Alyas Batman en Robin
Directed by Tony Y. Reyes
Written by Joey de Leon and Tony Y. Reyes
The Philippines returns to prove nobody does Batman like they do! Batman continues to be a campy caped crusader, and all the familiar elements are here – the classic villains, evil doing, and saving the day. The stakes may be lower, but there is still wrongs to be righted. And Alyas Batman en Robin showed everymen becoming superheroes long before Mark Millar stole it for Kick-Ass. I’m on to you, Millar!
If you remember the overview of the Filipino Batman films I did at the beginning of the James Batman review, then you’ll remember Alyas Batman en Robin from 1993 is the most recent. So here it is! Part musical, part campy, part guys beating up people, and part a love story, Alyas Batman en Robin tries to be a lot of things. Let’s find out if it succeeds…
But first, the Roll Call!
Kevin and Kuya talk one and on, but Kevin isn’t studying like he’s supposed to be, he is reading comics! Kevin’s friend Jocson is reading a Joker comic book, but is trampled by a horde of teenage girls who chase after handsome Kevin, running him off from his swim meet.
More bumbling and slapstick happens for a while until Kevin is beaten up in a brawl because he is just too damn sexy. His friend Glasses (who is played by current self-help guru Chinkee Tan) gets caught in the crossfire, while Jocson watches and doesn’t help, thinking he did his duty by warning Kevin in the first place. Kevin is beat so badly he’s taken to the hospital.
When at hospital, Kevin argues with Jocson about comics and if Robin can have his own series (this must be before he did have his own series) also the Joker is mentioned. What is this, a Filipino Kevin Smith movie? What about all the innocent contractors killed to keep the Batcave secret? I’m not even supposed to be here today!
Kevin’s older brother Kuya beats up the guys who beat up Kevin and Glasses. Jocson gets recruited by his Uncle Paeng to join the gang. Since Jocson is going to be a criminal, he decides to be the best criminal there is…the Joker! So he dresses like the Joker and starts doing some Joker mannerisms. Keep in mind this was right after the Tim Burton Batman, so Jack Nicholson is influencing the film as much as the 1960’s Batman TV series. As the Joker laughs manically around the evil hideout, we see his boss has also dressed up as a famous Batman criminal…the Penguin! Except, he is Paenguin! Because of a pun on his character’s name, and it also meaning a dirty joke in Tagalog slang.
Joker and Paenguin are robbing a bank! They even gun down their own men. That always sounds cool, but it makes hiring replacements next to impossible. I don’t know how many Craigslist ads I had to put out the last time I gunned down my gang… And Christopher Nolan stole this plot point for his own Batman movie!
Angelique the reporter is investigating the Joker and Paenguin attacks, which soon become a crime spree. And, yes, have a bunch of new goons (who they shortchange with the pay!) Joker visits Lisa – the cat woman! Animal Beauties – she has a Supergirl-ish costume with a mask, lots of cats, and lots of other tough girls hanging out with her at her place
rob a bank…musical!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin wants Kuya to join him and be Batman and Robin. And there’s a slam on the Starzan films out of nowhere! Kevin gets his friend Glasses to make the costumes, Batmobile, Batcave, and everything. Kuya finally agrees after the gang robs a jewelry store, and we have a training montage. The montage song is a Batman and Robin sung to the tune of Surf City!
We immediately jump into another robbery and now the criminals are preforming a musical number. This is pretty surreal…but also pretty awesome. The Batcomputer warns Kuya and Kevin of yet another robbery, some goons are taking down an armored car. The boys quickly turn into Batman and Robin and rush to save the day. They drive up in their Batmobile and fight the armored car robbers. The Batman theme plays, total campy fun!
After the dust has settled, the media descends. Batman makes his move on hot reporter Angelique, agreeing to an interview at the cemetery at night. He ends up taking her back to the batcave, which is packed to the gills with cardboard computers with blinking lights. There is a joke as Batman offers drinks: “Bat-juice? Bat-coffee? Bat-milk? Bat-tea? Salabat?” (Salabat is ginger tea, and now you know Tagalog jokes!) While this is going down, Paenguin’s gang attack another bank, but Paenguin is mad because Joker selected a blood bank and yells at him.
Kevin is dismayed that all the girls who used to love him are now all in love with Robin. But when Kevin dresses up as Robin, it does nothing because all of the girls’ boyfriends are also dressed as Robin. I don’t think any Robin has ever had it this good.
