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The Filipino coming of age film, Death of Nintendo, is deceptive because of the title. I wondered how video games factored into a story about three boys going through puberty and trying to understand the life they have under the shadow of Mount Pinatubo, a very active volcano. Plenty of level ups are going to be required to deal with school bullies and to win a certain princess’s heart.
Paolo (Noel Comia Jr.) is crushing hard on Shiara (Elijah Alejo). His friends Kachi (John Vincent Servilla) and Gilligan (Jigger Sementilla) are not as grown up and have their video games, a Famicom, to fall back to. We also see in Paolo’s room a lot of posters representing everything that’s considered manly. The Wolverine poster says it all.
The girls in this story seem just as confused. Shiara is this movie’s answer to Zelda; she’s pretty and her bedroom is decorated with American 80s and 90s pop culture icons. Olivia Newton John seems to represent everything that was pure and sweet. Mimaw (Kim Chloe Oquendo) is the tomboy and loves to tear heads off her Barbies, and she hangs out with the boys like she’s their sister.
These lads have a lot to learn. Sure, they can talk about their interest in the opposite sex, even with Mim there, but it her advice which gets them noticed. They can remain a shadow of what they can be or go to a crackpot witch doctor to get circumcised to show their transition into manhood. It’s a rite of passage no different than in what Shiara wishes to undertake, a ghost hunt in a local cemetery in hopes that they don’t run into a Manananggal, a vampire. This supernatural creature’s ability to separate itself removes the weaker part while the monster seeks nourishment.
The volcano is a threat. But in this film, it symbolizes the boy’s pent up problems of life at home with their mothers. The resurrection theme felt unimportant, as the tale takes place during Holy Week and leading to Easter. The tale tosses a lot of background themes at viewers. If I was to stick to the purpose of why the video game console is important, I believe it’s about how the boys wish to hold on to everything they enjoyed in life, as kids than teens.
Valerie Castillo Martinez has a terrific tale which picks up by act three. She tries to insert something of the Hero’s Journey into the narrative, but sadly the idea falls flat. There’s nothing in relation to the Orphic tale which makes sense. No one succeeds; Paolo doesn’t get the girl of his dreams, and Shiara–once key to the early narrative of the film–is no longer part of the story.
These boys have changed. They aren’t pining for the same girls as before, but as for video games, people who know their video game console history will get the reference. Their brotherhood is certainly intact, and well represented, but as for what’s next, it’s unlikely Martinez has plans for a sequel.
4 Stars out of 5