Jerrold Tarog on a more nuanced, more introspective Darna
Jerrold Tarog on a more nuanced, more introspective Darna
The director shares his plans for the upcoming superhero film

MANILA, Philippines – Darna is among the most familiar figures in Pinoy pop culture, but the upcoming Darna film by Jerrold Tarog may just show a different side to the beloved superhero.

In a podcast with Rappler’s Tristan Zinampan, Jerrold said that his take on Darna will be a coming-of-age film, as the original director Erik Matti had planned before he dropped out of the project.

Jerrold, who has been watching anime to gain inspiration for Darna’s action scenes, said that his take deviate from the original Mars Ravelo komiks, and will also be different from previous movies.

Ang dami ko nang deviations from the komiks and kung ano man ‘yung naiiwan na pwede kong galawin, y’un ang tintry kong ibalik dun sa komiks (I’ve already deviated a lot from the komiks, so whatever is left that I can play with, that’s what I am trying to connect back to the komiks),” he said.

Pero wala ako masyadong reference sa mga pelikula so kung may mga taong nageexpect na whatever their expectations are from the old Darna movies, medyo hindi ko na alam ‘yun (But I don’t reference much to the movies, so I don’t know what people would expect),” he added.

He said that while Darna’s origins in the komiks isn’t as fleshed out, he hopes to tell a more nuanced origin story in the film.

Ang tricky sa kanya kasi ‘yung origins ni Darna [sa komiks] medyo ang bilis. Parang issue #1, there’s this 10-year-old girl na may nakitang bato tapos nilunok niya ta’s naging Darna na siya, then after that, adventure after adventure na ‘yung nangyari. I think ang challenge is from Day 1 sa lahat ng mga taong nagaattempt na i-adapt yung Darna is to find ways to make her origins more nuanced and more complicated,” he said.

(What’s tricky is, the comics rushes Darna’s origins. In issue #1, there’s a 10-year-old girl who sees a stone, swallows it, and becomes Darna, then after that, it’s adventure after adventure. I think the challenge from Day 1 for everyone who attempts to adapt Darna is to find ways to make her origins more nuanced and complicated.)

He also said that while the original komiks starts with Narda (Darna’s alter-ego) as a 10-year-old girl, the film will portray her as a young woman who questions whether she deserves her powers or not, and like every young adult doubts if she’s doing the right thing.

Sa komiks kasi as in talagang batang bata, as in she was like a 10-year-old girl, ‘yun yung original na Narda, pero for this one, parang fresh grad siya, and then ‘yung idea na deserve ko ba itong power na ‘to…’Yun ‘yung parang pinaka-main thread na kung deserve ba niya to, she feels so inadequate, na hindi niya alam kung tama ba ‘yung ginagawa niya,” he said.

(In the komiks, she’s really young, like a 10-year-old girl. That’s the original Narda. But for this one, she’s like a fresh grad, and asks if she really deserves her power. That’s the main thread, if she deserves this, that she feels so inadequate, that she doesn’t know if she’s doing the right thing.)

And while he is dealing with (literally) out-of-this-world characters, Jerrold said that he still plans to make the film grounded in real-world issues.

Darna is still an alien, I mean alien naman talaga siya right from the start. Nandun pa rin ‘yung mga characters, ‘andun si Ding, etc, but ‘yung adventures niya this time, mayroong real word consequences and in a way makikita mo, parang nagrereflect siya sa present society, ‘yung mga problema ng present society…’yung abuse of power ng people who are uber wealthy, may mga ganun. So in a way, may mga social issues pa rin pero wrapped around the idea of a superhero movie,” he said.

(Darna is still an alien. I mean she really is an alien right from the start. The characters are still there, Ding is there, etc, but her adventures this time have real world consequences and in a way you’ll see that it reflects on present society, the problems of present society, the abuse of power of people who are uber wealthy, stuff like that. So in a way, it will still tackle social issues, but wrapped around the idea of a superhero film.)

Breaking superhero stereotypes

While superheroes in the Philippines are typically portrayed as campy, Jerrold said that he sees Darna as an opportunity to add more nuance to the genre.

Mas nasa side ng camp ‘yung superheros natin so parang hindi siya masyadong nagaappeal sa ‘kin, if we’re talking about the traditional superheroes, kasi ano siya eh, ang simplistic niya para sa ‘kin eh. Kaya nga tinanggap ko ‘yung Darna kasi opportunity din siya para lagyan pa ng ‘onting shades of grey ‘yung mythology niya so sige gawin natin ‘yun.”

(Our superheroes are more on the campy side so it doesn’t appeal much to me. If we’re talking about the traditional superheroes, because it’s too simplistic for me. They reason why I accepted Darna is because there’s an opportunity to put some shades of grey in its mythology, so alright, let’s do that.)

In the same way that he wanted to make Filipinos question the notion of heroes in his previous historical films Heneral Luna and Goyo, Jerrold said that he wants to deepen the conversation on heroism with Darna by adding more introspection. (READ: ‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral’ review: Stripping the hero)

“With what I’m hoping to achieve with this superhero film sa Darna, there’s also a bit of intropsection with regards to the character kasi ‘yun alam ko wala masyado ‘yun sa superheroes natin, ‘yung introspective na quality (that’s not often seen in our superheroes, that introspective quality),” he said.

“We have the aspirational idea of a hero, pero gusto ko siyang basagin, palalimin at ibaba ng konti in such a way na pwede mong pag-isipan na kung tama ba ;yung ginagawa mo, hindi ‘yung lilipad ka lang, trying to save the day without thinking of the consequences,” he said.

(We have the aspirational idea of a hero, but I want to break it, deepen it, and bring it down a bit in a way that you can think of whether you are doing the right thing, that you won’t just fly off, trying to save the day without thinking of the consequences.)

The Darna remake has experienced several setbacks over the years, first with its original director Erik Matti dropping out of the project, followed by star Liza Soberano. Jerrold took over directorial duties in October 2018, and on July 17, Jane de Leon was cast in the title role.

With production hopefully kicking into high gear soon, the film is eyed for a late 2020 release. –

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