‘Genesis’: Large-scale teleserye

GMA series offers a mixed genre of drama, romance, science fiction, and disaster - and fast storytelling

TEMPLATE. Dingdong Dantes as upright, romantic hero. Photo from the show's Facebook 

MANILA, Philippines – How the world will end is a question that has always fascinated many. Imagining its destruction especially as a result of natural disasters has been the subject of many a novel and disaster movie eagerly patronized by various audiences. Hollywood has been quite successful in churning out disaster-themed movies such as “Armaggedon” and “2012,” both costly productions because of their awesome special effects that drew in huge audiences in the US and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, locally, GMA has embarked on an ambitious television project, banking on this “end of the world” theme. Its new primetime series “Genesis,” starring Dingdong Dantes, debuted on October 14. It’s a cruel irony for the serye, unfortunately, that the very next day after its TV premiere – its initial scenes featured asteroid fragments falling from space, triggering earthquakes and landslides which cause much damage to lives and properties in Baguio City – parts of the Visayas, notably the island province of Bohol, would be devastated by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that damaged the island’s iconic churches and other properties, and also caused a rising toll of injuries and deaths.

Mixed genre

Upheavals of both the physical and political kind are central to this teleserye, going by the show’s teaser leading up to the first 3 episodes shown in the week of October 13. “Genesis” offers a mixed genre of drama, romance, science fiction, and disaster. The show opens with a scientific discovery from the US that an enormous asteroid is headed on a collision course with Earth and the collision is expected to take place within a matter of 3 months.

The US government quickly dispatches a spacecraft piloted by several of its astronauts. Their mission, to blast the asteroid into fine fragments that may float harmlessly away in space. Unfortunately, the mission does not go as expected. The asteroid debris from the blast are still way too big, with one hitting and damaging the spacecraft while the rest fall quickly and heavily on the formerly lovely city of Baguio – which, incidentally, has been steadily undermined, anyway, by official neglect through the decades.

The confusion brought by the asteroid shower provides the perfect chaos hiding the sinister plot of Philippine President Ramona Escalabre (played by Jackie Lou Blanco) against the more popular Vice President Edgardo Salvacion (veteran actor Robert Arevalo), because he is plainly an obstacle to her reelection bid. The VP is in Baguio attending the Panagbengga Festival – nice tieup of that touristic event to this story – when the asteroid fragments hit the city, causing a scene far uglier than the sight of SM from Session Road.

From Manila, President Escalabre orders the chopper for the VP pulled out of Baguio, leaving the VP in peril. VP Salvacion falls into an abyss and dies. Capt. Isaak Macalintal (Dingdong Dantes in his return to the teleserye genre), who heads the security group assigned to the VP and his daughter Sandra Sebastian-Trinidad (Lorna Tolentino), soon discovers that the President was responsible for that chopper abandoning the VP. When Isaak refuses to cooperate in the coverup, the President has him framed up in a supposed assassination plot against her.

And in grand teleserye fashion, Isaak is arrested right on the day of his wedding to Raquel Hernandez (Rhian Ramos) – not just any girlfriend, mind you, his childhood sweetheart. Isaak is then court martialed and sentenced to life imprisonment – not the usual penalty to cap such a proceeding, especially when you consider the gravity of his supposed cirme.

Armageddon entertainment

So go the first 3 episodes of “Genesis.” The action runs fast, as Armageddon entertainment goes (a friend likes to misspell it as “Armogadon”). The special effects in the scenes depicting outer space, the US spacecraft, the asteroid, and its fragments falling in Baguio, as well as the ensuing earthquakes and landslides are fairly passable. However, this being to a large extent a science-fiction serye, one would hope that over time, the special effects would improve, requiring, of course, a bigger budget. Not for nothing is this the most expensive teleserye in Dingdong’s hands yet.

Isaak’s love story with Raquel is not to be ignored. The series relies on the palpable chemistry between the two leads. Undeniably, they look and work great together, being two of the most splendid-looking folks in showbiz to date, and that chemistry was already established in their first GMA series together, “Stairway to Heaven.”

Dingdong is being touted by the GMA Kapuso station as the Primetime King and rightly so. He’s in his element here, playing not just the dashing romantic hero, but a strong, reliable, kind-hearted, and incorruptible man who will offer a beacon of hope and salvation to people in the midst of the impending global destruction. The kind of character template we dismiss or uphold, depending on one’s elitism or open-mindedness.

The show also benefits from a powerful supporting cast (which also includes renowned actors Irma Adlawan and Art Acuña, among others).

“Genesis” looks promising. One would hope that it maintains its fast-paced storytelling and not drag on like most telenovelas. GMA has had its fair run of success in the science-fiction genre, with “Zaido” in 2007. Perhaps it is high time that this genre be revived further to give audiences a more diverse and enjoyable television fare, apart from the overwrought melodramas that have proliferated over the years. – Rappler.com

Jennifer Sta. Ana-Pajarillo is a lawyer and a pop-culture enthusiast.

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