Saturday, July 30, 2022

Fantasia ’22: Mighty Robo V (short)

Waste, corruption, and mismanagement all hallmarks of every government program known to man. Why would we expect anything different from a mecha-kaiju defense initiative? It turns out the Philippine Giant Monster Defense Institute (PGMDI) is just as dysfunctional as any other state-run enterprise. A documentary camera crew exposes the truth in Miko Livelo & Mihk Vergara’s short film, Mighty Robo V, which screened during the 2022 Fantasia Film Festival.

The cameramen will actually be following the crew of Mighty Robo V 2, because their predecessors just got killed by a kaiju. Unfortunately, Dr. Rody Rodriguez has been using the PGMDI’s budget to cover his online cock-fighting gambling losses, so he has solicited sponsors for each of the giant mecha-robot’s weapon systems. To rebuild public support, he has recruited a team of online influencers to be the new crew. Frankly, his corruption has driven his competent deputy, Laser Panganiban to drink—heavily.

Mighty Robo
is a razor-sharp satire that persuasively applies James Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory to Ultraman-style bureaucrats. This film has bite, especially the unhinged diatribes of the country’s president, whose growling tone very much resembles that of Duterte (who was still in office at the time of the film’s production). Regardless, it makes one thing clear. Government employees will always put their own interests first, even when giant monsters are rising out of the Pacific Rim. By the way, the PGMDI can’t call them “kaiju” anymore, because that term is deemed an offensive slur.

GB Labrador and Aryn Cristobal give the best short-form comedic performances of the year, as Rodriguez and Panganiban. Think of the most cringe-inducing behavior ever seen in either version of
The Office, raise it to the power of four and then add a kaiju attack.

Mighty Robo V
cries out to be expanded into a full feature, assuming Livelo & Vergara can maintain the energy and caustic attitude. It is a shrewd kaiju satire and a brutally honest depiction government in action. Very highly recommended, Mighty Robo V had its international premiere at this year’s Fantasia.