Featuring: Farid Kamil , Jehan Miskin , Peter Davis
Director & Writer: Mamat “Zombies from Banana Village” Khalid
Finally! After untold months (3 or 4?) in the desolate outback of, well, The Outback, I’ve made my way to the next leg of my World Tour – Malaysia! And so continues…
Before I get started, today’s episode is brought to you by Bon Jovan Musk™ – for when you want to smell like the silver medal of New Jersey rockers!
Apokalips X comes from the Pu Pu Platter of Asia – Malaysia. A melting pot of its fellow nations, Malaysia boasts a spicy cross section of native Malay, Chinese and Indian backgrounds. Filmed in the capitol city of Kuala Lumpur (or as Kent Brockman calls it, “France!”), Apokalips X is the Frankensteinian creation of Mamat Khalid, also the writer-director of Malaysia’s first zombie movie: Zombies from Banana Village. Beyond its “probably funnier to us that it is to them” title, I know nothing about ZfBV. Given my time with Apokalips X, I’m not entirely sure I want to go through the trouble of tracking it down for a review, either…
Our movie takes place in the semi-distant future. The year is 20… uhm… 20*mumble*mumble*. Some amount of time after the global nuclear holocaust that the Terminator franchise has been promising us for 30 years now. Instead of Linda Hamilton scorched alive while clinging to a chain link fence, we get a little Malaysian girl on a tricycle pancaked by a giant tire. I guess ground zero was a “Tires We R” warehouse? Denied the toe-eating Roombas and genocidal Alphie II‘s James Cameron promised us, it turns out that mankind didn’t need help killing itself off in this reality. In the aftermath of Smilin’ Joe Fission’s going away party, the world is the typical bombed out wasteland you’d expect it to be.
The remainder of Kuala Lumpur’s surviving citizenry have gathered into clans, living in the handful of bombed out buildings that still stand (all of which look EXACTLY the same). Each clan consists of high school age kids (with a couple of younger exceptions to appeal to the “kids are SO CUTE!” demographic), which is really weird because you wonder where all of the adults are. When they give you a minimal explanation of how the groups came to be later on, it makes almost as little sense as Adam & Eve birthing all of mankind, but with almost as much implied incest. And so begin the migraines this movie forces into my brain for the next 100 minutes.
The majority of the kids are decked out in variations of school uniforms (because
Japan Asia), though there are 3 outlying groups – the Sugi-Oh (Baseball Furies in hockey masks), the Pencak Silat (who dress like samurai on Casual Friday) and the Chi-Kanoz (yep, Asians dressed like Chicano gang-bangers whose dialogue consists almost entirely of shouting “LOCO!”. Blart). These three have almost no part in the overall story, as they don’t show up until the third act and spend the majority of their screen time as superfluous bodies in the finale rumble. There are extras, then there are extras.
The progenitor of this social structure is wise old sage Pendita (IMDB is of no help here) who, after watching the number of clans whittle each other down from 30 to 5, told everybody to stop their shit and shake hands. He declared a peace accord that everyone would squash their subsequent beefs and instead dedicate themselves to preserving life. Poppa Pendita put together a quorum of “Big Brothers” (and a “Big Sister”) to keep the remaining youth in check and to manage the city’s resources so no one group would have too much power. Though the movie makes NO EFFORT TO EXPLAIN WHO’S IN CHARGE OF WHAT, from casual observation I’ve pieced together that the 5 resources are oil/gasoline, vegetation (probably food, maybe weed), and…errr…party drugs, metal music and…club kid haircuts?! It’s not clear! There’s still electricity, but the power plant operates in the “Free Zone”, because no one should have control over such an important resource (except for Rubenesque slacker Pipit, the ONE guy who knows how to run it)… a resource so important that they use it to charge their handheld gaming devices and plug in their amps and power their cryogenic freezer unit that’s ALSO never explained…
This movie seriously makes me feel like Nigel Patrick’s a-hole role in the “Blind Alleys” segment of Tales From the Crypt: no idea where I’m going and every time I try to feel my way through this maze of darkness I get a handful of razor blades. Fuck.
