“Come selfie lovers, I’ll set your screen on fire.”
A promise that director Shankar makes and attempts to carry out with an equal flourish in his latest, rebooted version 2.0.
He’s a man of excessive taste, so his decision to revive his 2010 robotic thriller Robot is undoubtedly pitched on an ostentatiously, massive canvas. One that’s fortunately devoid of audacious song and dance sequences, barring when the credits roll at the end. So, there’s his beloved Dr Vaseegaran, who revives robot Chitti in a new suit and a mini-version and finds him a match in the stunning Nila. And together they must fight the evil guy and his strange army of cell-phones.
There’s even a minor distraction from the original film – Bohra’s son, who fizzles out even before giving a fight. Over 2.4 hours, as the deafening background score blares, we witness how a mysterious cellphone wipeout and three deaths in the south Indian city of Chennai causes apocalyptic chaos.
The setting is similar to most superhero movies we’ve ever witnessed. The city gets torn down as the good guy takes on the bad. But in Shankar’s “magnum opus”, we can’t help but feel let down by the rather tacky visual effects.
There are moments of admiration and applause, no doubt, but those are far too few.
Hollywood evidently has set the standards way too high for their Indian counterparts. Possibly that’s why it’s tough to take any of his tech crusades seriously. Also, the Hindi dub is distracting and dilutes the essence of the film.
We watch, impassively, as cell phones fly out of people’s hands, and form into a strange evil bird that attacks and kills people who invest or obsess about the technology.
Shankar, however, tweaks the formulaic-superhero narrative with issues about radiation, animal conservation and even positive auras. But there’s no real passion in his writing. Every action, conflict or crisis is emotionless, much like his robots. And we just watch situations unfold one after another, remotely unmoved by the noises.
It’s admirable of Rajnikanth to take on futuristic characters, but 2.0 never cashes in on his superstar persona. There are some punch lines, in keeping with the tradition but Abbas Tyrewala’s writing deflates it of any joy.
Akshay Kumar struggles to play “Birdman”, a botch on Michael Keaton’s superlative take in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s epic drama. He’s handed a strong backstory, but a shoddy imagery to play with. Pakshi Raja is unveiled only in the second half and he begins with promise but even before he can soar, his wings are clipped by a monotonous act.
Armed with a shiny costume, Amy Jackson perfects the robotic moves with a single expression. Possibly why it’s easier to take on a machine than a living being onscreen. Aishwarya, who played Dr Vaseegaran’s Sana in the original, isn’t forgotten either and finds a rather hyperactive voice to play with.
There’s also unimaginative brand placements and a possible potential for movie merchandise as well. Unfortunately, Shankar is unable to pull it all together into something fun. What it does offer, instead, is scope for some innovative memes.