The Paenguin gang robs another bank, this time Catwoman has changed costume to an all-gold number with an even bigger gold domino mask with wingtip flair. She’s like Lady Gaga, but thankfully never shows up with a meat dress. This time Batman and Robin ambush the gang in the parking garage! They fight, goons vs. heroes, and Robin catches Paenguin while Batman captures Catwoman (after a long fight where her character makes angry cat noises with every motion.)
Kevin and Vina have a love song when he finds out she is in love with him, while Kuya has a dream sequence that involves lots of girls in bikinis, including Angelique, who is menaced by goons until a masked Kuya saves her. This entire dream sequence is way to long, is filled with padding and conversations and failed jokes. The pacing of the film is thrown off-track!
In reality, Batman visits Angelique at night showing off his new Batman shirt that is being sold by vendors, while Paenguin breaks out of jail with a bunch of other random criminals (all of which are gunned down by the guards except Paenguin.) Joker sends a helicopter to pick up Paenguin, and now he’s free to terrify the city once again.
Kuya is in love and doesn’t want to be Batman anymore, forcing Kevin to storm off and be Robin all alone, beating up some thugs. The tabloids all wonder what is going on (if this was made nowadays, Twitter would be afire and bloggers would be pounding away in their basements!) Robin talks to Angelique at her newspaper office when the Paenguin gang storms the place looking for her. They think she knows the superhero’s secret identities because of her articles about them. Robin is shot and Angelique kidnapped.
Robin is in the hospital. Hey, bad guys, when you shoot someone, make sure he is dead! Lazy villains. Kuya visits him and you know he will be Batman again to avenge Robin. Kevin also leaves the hospital to be Robin against the advice of his friends. Batman storms in the Paenguin gang’s compound, dispatching guards and cornering Paenguin behind a cage door. Batman then beats up the Joker in a one-sided fight, and fights more random goons. But Batman is captured by gun-wielding felons! Except Robin slides in and disarms them, saving the day for Batman to defeat them again.
After the fight..everyone is arrested! Only after the police arrive and drag everyone away do the dynamic duo bother to go look for Angelique. Batman scores a date with her, because he’s Batman!
That’s it, good night everyon— HUH?? The movie isn’t over???
Joker and Paenguin escape from jail once again by digging under their toilet! We see every single dig. Paenguin and Joker plan to degrade Batman and Robin by dressing up as Batman and Robin and robbing banks! Things are gong fine until some other criminals spot them and start to beat them up because they think they are really Batman and Robin!
Batman and Robin have to save them, beating up the baddies along with the impostor Batman and Robin. Joker and Paenguin are demasked, and given a good talking to! They say there are sorry, so Batman forgives them because he is Jesus or something. Wow, strong christian values out of the blue! I guess someone decided to include Keempee’s conversion as part of the storyline (remember, he went into rehab and became born again during this time.)
In the end, Kevin and Kuya are playing pool as Paenguin and Joker come in (addressing them as Batman and Robin, so I guess secret identities are now by the wayside…) They have a gift, their old costumes, which is meant to show that they won’t be evil again. Kuya prepares to go on his date with Angelique…and she’s dressed as Wonder Woman!!
Actually, the real ending is the cast in costume singing “At the Hop!” except with different lyrics about being good, and a bunch of dancers dressed up as other superheroes dance around. There’s even a Spiderman midget!
Alyas Batman en Robin is a nice dose of campy Batman. The random musical elements, puns, and everyman approach to the film all coalesce together nicely. Sure, the plot is paper-thin and the characters has little depth, but I was entertained enough that this will get above average marks. It doesn’t hold a candle to James Batman, but few films do. As a fun film to watch with a group, this is a good choice, and a good example of optimistic low budget Pinoy cinema from the early 1990s, with the formulaic plots and cheap budgets needed to keep the films profitable. The pacing problems are my only main concern, sometimes the film grinds to a halt, sometimes it is slow in getting to where it wants to be (especially in the beginning!) And if they didn’t sing, the film would have sucked!
Alyas Batman en Robin is part of our Batmania series.
Rated 6/10 (My Joker Face, My Joker Face, Chinkee Tan, Spidey, Dancing Chinese Guy, Dancing Shirtless Goon)
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