The five leaders are also endowed with swords as a sign of their power, and are the only ones who carry weapons as the kids are left to fight mano-a-mano (“hand-to-hand” NOT “man-to-man”, pendejos!). Said sword-wielders are X (Farid Kamil), Kala (Jehan Miskin), Sri Gala (Peter Davis), Kulat (Zoie Tam), and Melur (you’re a crumb bum, IMDB). X is our de facto good guy, playing pacifist and lauding diplomacy over fisticuffery. He’s no angel though, as drug-induced (yep, he’s a snow bunny!) flashbacks hint at some life changing moment that ruined the dance of clashing steel phalli for him years earlier. Speaking of seraph, X also has some weird-ass “wings” that look like streams of gas vapor being blown out of his shoulders and allow him to float off of tall buildings, negating the need for elevators. If you’re waiting for an answer on what this is or why it’s happening? Yep, more fucking razor blades! GAH!
Sri Gala subscribes to the opposite philosophy of X’s “you can’t hug your kids with nuclear arms”, instead pushing that fighting/domination equals strength and only through that strength will they guarantee their survival. Kala is a violent lunatic who would also like to unite the tribes, but only under his bloody boot heels when he becomes king of everything. We meet him as he’s returning from a two year absence spent sleeping in a big freezer with tubes attached to his nipples. (Don’t ask unless you like headaches and bleeding hands.) Kulat (pronounced “culotte”) is the tough girl who will take no shit for her double ‘x’ chromosomes and runs the all-girl Klan Flora. Last (and certainly least) is Melur, who couldn’t settle on whether he wanted to emulate Jack Sparrow or The Love Guru, so he opted to be both…and constantly giggles like a dingleberry doing whippits. Pretty sure the only thing he uses his sword for is scraping the resin out of his comically large hookah.
Unsatisfied with just tackling the political ramifications of the scenario he’s put together, Khalid also gives us a cast of lesser tier characters to muddle things up and stretch the running time like a size queen in a sporting goods store. Most notable are Aman Chai (fuck you yet again, IMDB) and QiQi (Miera Layana), who are filling in the Romeo & Juliet roles that are mandatory whenever you have a movie about conflicting families/gangs/soft drink companies. Aman is X’s #2 who wants everybody to live together in peace and advance as an integrated society rather than fighting each other just to be kings of shit mountain. QiQi is Sri Gala’s daughter, which is kinda weird since the Big Brothers only seem to be maybe 10 years older than their wards…gross. Not only does Sri disapprove of the lass’s relationship with AC (Slater?), but Qi-Squared’s big brother Razor (Iqram Dinzly) fills the role of “over-protective douche-dick sibling” and keeps cunt-blocking the young would-be lovers during the communal dance parties the clans have. As The Matrix Step Up Revolution(s) taught us, you can destroy the world but dance parties will NEVER DIE!
Speaking of dancin’ and prancin’, some of the gangs like to do a little stomping wardance before their fights that make me think Apokalips X‘s marketing team could just slap “Step Up:” across the top of the box art, rent it out through RedBox kiosks and make a few million dollars worth of non-refundable rentals on it. Trust me, the majority of people who still haven’t figured out how to download movies for free are just ignorant enough that this would work!
The world outside of the city limits (Kim Cattrall?!) is a lawless badlands a la The Road Warrior and every pale (as a War Boy) imitation entry of the subgenre in the 20 years since. Emo Romeo (Romemo?) wants to run away with QiQi to this wasteland, because he’d rather chance death together than go on living this shitty shut-in life they have. There’s no force field or anything keeping the supposedly toxic air outside from coming in though, so is this just more lazy-ass writing, or is Khalid just stealing/”sampling” the plot of The Village times a hundred? I won’t spoil the answer, but I’ll tell you this much: ARGH! MORE RAZORBLADES!
