2.0 Review

Actors Rajinikanth (left) and Akshay Kumar in their latest film, “2.0,” which is a sequel to “Robot.” Rajinikanth scores best as the good doctor and Chitti, the robot. (photo provided)

Lyca Productions, AA Films & Dharma Productions present “2.0”

Produced by: Subaskaran

Directed by: S. Shankar

Written by: S. Shankar & B. Jeyamohan with Abbas Tyrewala (Hindi dialogues)

Music: A.R. Rahman

Starring: Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson, Adil Hussain, Kaizaad Kotwal, Sudhanshu Pandey, Kalabhavan Shajohn, Dr K. Ganesh, Mayilsamy, Ananth Mahadevan and others

No, this is no “Thugs Of Hindostan” – not by a long cell-phone…Oops!... we mean long chalk. But once again, a sequel is BIGGER, but not better in appeal, to “Robot.”

The raison d’etre for making this film was that amazing 2010 Rajinikanth movie “Robot” that gripped from first frame to last with its story and script, message, VFX for those days and its mix of technology and entertainment. At that time, it was the most expensive Tamil film ever made. And now, “2.0” is the costliest film made in India.

Let us first focus on “2.0”’s astounding plus points – that is, where it scores over the earlier film. Given a limitless budget by Indian standards, director Shankar zooms up the ante in his concepts of visual effects and animatronics. Tackiness is a word that flies out of the window when we watch Shankar’s incredible ideas brought to life by a chain of visual effects experts in the glory of 3-D.

Instead, this is global level work, matching the best there at a fraction of their cost. The action alone (executed by Silva from the South and Hollywood biggies Kenny Bates, Nick Powell and Steve Griffin) sets a new benchmark.

Two, Akshay Kumar’s prosthetics and look, whether as the old ornithologist or the demonic villain, are so marvelous that we can only salute everyone responsible for them from base (thought) level to final results. The sequences with the giant bird are stupendous in every sense, especially in the destruction scenes of entire buildings, cars and what-have-you.

Three, the background score (Rahman with Qutub-E-Kripa – which is an ensemble of young musicians from A. R. Rahman’s Music Conservatory) is perhaps the best heard in 2018. It is contemporary and international and in that sense, goes far beyond that of “Robot.”

Four, and definitely the most important, the theme is as big as that in the first – of human beings lethally using technology, in their careless and self-seeking way, to end up making it a hideous and venomous bane of their lives, destroying the environment and ultimately them and generations to come if their oversight continues unchecked and uncorrected in the future.

The makers have let on something of the theme with the trailer showing flying mobile-phones and the tag-line “The world is not only for humans,” but have kept their ace up their sleeve – the back-story of villain Dr. Pakshirajan (Akshay Kumar). This is perhaps the fifth high-point of the film.

His look as the aged ornithologist (and why he becomes one, where we get into the realm of permissible fantasy for an emotional resonance) is thus among the big ‘highs’ in the film, along with his stupendous performance in every avatar in this film.

And that brings us to the average part – the script, especially in the second half. The bird-man (if you may call him that) is introduced just before interval point, and his story, while moving and extremely of topical relevance, is stretched a bit too long in that part. Suddenly, for a good while, we almost find ourselves in a different movie!

After this narration in the film, however, the film slides a bit towards the hyperbole of Shankar’s weaker films like “I,” and it is only because of Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar and some remaining focus in the script that the climax still works despite – again – its inordinate length. The song “Tu Hi Re” is wasted in the end titles (it is visually stunning and well choreographed by Bosco-Caesar) and the small post-climax opens doors to a possible and way different “3.0!”

Abbas Tyrewala’s dialogues have to follow the overdrive of South Indian actioners, and we missed the mastery of Swanand Kirkire’s work in the earlier film. We liked the intermittent references to Sana (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) from the 2010 film and Dr. Vasigaran’s brief romantic chats with her – she is STILL his girlfriend.

Rajinikanth scores best as the good doctor and Chitti, the robot he has to bring back to life to save the country when mobile phones begin to fly off and kill and destroy and the government tries out all combat options including the armed forces. As 2.0, Rajinikanth is his flamboyant super-magnetic self (for fans—note how he exclaims “Wow!”) but less endearing than the other avatars. The track of the former film’s villain’s son (Sudhanshu Pandey) has hardly any relevance and could have been dispensed with totally, with its small role in the story changed for something more gripping.

Also, Dr. Pakshirajan’s change to a killing machine with extraordinary powers is not shown in an impactful manner. The pledge in the end by the minister (Adil Hussain, competent as always) to improve things sounds so facile. Amy Jackson looks like a million dollars, and her performance is great within the limitations of her character as a humanoid robot. The supporting cast is adequate.

The film is decidedly worth a watch and your money with snacks and drinks. Perhaps, the urge for later revisits is where it really falls short of “Robot,” to which we had given five stars and which can STILL be watched any number of ‘agains.’ We may love and be amazed by this film’s various parts, as enumerated above, but the final effect is not in that league. Despite, to reiterate, the magnificent VFX and action and also the crack work by all technical departments, especially DOP Nirav Shah.

However, at the b-o., the film will rock, as will Rajinikanth after a spate of mediocre and tired debacles from “Lingaa’ to “Kaala."

Rating: ***1/2

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