Mirageman (2008) dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
Starring: Marko Zaror, Maria Elena Swett, Ariel Mateluna, Mauricio Pesutic
From Chile comes an unusual and unexpected entry in the comic book genre. Hanging on the concept of a superhero film is this showcase vehicle for Marko Zaror (stuntman for the Rock in “The Rundown) and his extraordinary feats of acrobatic martial arts. In the marketing leadup to this film at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, we’re told to expect something like breakout performance of Tony Jaa in “Ong Bak”.
While Mr. Zaror’s martial arts skills are indeed out of this world one has to get past the film’s unimposing no-budget home video-like stylistic exterior. With these strikes discounted, and with a forgiving and rambunctious genre-ready audience, “Mirageman” becomes a surprisingly enjoyable theatrical experience.
Marko Zaror plays Maco who is introduced to us sparring against one of those martial arts resistance boards in the basement. His speed and strength are a sight to behold. His physical stature is about 6’ 3” of pure toned muscle. This extraordinary beast of nature is actually an ordinary guy. He’s a gentle giant who cares for his crippled brother in the hospital. One day Maco happens upon a robbery and uses his beat down skills to stop the crime. Maco has an epiphany that he could be a vigilante superhero like Batman.
After brainstorming names and costumes, Maco becomes Mirageman – a low rent Halloween costumed superhero. As Maco performs his altruistic good deeds quickly the city of Santiago catches on that they have a bona fide superhero of their own. The media jumps on the story and he becomes a sensation. A template superhero plot is follows...
Watching and enjoying “Mirageman” must come with a few caveats. It’s a “no-budget” film to start, but not the charming and innovative cinematic techniques of say “El Mariachi”. The consumer-grade cameras, no lighting, no sets, real locations with real people walking the streets in the background is not kind to the film. Excessive use of news reporter footage to give expository information to the audience is a tedious and lazy storytelling device. It’s looks barely above a home video backyard filmmaking.
But it’s all about the fight scenes, most of which were choreographed on the day of filming. Zaror is a massive physical presence, which commands the screen. Director Espinoza wisely keeps Zaror's dialogue to a minimum, letting his fists and feet do the talking. Zaror spin kicks his opponent with lightning quick speed, often hitting the actual actors (who are all stuntmen though).
Espinoza has an ear for comedy too, and though his send up of the superhero genre is not original he coterie of pathetic characters provides enough humour. The funniest recurring gag is Pseudo-Robin, a wannabe superhero who tries to convince Mako to be his sidekick.
“Mirageman” only work if a) you’re a Hollywood talent looking for talent b) you’re at the Toronto After Dark film festival and you’re with a theatre full of energetic die hard genre-junkies. So despite some atrocious ‘filmmaking’ “Mirageman” turns out to be a somewhat decent cinematic experience. Enjoy.