Speaking of the world in which our teen combat drama unfolds, let’s have another nitpick! There are cars littering the cityscape, untouched and unmoved since the fire from the sky scorched their world so many years ago. So, I guess this mean nuclear bombs nullify combustion engines? But that can’t be the case, because X’s motorcycle, Malur’s bus and the outland bandits’ ATVs all run just fine…watch out for those plot holes, kids. One wrong step and you’re a pulped sack of now useless organs and calcium at the bottom of a friggin’ chasm.
There are some other ancillary characters to speak of too. You’ve got AC’s buddies, what’s-his-name and spazzoid (his Mercutio and Benvolio), the aforementioned Razor (Tybalt), a guy who just sings all the time and plays guitar (one of which he Honky Tonk Man’s a dude over the face with!), a precocious little girl who calls Kala a “worthless piece of shit”, some slimy dick puncher cosplaying as Rob Zombie from the cover of Hellbilly Deluxe who just goes around shanking people, along with his equally monikerless girlfriend (not worth going back to look up, really) whose entire selling point is that she wears an actual boa constrictor around her neck as a boa. Not that she ever does anything with it, but style over substance is what the kids like, right? Just ask Michael Bay.
There you have it, folks: your stage, your players, your motivations and your conflicts. Stuff happens. People fight and people die. More stuff happens. More fighting. X trains with Poppa Pendita to learn a new combat style and despite being the most feared warrior of the 5 clans, our hero looks like a little kid flailing around with a sword the entire sequence. More fighting. More dying. More stuff. The end! And what an end it is. Holy shit. Emphasis on the “holy”. And emphasis on the “shit”. What. The. Fuck. Forget grasping as those razor blades, because this finish just dumps a whole crate of the damn things all over you.
Hold onto your hats, junior cow pokers, cuz it’s time to wrap this stinker up and put a bow on it. Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first, because there’s not a lot to speak of. The fight choreography is mostly solid, though a lot of the hits don’t carry the impact to make them believable. With the exception of that guitar shot from Joe Strummy! Damn! Jeff Jarrett could take lessons! Speaking of guitars, the generic metal music is also not terrible. I wasn’t reaching for the earplugs or the mute button, so it’s okey if not entirely dokey. Also, I dig the hell out of the opening line “That was the day the sun rose West and the stars fell from the sky” to describe the initial dropping of the nukes. Awesome.
And now the not goodness. Foremost, Mamat Khalid doesn’t come off with any specific style of his own in the two hours we spend with him. Much like the nation that birthed it, Apokalips X is a hodgepodge of influences. It’s like Highlander meets The Warriors meets West Side Story thrown into a bag full of anime elements and set in a dystopic landscape. Unfortunately, it still manages to not reach the lofty heights of mediocrity, let alone amazing. A serious barb in my armpits about it is that about halfway through the movie, things turn a corner and stuff they spent an hour establishing for a major plot point gets tossed under the proverbial bus in favor of going a different direction all together. It’s like your partner going down on you, but before you can climax they stop, turn on NetFlix, and tell you you’re going to watch “The A-Team” instead. Not necessarily terrible, but why tease me with the tongue job in the first place if you weren’t going to finish it!?
As if the story weren’t already so much recycled toilet paper (a concept that already makes my fur bristle), Khalid tries way too hard to give his movie the look of a 2 hour music video. With needless “jumpy” editing that makes it look like the actors are doing minor teleporting through some sequences, and the camera filming like it’s strapped to a big pendulum for others. And the fucking crooked shots. Ra’s sake. I haven’t seen this many tilted camera angles since Battlefield Earth. I shit you not.
Adding to the “love it or leave it”, Khalid takes a cue from plenty of other action movies anymore and uses comic book style illustrations for that “cover up our limited funds without cutting the script” trick that directors with eyes bigger than their budgets rely on. It’s supposed to be “stylish”, but all it really does is make us wonder how much cooler the sequences could’ve been had they actually filmed them with the actors instead. Unless this whole movie is based on a comic book, in which case I can excuse it. But the info available on it is so bloody scant that I couldn’t find anything about an Apokalips X publication, nor did I see a “based on” line in the end credits… not that I really looked for it anyway. Shaddup.
