Movie Review: Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre: Falters Due To Lack Of Narrative Cohesion

In the end, "Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre" falters due to lack of narrative cohesion of a loose tedious plot to follow.

By Adedibu Liasu 7 Min Read

If ‘Anikulapo’ (2022) by one of Nollywood’s famous filmmakers, Kunle Afolayan, was about Saro cheating death by resurrecting the dead, ‘Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre,’ a 6-part Netflix series sequel, is about our anti-hero cheating death for the second time in the most sisyphean way, because this time he cheats death as a dead person rather than a resurrector.

With over 8 million views in two weeks and multiple awards, including Best Movie in Africa, Best Writer, and Best Soundtrack at the African Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) 2023, it was no surprise that director-turned-entrepreneur Kunle Afolayan would want to capitalise on the success of the ‘Anikulapo’ film with a sequel that would explore the concept of reincarnation.

But is the popularity of ‘Anikulapo’ sufficient to justify a sequel? I doubt it. However, the director is also a businessman who understands how to promote his films and pique people’s interest in them. Coupled with Netflix’s self-cannibalization, ‘Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre’ arrives at an opportune time for some viewers, who are particularly captivated by Kunle Remi and Bimbo Ademoye’s on-screen chemistry

In this 6-part Netflix series “Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre,” Saro (Kunle Remi) awakens at the gate to/of heaven, but he is barred from entering by the gatekeeper—too reminiscent, boldly, and clearly inspired by judeo-christian belief (I’m probably nitpicking)—because of the people he resurrected while alive. So he is told that in order to get entry to heaven, he must kill all of the individuals he has revived. And such is how he returns to the land of the living, although as a spectre. But as he was reclaiming the lives he had given, our Sisyphean hero struck a deal with an elderly woman who taught Saro how to reincarnate himself; in exchange, he would not take her life. So Saro embarks on a new life, apart from his previous ones, where he meets Olatorera (Oyindamola Sanni), who will become his wife. But the spirits of the three people he killed, who are still in limbo and require guidance out of the land of the living, begin to haunt him, but he bargains with them to let him live for three years, after which he would willingly die, but we know that our Sisyhean hero values life above all else.

Then there’s Arolake, who marries Saro in the film “Anikulapo”. After some time roaming through the bush, Arolake wakes up stinking rich for some unknown reason. She meets Akin (Gabriel Afolayan), whose family welcomes her for a short time. Akin develops feelings for Arolake, who has had a bad experience with love and is wary of falling in love. But she wishes to return to Alaafin’s palace. Meanwhile, several mysterious accidents in the Oyo Empire were caused by the fabled Akala bird and could only be resolved with Queen Arolake’s intervention.

We meet Bashorun Ogunjimi (Owobo Ogunde, the legendary Hubert Ogunde’s son), a power-hungry warlord who opposes the King, Alaafin Ademuyiwa (Taiwo Hassan), for refusing to marry his daughter to Bashorun’s son, Awolaran (Lateef Adedimeji). But Bashorun wants more than just his descendant to rule the Oyo Empire; he wants the power of life over death as a warlord. So he tracks down Saro in order to get such strong talents.

The stories in the “Anikulapo” series are a little disorganised, with stories of varying importance clumped together haphazardly. It’s about everything and nothing, which makes the plot thin. However, the first episode of the series had a promising start if the rest of the series expanded on it (the investigation of Yoruba belief in the concept of reincarnation), as the director had stated. However, even before the first episode concluded, the tale grew raunchy, setting the tone for the subsequent five episodes as the story gradually drifted away.

Owobo Ogunde’s portrayal as Bashorun Ogunjimi reveals the actor’s powerful screen presence. His demeanour befits a power-hungry despot. However, his line delivery was mostly mechanical, which was due to the director’s failure to adequately guide the actor.

The “Anikulapo” series comes across as undeveloped. The dramatic tension between the Alaafin and Bashorun is only briefly addressed. The fabled Akala bird’s revenge on the people of the Oyo Empire has no bearing on the plot, but it has been ingrained in us so deeply that we believe that the Empire is in grave danger if Arolake does not return. Even the Alaafin does not believe it is true, despite the fact that monarchs of the time were quite superstitious.

Everything that made Saro such a fascinating anti-hero in the first film has been stripped away in this sequel, with a character arc that feels unjustified and unearned. Instead, it bears only the burden of a faltering story.

“Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre” can be proud of its ongoing promotion and elevation of Yoruba culture with its rich Yoruba discourse, costumes, and settings.

In the end, “Anikulapo: The Rise of the Spectre” falters due to lack of narrative cohesion of a loose tedious plot to follow. But the audience might enjoy it for its rich cultural tapestry and cast.


Anikulapo: Rise of the Sceptre

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I am Adedibu Liasu, a dedicated film critic and writer with BA in French from Obafemi Awolowo University. I'm enthusiastic about African films, particularly Nollywood. A seasoned blogger who reviews films and promotes African cinema, particularly Nollywood films. Email: [email protected]
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