Ever since Ah Girls Go Army (AGGA) was announced in September 2021 for audition calls, as the spiritual and engendered successor to the famous Ah Boys to Men (ABTM) franchise which spanned four movies long, there have been growing expectations for what the movie might become.
The movie is slated to be released on 1 February 2022, on Chinese New Year.
Here are some facts you might want to know about before you step into the cinemas with your popcorn and drinks and settle down for the movie!
The Inspiration Behind Ah Girls Go Army
In a behind-the-scenes interview done by E-Junkies, Jack Neo revealed that the movie was premised from the idea where it was now mandatory for girls to be enlisted for the army in light of the decreasing birth rates and lowering Singaporean population numbers.
But what really spurred Jack Neo into making the movie was this thought: What kind of experiences would girls have to face if they were enlisted into the army too?
Would it be similar to the problems that the boys have to face, and what kind of unique problems will be faced by the girls?
This is vividly portrayed in the trailer whenever the girls’ bunks are featured.
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We see well-manicured and glitzed manicured nails, coloured blankets, comfort plushies, and glamoured-up grey lockers; an array of feminine touches done to the uniformed and plain setting that an army camp was supposed to be.
Sure, there are sanitary issues—like bras and panties hanging over railings like HDB flats—but it’s a marked difference from the sloppiness first featured by the recruits in ABTM.
Another obvious difference is that unlike Ah Boys to Men 1, we don’t see the dramatic haircut scenes where people are praying or sobbing over their loss of hair.
The females keep their hair intact, and sometimes in cute and questionable styles.
However, these are just the more superficial details to the entire setting.
Audition Calls and Role Casting
In a similar fashion to ABTM, the casting of AGGA was done through finding unique personalities from the people auditioning.
Rather than seeking out fixed personalities, although there are admittedly stereotypes in army recruits, Jack Neo sought to craft the characters that were intrinsic to the persons casted.
For instance, in ABTM, there is the once helmet-haired Wang Wei Liang acting as Recruit Bang Lee Onn, but he evidently fits the entire classic “Lo Bang” attitude with the way he speaks and carries himself naturally.
Likewise, in AGGA, we see a long-haired and tattooed Kelly Kimberly Cheong acting as Recruit Amanda Ong, who seems to fall into the tomboy archetype and could care less about having to put on cameo paint compared to her more facial-conscious comrades.
Another interesting dynamic brought onboard through the cast is Recruit Yuan Yuan Yuan by the Actress Xixi Lim, an overweight character who does reflect a different spectrum of troubles when it comes to the physical requirements of a soldier.
This is also one of the realities that other Singaporean boys with similar constitutions have to face that has been brought to light on the silver screen.
It’s a sharp contrast to the skinny Recruit Ip Ping from ABTM, who had to “frog kick” his chin up to the pull-up bars and struggle to wall climb after carrying out a shitfest revenge due to his lack of arm strength, but it is a refreshing change of pace.
If anything, AGGA will definitely bring about an entire cast of unique characters from different walks of life again, having to bond through the shared and maybe hellish Basic Military Training (BMT).
The Film is Not Supported by the Singapore Armed Force
Unlike its predecessor Ah Boys to Men, Ah Girls Go Army is not supported by the Singapore Armed Force (SAF).
In fact, when Jack Neo was asked whether the girls would be put through the typical BMT that Singaporean boys have to go through like wall climbing or tough obstacle courses, he admitted that there will be differences.
In fact, the girl’s version of BMT was re-imagined by him and his creative writing team, and it’s more accurate to say that the movie has created its own version of BMT suited for the girls.
Perhaps the difference in training stems from the apparent different mentalities that girls have compared to boys where mandatory conscription is concerned, as seen from the brief glimpse of a slide show about unity in the trailer.
So if you see any discrepancies in the training process, don’t be surprised!
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Boot Camp Training
Since none of the girls in the cast have ever been through the army, they were actually put through a short army boot camp before the official shooting of AGGA began.
Ex-soldiers were hired to help the girls get a sense of what being in the army was truly like.
The physical instructors put them through the hoops of the mandatory drills, taught them the basic Malay commands for the army, and imparted basic military knowledge like how to properly handle a rifle and what the correct firing positions were.
At the very least, the thresholds for an authentic military experience will be met.
The actresses were later interviewed after the bootcamp, and she said: “This one is more like the drills and how to hold the guns, because we’re really noob at it.”
Their first reactions to holding the fake guns, which were purposefully made to be weighted to be accurate replications was: “Oh god, Singaporean soldiers have to carry and get used to this?”
Safe to say, the entire experience of the training and filming must have been an eye-opener for the cast.
On the other hand, Jack Neo remarks that the girls put in their utmost effort during the bootcamp training.
Although there were minor mistakes, Neo felt that it wasn’t a huge issue simply because these mistakes were also what made them a new batch of BMT recruits, which was the whole purpose of the film.
Different Vibes from Ah Boys to Men
While this is a listed fact, I’m sure that it’s quite apparent to any viewer from the get-go.
From the first trailer of Ah Boys to Men 1, it starts with a dramatic and soul-rending voice singing:
“Training to be soldiers, fight for our land, for once in our lives, three years of our time, have you ever wondered, why must we serve, because we love our land, we want it to be free.”
There’s a powerful feeling of patriotism to this short and drawn-out solo, which is also echoed in the subsequent music videos the Ah Boys to Men franchise had.
Whereas for AGGA, I loathe to admit it, but the music video felt like a budget K-POP video with a catchy beat and chorus, sticking true to the ABTM mood by fitting a rap in between.
However, it does make AGGA feel more low stakes compared to ABTM in the sense that there is no precedence of harshness that is borne from a long history of tyrannical sergeants and stories of attempting to escape the enlistment.
Since female recruitments are fairly rare—and in this premise, new—the movie seems to lean more towards slapstick humour than the tough realities that are often regurgitated by our fellow NS men.
Sure, there will be bonding moments through the hardships, but you probably shouldn’t go into the theatre expecting any rough lessons or hard-hitting conflicts like ABTM.
Buying Tickets in Advance comes with Ah Girls Go Army NFTs
On 21 January, J Team and mm2 Entertainment announced that they would be giving away free Ah Girls Go Army Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) if two advanced tickets are bought from Cathay Cineplexes.
Most of the details have already been provided in the Ah Girls Go Army NFT article, so I’ll leave that link open for your own perusal if you’re interested in the topic.
But in short, the advanced tickets will start selling on 28 January, Friday at 12pm, and only a total of 8,888 AGGA NFTs will be given out.
The NFTs are pretty cute and they’re being given out for free, so if you’re already interested in seeing the movie, you might as well try to get some nice digital merchandise out of it!
See you in the cinemas, and a Happy Lunar New Year!
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