Whatever happens, the highly-anticipated superhero movie is bound to be surprising and more than a little weird.
We had just started grieving over director Erik Matti’s departure from the long-awaited ABS-CBN Darna film when it was announced that another high-profile auteur, Jerrold Tarog, would be getting the project back on its feet. While this probably means that the Liza Soberano-led superhero movie won’t be as gritty as it might have been under Matti’s touch, looking at Tarog’s eclectic filmography gets us excited about all the new, crazy possibilities. Let’s count the ways Tarog might choose to direct his own version of Darna.
The Darna Cinematic Universe
After seeing the sheer scale of Tarog’s Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, it’s likely that ABS will want the same grand treatment for the beloved Mars Ravelo character. Expect an interdimensional adventure, ridiculously high production values, and meticulously planned airborne battles. Not to mention a huge, A-list ensemble designed to set up future Filipino superhero films. We’re talking crossovers with Captain Barbell, Lastikman, or — if they run out of ideas — the guys from Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan. Stranger things can happen.
Narda: A Coming-of-Age Drama
ABS might also just stick to Matti’s vision of a more realistic Darna, which Tarog could pattern after his third film, Senior Year. Count on an increased focus on Narda’s journey as a young orphan. Her newfound powers would ultimately help her understand what it really means to grow up — especially as a 21st century woman, whose greatest enemies aren’t simply defeated with physical strength. It would be ballsy, but it would be one-of-a-kind. It just might make us cry.
Shake, Rattle & Stone
Hear us out: psychological horror in the vein of Tarog’s Bliss. All superhero narratives have freakish elements to them, and Darna is no exception; she literally chokes down an entire rock, then transforms into another person. This would also be a fascinating tone with which to introduce Darna’s archenemy: the shapeshifting, snake-haired Valentina. Done right, this version could shine a light on the risks and changes our heroes go through by simply possessing power — otherworldly, supernatural power.
Darna: Adranikan Warrior
Tarog’s sophomore film, Mangatyanan, is a story steeped in ritual and indigenous culture, and thus a solid touchstone for other movies in need of world-building. Not a lot of people know about the Adranika of the planet Marte (the place where Narda’s white stone comes from), and it wouldn’t hurt if ABS used this first new Darna film to establish some strong lore. It would have to get plenty weird, but a creative foundation always opens up to more possibilities.
Ding, ang Camera!
Let’s pretend that ABS is actually giving Tarog complete creative control. We just might get something like his first film, the mock documentary Confessional (co-directed with Ruel Antipuesto). Narda’s younger brother Ding, a budding YouTube star, is vlogging with his phone when his sister finds the stone. He proceeds to broadcast all her adventures, which only puts her in more danger. It’ll be like Chronicle or something. We don’t know. Look, we just want this movie to get made, okay.