Robot 2.0 : A Visual Marvel

Posted 9 months ago Posted 9 months ago

Rajinikanth 2.0 Review and Rating: Despite that tedious climax, 2.0 is truly a visual treat. It could have been better, but Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar, with solid 3D and great Atmos sound, save the show.

A mysterious force has attacked Chennai and every cellphone in sight has vanished, leaving everyone, especially scientists, baffled. I found one floated theory particularly interesting: what if this is a rival cellular phone company trying to establish itself?

No dice. Director Shankar has unbridled visual imagination and off the beat thinking, which while being at the core of the film idea, only flirts with relevance instead of committing to it. The 2010 film Enthiran, also known as Robot, set in a world of artificial intelligence was a Frankenstein movie at best.While all the punches and punchlines were saved for Chitti the Robot, his clean-shaven and highly superhuman alter-ego, a way forward was indeed cracked by Shankar for his mythically outsized leading man, Vasigaran who is a mild mannered, bearded scientist.

The battle in the sequel 2.0 is potentially fascinating: This film pits Rajinikanth versus the phones that give him the power he holds, via memes and ringtones and hashtags. Except the villain we get is a bit of a birdbrain: an ornithologist who, angered by the injustice we do to birds with the radiation from our cellular phone towers, uses thousands of disembodied cellphones to create an…angry bird.

Being the humble and suave scientist that Chitti is, “Nice DP” is what he says to Pakshiraja when he comes face to face with him. It is the right kind of response, for Kumar, despite his seemingly insurmountable power, never seems like a true threat once the Rajinikanth's arrive on the scene. As if Dr Vasigaran and Chitti weren’t enough, the scientist now has a fembot sidekick, NILA (which stands for Nice Intelligent Lovely Assistant) and Kumar, despite growing in size, can’t quite measure up.

Coming back to the title of this article, the visual are par excellence considering Shankar is all about the spectacle. Needless to say, India’s first film shot entirely in 3D doesn’t disappoint. Far too many objects are thrown at us as there is too much eagerness to give everything in the foreground the 3D treatment. Enthiran had fabulous visuals of interlocked Rajinikanth's, however, and it isn’t easy to top that. This film does a lot, visually, and the idea of wriggling phones moving in the same direction is quite creepy. The render isn’t perfect and the opacity occasionally goes in and out, but the visual works and is quite impressive.

The film is rather linear, with an easy-to-identify and easy-to-extinguish problem, but it boat floats nicely on Rajini’s charm. Although the superstar later becomes a red-streaked version of himself, an obnoxious Oompa Loompa, the superstar is in his form , both as the efficient Vasigaran as well as sassy Chitti. Considering that Kumar too was a gentle, white-bearded conspiracy theorist who turned into a squawking vulture-type, this may be the film’s way of telling us to beware of upgrades.

Rajini is ably supported by NILA, a Hot Siri played, quite suitably, by Amy Jackson, who has raised herself on a diet of television, cinema, food and gossip in the pursuit to become more human. As a result, awaiting her robot love, she is an enthusiastically passive aggressive robot. Amy Jackson has fun with her character and it shows quite well throughout the movie.

Shankar is constantly dumbing it down: even when the mysterious villain is first hit by a “neutralization ray,” an on-screen meter helpfully informs us how much longer he needs to be attacked. This is a ‘family film’ in the most obvious way. Yet Shankar also regularly gives us clever asides, both visual and verbal: a window-washer startled by the giant bird-monster, or queuing up to buy cellphones described as a pilgrimage.

This balance, however, fizzles out in its final stretch, where the climax goes on and on and, at one point you will never be able to unsee, Rajini enters Kumar. Too many things meld together into bigger, more unwieldy things, and Shankar’s perpetual game of Lego even turns Chitti magnetic, covering him in all sorts of random metallic garbage like a Subodh Gupta installation. Also, the hero threatens the villains by holding pigeons ransom and threatening to snap their necks.

Shankar sticks admirably to the plot and never slows down, with no time for melodrama or song sequences, despite a protracted Akshay Kumar flashback. Kumar has fun snarling and cawing, but a Rajini film is only about one man.

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