I chanced upon this much-hyped trailer for GMA Network’s latest fantaserye Encantadia, a retelling-sequel or “re-quel” of the 2005 series that heavily borrowed themes from Philippine mythologies and foreign mythical epics, most notably that of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
The comparisons with the Tolkien epic came at a time when the LOTR trilogy was really popular, but this isn’t to say that the parallelisms were baseless. Instead of the Rings of Power, Encantadia has four brilyante or jewels that are integral in maintaining peace in the kingdom. There are also four main “races” similar to the peoples of Middle Earth and the enemy kingdom Hathoria bears an uncanny resemblance to Mordor.
But Encantadia still went on to become a commercial and critical success during its 2005 run. It was followed by a prequel and two sequels and now, in a few more weeks, we get to have another version of the original series.
The teaser opens with silhouettes of the four sang’gre walking towards the camera in full battle gear. The first few frames show that these ladies are bad-ass warriors; they defy the helpless princess trope seen in typically androcentric tales that involve throne wars and royal crowns.
The rest of the teaser are simply a montage of the different characters, possibly just a way to introduce the new actors reprising the old roles. We still see glimpses of old teleserye cliches particularly the presence of at least four love teams.
The overall look of the teaser indicates that the production is going for the typical fantasy grandeur instead of a more realistic treatment. The bluish light in the opening scene looks rather cheap and the rest of the CGI are not as convincing. To be fair, however, even the directors of the show acknowledge that their budget could never equal the caliber of foreign shows like Game of Thrones.
But more than the budget and the capacity for elegant CGI, I predict that the narrative itself will be weakest point of Encantadia. The original story wasn’t as compelling even though the production was commendable. If not for the arguably novel concept of integrating mythology in a primetime series, Encantadia didn’t really usher a 180 degree turn in how we write the Pinoy teleserye.
Most teleserye are hinged on the star power of its actors. The 2005 Encantadia even had to add two new characters in order to promote Jennylyn Mercado and Yasmien Kurdi who then just won the popular reality show Starstruck. Even though the new Encantadia has showbiz newcomers in its top roles, the build-up for the introduction of the new sang’gres tells us that the actors are still the main attraction and not the story.
This dynamic limits the possibility of a more nuanced portrayal of the characters and, in the case of Encantadia, of an accurate representation of regal wars. Because these actresses have endorsements and public image to take care of, their characters are limited to either being morally upright or unrealistically evil. Their roles never get fleshed out, no concept of moral ambiguity, no sense of character motivation in shades of gray instead of just black and white.
So while the public may deem Encantadia as the ultimate example of Pinoy creativity, I will continue to hold Pinoy pop culture to a higher standard. My expectations are very low but I’m on board, ready to be proven wrong.