Cicak Man 2 – Planet Hitam
Directed by Yusry Kru (Yusry Abdul Halim)
Written by Yusry Kru and Meor Shariman
Cicak Man 2: Planet Hitam is an improvement on the original Cicak Man in almost every aspect. And while the original film had a few moments, it was mired in annoyances that just turned me off. The sequel manages to drop almost everything bad about the original film while ramping up almost everything good. It’s good to see something that might get noticed come out of Malaysian cinema.
Much of the original cast returns, even some characters who are dead show up to continue the fun. Danny does not return, even though Yusry Kru wrote and directed this installment as well. I think a dream cameo was filmed, but didn’t make it into the cut, because production synopsis mention Danny helping. The two Gingers (Adlin Aman Ramlie and AC Mizal) return in ghost form to harass Cicakman. Also Malaysian model Linda Onn has a brief role as Tania’s man-hungry camerawoman.
The overall setting is far less grand. Metrofulus looks less like the city of fantasy and Libertarian excess it was in the original film and looks more like Kuala Lumpur. This probably helped budget-wise, without the added pressure to dress up the city, they were freer to spend the money on other things like action set pieces. Though I thought some of the culture of Metrofulus was some of the more interesting parts of the original, I am glad they set themselves free to do more things. Saiful Apek is far less annoying as Hairi/Cicak Man this time around. I don’t know if he’s supposed to be acting more mature now that his friend had died, or that Apek realized that if he toned it down a few notches the film would be much more palatable for overseas audiences. In any event, it is a welcome change, and helps push Cicakman 2 far beyond its predecessor in enjoyability, the one factor that really matters. The fact we aren’t stuck with filling much of the running time with an origin story helps put the plot on a more traditional arc. No new ground is broken in the super hero genre, but that genre is so saturated at the moment that you have to work very hard indeed to go somewhere that hasn’t been gone before. Cicakman instead is trying to take familiar elements and make them Malaysian. Hairi’s life seems much more relatable now than when he was a wacky scientist in the original, with the struggling to find a job and family responsibilities.
Remember, cicak=gecko, and hitam=black, so the flick is Geckoman 2 – Planet Black. Now you are an expert in Malaysian.
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.