First Impression Review: Cautiously Optimistic After Solid Start for GMA’s Victor Magtanggol

No spoilers.

Against some unique odds (fair or not), GMA’s Victor Magtanggol had a solid premiere week of episodes.

Inspired and based upon Norse mythology, Victor Magtanggol stars Alden Richards in the title role as the humble Filipino man who will inherit the powerful Mjölnir, or hammer of Thor, which he will use to protect and save the world.

This first week succinctly lays out the mythological foundation for the series while also doing a very admirable job at introducing our title character and the people who will surround him.

The mythology is pretty standard fare. We learn just enough to understand how things work while also learning about the characters inhabiting that fantastical world.

Maybe the more interesting aspect of the story was the way we are introduced to Victor himself. After the well-choreographed opening fight scene at the palengke, we quickly move toward Victor’s life as a new OFW (overseas Filipino worker) who also is searching for his mother whom he has lost contact with.

It’s obvious the series is making parallels between the traditional superhero and the “modern-day hero” OFWs. And it actually worked very well. The series avoided being too preachy and earnest. Instead, the set-up was mainly used to introduce us to Victor’s personality.

Alden Richards has certainly had a very interesting career so far. And Victor Magtanggol seems to draw upon his experience in different genres, particularly drama and romantic comedy. This series will be his first with legitimate action and so far, he’s been able to handle that aspect well. His biggest achievement in this first week, however, has to be his success in endearing Victor to the audience. Victor is just a good guy. He’s not being annoyingly cute. He’s not acting like a cocky man of the streets. He’s just a good guy wanting to help his family and soon, will want to help save the world as well.

Richards also shares strong chemistry with Janine Gutierrez who plays love interest Gwen. It’s been a long time coming for them to finally work together in one project. But they’ve shown to have immediate rapport here. A great back and forth with some sincerely “kilig” moments, especially the typical “meet cute” moment the first time they cross paths.

Richards also has great chemistry with Coney Reyes who plays Victor’s mother. They’ve basically only shared a few scenes together, but they were very impactful. And one can easily look forward to future scenes.

John Estrada hams it up as Loki in a performance seemingly inspired by Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. But what makes it work here is that it lends the series a sort of light touch. It allows the series to have fun and avoid being stiff. Victor Magtanggol takes itself seriously, but not to the point of it feeling stuffy or pretentious.

You can maintain a dramatic weight to the story while still having fun. And this first week, with its balance between the fantastical and the real world, showed how that can work.

On the technical side, Victor Magtanggol is the rare GMA Network production that looks like it is being produced in 2018. It’s a wonder how far color grading can go to make a series visually stand out. Not all scenes are perfectly pleasing to the eye however, especially some of the scenes filmed in Japan and Canada. But the CGI-heavy scenes and the scenes shot in the Philippines look wonderful and give the series a cinematic feel that a story like this deserves.

However, the audio of those scenes filmed abroad range anywhere from passable to atrocious. It sounds as though the editors went a little overboard with the noise reduction. A lot of the un-dubbed dialogue sounds like they’re speaking into a plastic bag. Meanwhile, the dubbed dialogue rivals the awkward dubbing in Chinese dramas.

Speaking of dialogue, some of the back and forth and the one-liners were cringe-worthy. Especially the ones in English. It might have been the delivery by some of the actors, both professional and not. But at the same time, many of the written lines didn’t land their intended punch.

Those negatives aside, the overall product is solid. With Filipino dramas and soap operas, most start off wonderfully before completely and totally collapsing and falling off the rails. So one can be excited and pleased with the initial episodes and quickly grow disappointed and even angry as the series chugs along.

But this is a First Impression Review. And Victor Magtanggol left an overall positive first impression. As someone who hasn’t quite taken to Filipino fantasy series over the years, I’m certainly intrigued by Victor Magtanggol enough to keep watching. There’s a lot of potential. Drama, comedy, action; it seems to have the right balance. And with that, I’m cautiously optimistic.

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