Sunday, April 30, 2017

A.R.O.G. (2008)

After the huge success of the 2004 Turkish science fiction comedy G.O.R.A., a sequel was probably inevitable, but it took a good four years for the follow-up A.R.O.G. to come about. Potentially an optimistic sign, as it could mean the writers were working extra long and hard to deliver the best they could. Does it succeed? Let's see...

Turkish salesmen Arif is living comfortable with his beautiful alien wife Ceku, when his old enemy Logar shows up, seemingly wishing to make peace, and bless Arif and Ceku's marriage. This turns out to be a ruse, however, and Logar traps Arif and sends him to the distant past, while making himself up to look identical to his foe in order to abscond with Ceku. Arif, one million years into the past, has to work out what to do, and after a period of uncertainty and depression, he comes across a human civilization. This community of peaceful cavepeople, the Arog, are oppressed by a neighbouring tribe, and Arif, along with Crow, the rebellious and artful son of the villainous tribe's leader, strive to liberate the land, and get Arif back home...

A.R.O.G. is an example of a good sequel in one sense, but not so much in another. It has little to do with the first movie besides the main character, and what gets him sent to the past, which works both for it, and against the movie. On the negative side is that there's no Gora, or even any sci-fi elements (bar the framing), characters like 216, Bob Marley Faruk, Garavel, and more are nowhere to be seen, while the ones who do return are only present in the opening and closing minutes. Where it does work in how the series so far is kinda akin to the Tourist Ömer franchise, wherein the same lead character is in a wildly different location each movie. In that sense, it's like an anthology comedy, starring the same everyman lead Arif as each movie does something new, and that's something to be appreciated, as it means the film isn't just a retread of the first.

The film is also over two hours, but doesn't feel overlong. A few minutes could definitely have been trimmed, but as it is, the movie's not boring. Moving onto the story in its own right, it's fine. Not the most original of tales, but it's told in a way that feels fresh and enjoyable. The characters are fun, the conflict well-written, and the final standoff might be a bit too goofy for some with its anachronistic nature, but I didn't have too much of a problem with it. My biggest gripe was with the resolution for the bad tribe, which seemed a little too brief.

The humour in A.R.O.G. mostly lands. Thee are many funny lines, moments, and gags, as well as some amusing pop-culture references here and there. They don't feel too forced, seeing as how Arif would be exactly the kind of person you'd expect to spout them. As for the visual pop-culture jokes, the 2001 one felt a little obvious, but the Ghost-style pottery scene was hilarous. Perhaps my favourite gag in the film was Arif's bizarrely inaccurate concept of time travel, wherein he thinks if he advances prehistoric culture to a modern technological level, that'll make time catch up to the present.

The acting here is all pretty fun, with many good performances, especially from Cem Yilmaz. Özge Özberk is nice in her relatively brief but important role, and other returning actors from G.O.R.A. like Ozan Güven are nearly unrecognizable from the previous film. New actors to the series, such as Nil Karaibrahimgil, do fine jobs too. No real complaints about the acting, though I don't yet understand Turkish, so maybe a not-so-good performance flew past my radar. I'm sure there aren't any though.

The effects here look pretty good! The locations and sets are great, looking convincingly caveman-ish. Or at least, Hollywood caveman-ish. The make-up and costuming is all realized well. There's some CGI present, and it's not too bad. The biggest computer effects are a couple of prehistoric beasties, and they're clearly CG, but they don't look awful or anything, and are kept to a minimum. Onto the soundtrack, it's ok, and serves its purpose well.

One amusing little aside. A.R.O.G. is reportedly one of the most expensive Turkish movies ever made. While it of course doesn't look bad or cheap in the slightest, at first I was surprised that a film looking like this could have such a seemingly high budget!...uuuuntil I realized this is one of the most expensive Turkish movies ever made, which doesn't necessarily mean the budget was 450 million dollars, or something like that.

While not as good as G.O.R.A., A.R.O.G. is still quite a funny movie, and just like its predecessor a nice example of modern Turkish cinema. It also did super well at the local box-office! Until recently it seemed like this was the end of the series, but coming next year I believe is Arif V 216. Well that's a sequel that certainly took a long time! Hopefully it's as good a follow up as this is, and there are no diminishing returns. I remain optimistic, and I recommend A.R.O.G....

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