Maybe Malaysians eat this stuff up, but Malaysia also has the world’s largest population of cobras so… I have no idea where I was going with that. I was hoping to make the “they also eat Lassie” joke, but it turns out that’s not a thing they allow in Malaysia, let alone endorse. It’s actually straight up illegal so…yeah. Moving on!
Oh well. AX didn’t live up to its own hype and left me with more than a few head scratching (down to the bone) plot holes. It’s times like this that I like to make the most of my situation, so I played “Lost in Translation” during my mandatory second viewing. Nothing to do with that movie where we get to see Scarlett Johansson in her underwear (*slurp*), this similarly labeled distraction involves viewing the aforementioned feature while both the English dub and English subs are on. It makes for an interesting contrast at times, from something as simple as rearranged sentence structures to changed relationships between characters to full-on abusive fondling of entire plot points! In this case, it appears that the subtitles are more likely the faithful adaptation of the dialog, while the dub seems to be geared toward a more politically correct script arranged to make it a more palatable PG-13 affair for American audiences. Such evidence includes the following sub-to-dub adjustments: “donkey” and “dickhead” both become “asshole”, “faggot” becomes “monkey”, and “shit” becomes “stink”. Maybe it’s just cultural connotations, but I find it funny that something almost childishly offensive like “donkey” becomes something way worse like “asshole”. If it had been changed to “jackass”, it would’ve made more sense. Either way, changing “You’re a pile of shit!” to “You’re a pile of stink!” is almost too good to miss, but not enough to hunt down Aplopalips X just to see it.
Then again, I have no more need for my DVD copy, so I’ll sell it to ya for $2. Also willing to trade for bits of string and gently used paperclips.
And so it goes. Gotta say I’m a bit disappointed in you, Malaysia. You sold me on a promising premise only to feed me a plate of generica with a side of nonsensica. Not unlike a bad blind date, I spent two hours cataloging all the reasons I shouldn’t have shown up in my head while you yammered on about how everybody thinks you’re smart and cool and not a twat. Sorry Mamat Khalid, but I just remembered that I have an early morning public execution to attend tomorrow, and my cat needs to be fed. If I’m not home to feed Bast by 8, she starts clawing my Egyptian Cotton sheets and barfing her unused stomach enzymes all over my sarcophagus. Don’t call me, I’ll call you…if I ever need an alibi.
Uhm, hope you made the most of those 5 years, little girl. I have a feeling you’re about to get short changed on any future birthdays you were hoping for.
Taco Tuesdays at the clubhouse are always followed by Gas Mask Wednesdays.
Oh, so this movie actually takes place in modern Detroit. The whole “post-apocalyptic fallout wasteland” stuff is just a metaphor. Gotcha.
If you don’t think these girls look very scary, you’ve never seen Kill Bill Volume 1. Nor have you considered how one week out of each month, these girls could take down a battalion of Navy Seals with ease.
Not to concern you, sir, but it looks like you have some heavy leakage in your fuel tank! You might wanna jettison it immediately and wait for fire officials to arrive!
Forget glass, Kala looks so cold that his nips could probably cut concrete!
“Alright! This is the issue where Batman and Superman finally kiss!”
Hey! Zombie! Hellbilly Deluxe 2 SUCKED! And so did Halloween 2! Unless it’s The Devil’s Rejects, STOP DOING SEQUELS!
Ladies, if your boyfriend wears fingerless gloves put a ring on it. Speaking of rings, give him the key to your backdoor, because he’s THE ONE. He’s more “the one” than Jet Li in The One. Seriously.
Kala’s super pissed that some girl at the same party totally stole his eyeliner, lipstick, AND big stupid fashion scarf. Call him “director”, because he’s about to make a SCENE!
Malaysian Shelley Duvall stars as Malaysian Sadako (NOT Samara!) in Malaysian The Ring, tonight on The Malaysian CW.
“Hey bro? Since you’re the only one allowed to carry a blade, you think we could use your sword to cut up our pizza? I mean, you’re a pacifist, so what do you really need it for anyway?”
Anubis will return next time in
“Son of Satan”
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