talky comedy is the hardest to translate, but there is another type that is hard to pass, and that is the comedy of body language. Many comedians throughout the world have their own body language types, and it is often interesting to seen what different people see as goofy comedy. Saiful Apek is a popular comedian in Malaysian and does what I am guessing is his signature goofy style, but to many outside observers I can see how it would translate poorly into some annoying guy with spastic convulsions. I am going to admit it took me a while to get used to how he acted, especially since I thought he was just the wacky sidekick character as Yusry Kru plays the confident ladies man part really well. But Saiful Apek’s Hairi Yatim ends up getting the genetic alterations that turn him into Cicak Man (Gecko Man) and inherits all the problems that entails. And he did eventually grow on me, but this is not a film that will have wide crossover appeal or show the world the wonders of Malaysian cinema.
Super hero comedies are not a new thing in Southeast Asia, the Philippines puts out dozens of such films and Thailand has their own brand of goofy films. Cicak Man tried to be a bit more ambitious than the usual “some comedian gets wacky super powers” route and went for creating a distinct universe for Cicak Man to take place in. The setting is the city of Metrofulus, which looks to be a cross of Chicago and Metropolis, with some San Francisco thrown in for kicks. The weather is snowy, nothing like the tropical climate of Malaysia. The money there is called fulus. There is also taxes on everything. Nothing is free in Metrofulus, from riding the bus to walking on the sidewalk. It is some sort of Libertopia, except Libertopia is threatened (besides from the fact that Libertarianism is stupid) by an evil professor looking to make money off of the cures for diseases he also designs himself. Hey, it’s a free market, baby! Thus, Cicak Man must stop him before it is too late.
We meet Hairi and Danny on the bus, along with Miss Tania Ashraf, the object of Hairi’s affection, though he is too afraid to even talk to her. Hairi works testing vaccines on animals (using geckos instead of mice) and is trying to cure virus 666 for his boss Professor Klon. An infected gecko escapes and sneaks into Hairi’s coffee. I think that is a seasonal blend from Starbucks, actually. Mocha Geckochino. Klon is visited by Ginger 1 and Ginger 2, and Klon comes up with a scheme to get more money.
There is an outbreak of virus 266 in Metrofulus that day, and Professor Klon announces they have a cure and will be marketing it. But Hairi only discovered the cure that morning! The FDA must work fast there. Danny realizes that the virus they cured last month suddenly appeared right after they found the cure as well. Have you spotted the pattern yet? It is easier to see than Waldo in an empty desert. That night, geckos flock to Hairi’s room, and he wakes up on the ceiling in the morning.
In order to investigate Professor Klon, Hairi steals Tania’s all access pass, and he and Danny break into Klon’s office and hide when Klon and the Gingers enter. The evil trio discuss Plan Z, where Klon has kidnapped 5 ministers (like congressmen) and has made five clones, who will write a new constitution putting Klon in charge. I am sure no one will find that suspicious. Tania stops by Professor Klon’s hideout to deliver a speech to him, and she overhears Professor Klon loudly explaining his plan.
Hairi finally realizes he can walk on walls, so he decides to be a superhero name Cicak Man and rescue the ministers from Professor Klon’s mansion. He dresses in an old-school costume with a simple lone ranger mask and cape. Inside, the Gingers chase him (or “her” as they think he is a girl) and he jumps out a window to his death.
Not dead! So he has Wolverine healing factors! Just like real geckos…
Hairi makes a new costume. Meanwhile, Tania resigns her job, but as the Gingers and Professor Klon still think it was a girl that broke into the house, they think it was her. Luckily for them, Tania has a habit of walking alone down dark alleys at night… Cicak Man saves the day, beats up the Gingers with some Matrix stuff. Fitting, since the Gingers are just stolen from Matrix Reloaded. Eventually the Gingers run off when one loses his sunglasses. Cicak Man runs away also instead of talking to Tania. I guess we don’t get an upside down Spiderman kiss like most of these films. How not sad.
Tania runs into Danny and explains about how Professor Klon has gone creepy. She asks for his phone number because she thinks he is Cicak Man. Hairi is losing human cells and gaining lizard cells, if he and Danny can’t stop it, Hairi will lose his humanity and become a gecko. Then he will only have jobs available at Geico! Okay, I made it THIS FAR without making a Geico joke. Aren’t you proud of me?
Cicak Man crashes the launch party of the vaccine for virus 266 and declares that the president is a clone (he isn’t, but the five ministers there are) and accuses Professor Klon. The mistake of picking the president to try to look for a bar code on his stomach ends in humiliation and headlines screaming that Cicak Man molested the president. A montage afterward shows Cicak Man doing good deeds, only to be further demonized by the press. Maybe Cicak Man’s plan would have worked had he paid attention and remembered it was only the Minsters who were clones.
The Gingers capture Tania’s roommate Nadia and Tania’s Cicak Man Scrapbook with clues that point towards Danny as Cicak Man. Cicak Man rescues the kidnapped ministers, but starts becoming more like a gecko and can no longer stand upright. In addition, Danny has been taken by the Gingers and left a note. Very thoughtful. Cicak Man is captured by the Gingers using rubber bands, which I hear is one way people get geckos to run off overseas. Now that I explained it, go back and laugh at the joke, you non-cultured swine!
Cicak Man escapes and fights on the rooftop with the Gingers. He tosses Ginger 2 off of the roof, and sucks Gigner 1 into an exhaust fan. Wow, graphic murder of evil henchmen! Professor Klon arrives with Danny, he will inject Danny with the cure to Cicak Man Disease, which will make Danny sick. Remember that stuff about the cure is worse than the disease? Now it is in film form! Cicak Man grabs the cure and is about to use it when a black-leather clad guy appears, he’s the evil clone of Cicak Man made by Professor Klon! Now we got a twin fight!
Cicak Man loses because he is too regressed to lizard form and is tossed over the side of the building. Professor Klon and the Clone just leave, not even checking. Thi is stupid because we all remember Cicak Man can walk on walls, and, sure enough, he is just hanging on the side of the building. Danny injects Cicak Man with the cure that will prevent him from reverting to more of a lizard.
Then Danny dies! What? Isn’t this a comedy? We just lost a main character here!
We get a longer Cicak Man vs. his clone fight, the clone is punched off of the roof, falls into a sign, and is then hit by a truck. Just how my father died. Professor Klon is tied up and arrested by the police later.
Your greatest enemy is yourself
At the end, Tania thinks Danny was Cicak Man, and hates Hairi for not rescuing him. Hairi hates that his friend died. Both are wandering around in the rain feeling sorry for themselves. And Professor Klon might just be a clone of himself, vowing revenge. The end!
Until the sequel, which is out as of the time of me revising this review.
So the film is odd, and although it is inspired by American super-hero productions, it strays from the formula at times. The comedy elements are okay once you get used to how Saiful Apek acts. I don’t think he’ll ever catch on in the US. I enjoyed Cicak Man, but it took a while to get comfortable enough with it to enjoy it, and due to that I wouldn’t be recommending it to people. I wouldn’t stop anyone who did want to see it, though, so if you are intrigued then seek it out.
Rated 5/10 (Jumping in the coffee, scared minister, costume design, rejected costume, bar codes for everyone!)
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