May 13, 2019 Valentine: The Dark Avenger (Movie Review)
After 20 years of the modern superhero boom, superheroines have finally hit the upswing. There was 2004’s Catwoman and 2005’s Elektra which got the cold shoulder from audiences and critics, but they also led to female crimefighters unfairly getting the boot from studios themselves. However, they have made it past the glass ceiling through the likes of 2017’s Wonder Woman, 2019’s Captain Marvel, and the Supergirl TV series among others.
Still, Marvel and DC are not the only comic companies making superheroines. In Indonesia, Sarjono Sutrisno, Aswin MC Siregar, and Ian Waryanto created Valentine, a purple-clad vigilante, for Skylar Comics in 2012. Unlike Marvel – a comics company that got into films – Skylar Comics branched off from Sutrisno’s own film company Skylar Pictures. So, when it came time to bring Valentine to the silver screen, it did not have to travel far to find a crew. Ubay Fox (Roh Fasik 2019) and Agus Pestol (Arwah Noni Belanda 2019) took care of the direction, while they worked from a screenplay written by Beby Hasibuan (The Witness 2012).
Valentine tells the story of Srimaya (Estelle Linden: They Who Are Not Seen 2017), a humble café waitress in Batavia City who dreams of becoming an actor between taking orders. She gets her chance when she meets Film Director Bono (Matthew Settle: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer 1998) and his friend Wawan (Arie Dagienkz: Garasi 2006) who offer her the role of a lifetime. They would like her to become Valentine – the first reality TV superhero. She can hold her own against hoodlums, but when the masked supervillain Shadow rises, is it a step too far?
Titled as Valentine: The Dark Avenger, it will be released by Shout Factory Home Entertainment on DVD, Blu-Ray, and the major VOD and digital platforms on May 14th, 2019. ShoutFactory.com is even offering pre-orders. Is it a wonder worth going that far? Or is it an Asylum-level blunder? Originally released in late 2017 as just Valentine, it gained a subtitle in its journey to the west to play off the Avengers series of films.
While there is some sense in hitching up to the hype train that is Avengers: Endgame, Valentine is no mere mockbuster. For one, the production has a decent amount of cash behind it. The visuals are clean and clear. While the editing provides a smooth-enough flow to the scenes, particularly during the frenetic action sequences. It helps that Valentine is more of a Batman-esque superhero – favoring hand-to-hand combat and tools (like using handcuffs as a set of bolas) over CGI-intensive superpowers. That does not mean it is free from visible joins or CG, yet taken overall, it is a solidly put-together picture.
There are also a few elements that help it stand out from the pack, bar the basics of being an Indonesian superhero in an Indonesian setting created by Indonesians. The characters troubleshoot Valentine’s costume design as she goes along, going from something out of 2010’s Kick-Ass to pretty decent. It also avoids the usual superheroine pitfalls of high heels and ‘tactical’ cleavage. As far as heroes go, Valentine’s look is one of the more practical ones.
Beyond that, it wears its superhero tropes on its sleeve. The film does not Nolan-ise Valentine’s roots. One of Shadow’s henchwomen dresses up as a clown because she can. The others opt for altering makeup designs. Shadow himself looks like an all-black version of DC’s Deathstroke. Yet, it is not a campy flick either. There are tragic pasts to deal with, challenges to overcome, and lost faith to reclaim.
The film makes for an entertainingly cheesy hero romp for the most part. However, the biggest issues come when the film enters its third act. The plot was a little messy to begin with, yet it gets its threads all tangled as it rushes to its climax. Conspiracy, corruption, and Shadow’s true identity gets revealed, though it feels more confusing than explosive. Especially when it takes the focus from Valentine, who has been carrying most of the film, for plot points that received little build-up prior to the climax.
Still, it does not completely spoil Valentine as a whole. The dubbed English acting is pretty good, and the action is top-notch. Plus, the camerawork and editing keep everything moving at a smooth, steady pace. Yet, it does rely on the superhero genre’s tropes quite heavily, before leading to a baffling ending. Thus, it is unlikely to convert superhero skeptics, but it should please comic book fans quite well. The former can take half a star off the score, while the latter can add it. Overall, with everything considered, Cryptic Rock gives Valentine: The Dark Avenger 3.5 out of 5 stars.