2.0 (2018)

“Human beings have only four preferences: TV, cinema, food and gossip”

You know you are watching an Indian film when the scenes featuring the hero riding on a big flying bike only appear in the final dance number…

For those of you coming in late, back in 2010, the enormously successful Indian producer and director, Shankar, made a goofy SF Action movie/comedy called Robot (Enthiran.)  It was a big hit.  So eight years later he finally gives us a sequel, and just as we would expect, it is every bit as goofy and silly and absurd as the original film.

Once again, Superstar Rajni, aka Superstar, aka Superstar Rajinikanth, aka Rajinikanth gives us a performance by turns reserved or wild and over the top as the robot, Chitti (it’s a bit had to believe he was in his mid-sixties when he filmed this!).  This time they’ve also added a female robot, Nila, played by British actress, Amy Jackson.

Something strange is happening: cell phones keep vanishing in the city, yanking themselves out of their owners’ hands and zipping off into the sky. What’s worse, the missing phones appear to have murdered several important government ministers and are busy destroying cell phone towers!

Chitti’s creator, Dr. Vaseegaran, thinks that a fifth universal force — after electromagnetism, gravity, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force — is at work here and that their only hope of stopping the unseen menace is to reactivate his robot.

So Chitti arrives on the scene just as the flying clouds of phones form themselves into a giant bird and attacks the crowds on the crowded streets…

2.0 didn’t get a lot of critical praise — mostly because critics felt the effects weren’t as good as those in the Hollywood films.

Well, they aren’t.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that that doesn’t mean a lot to me. I’d rather see an imaginative and inventive effect than one which merely achieves some degree of technical perfection. And a lot of other people must have agreed as Shankar and Rajinikanth brought a lot of people into the theaters. One of the things I love about the Indian films I’ve seen is their non-realistic approach: while Hollywood blockbusters keep pretending that their big action pictures are physically plausible, the Indian copies are openly outrageous and absurd, willing to do whatever wacky thing will entertain the audience.

It’s kind of refreshing.

And the imagery here is amazing, whether of clouds (of phones) forming into giant birds, trees, walls, or a giant version of the villain (played by Bollywood icon, Ashkay Kumar), or whole armies of Chittis forming balls bristling with machine guns, or a giant Chitti, not to mention the surprise Chitti version 3.0. Sure, the Digital effects look pretty soft at times, but you don’t see this in your typical Hollywood tentpole movie.

And, let’s face it, any movie that features giant monsters squaring off against each other has my vote, even if they are made out of thousands of cell phones.  Or lots of robots hooked together.

Now I do have to note one thing that may keep a lot of SF purists from watching this one: the villain frees his “aura” from his dead body, and attracts the “auras” of dead birds. While there are a few references to Kirlian photographs, let’s be brutally frank here:

He’s a ghost.

And, even if the equipment is different, the ways of defeating him end up a lot like Ghostbusters.

No surprise, right?

Another curious note is that the outraged Indian Telecom companies demanded that the film be banned because of how it portrayed them. As they pointed out, cell phone towers don’t kill birds, they follow government rules, and there is no scientific evidence for any of these claims.

Well, that didn’t work out. You might as well file that attempt under the heading “free advertising.” Not that 2.0 needed it.

This is a big, amiable, and often silly movie. I like it. It’s goofy, throws all kinds of crazy things on the screen and basks in the Superstar presence of its star. And yes, there are several big musical interludes and a huge song and dance number at the end. After all, this is an Indian film. Yeah, it’s indulgent and recycles a lot of the familiar situations from the first film, only amped up a bit (for example, instead of a shooting handful of machine guns at once, this time Chitti levitates a whole ring a guns around him and fires them all at once). Which is what we expected, really. In fact, it seems more like the movie I expected from seeing the wild, over-the-top trailers than I expected it to be.

So file this overblown out of control action movie under the heading of warm and fuzzy. The thrills are there, but the end result is light-hearted, often comic and always fun. Think of it as cinematic comfort food.

Which is exactly what I want from a wild, Indian action movie.

Watch at Amazon (paid link):


And check out our new Feature (Updated May 16, 2019):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

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