Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Ra.One

 Warning: This review contains SPOILERS.

Also Warning: For this review I have shamelessly ripped off the Q&A format I saw on Topless Robot. Although to be fair, if they didn't want to be ripped off, they shouldn't have been one of the best and funniest geek sites online.

Another warning: It's really, really long. Also, it's not complimentary to the movie. If you are a fan, go away NOW!!!

So. Ra.One. Any good?

Really? That's it? Care to elaborate?
Do I have to?

It's a review. Yes you have to.
Ok. The movie opens with a press conference where Shahana Goswami is talking about the latest invention by "Barron Industries" to a roomful of toddlers. Actually wait, it's a roomful of adults with the intelligence level of toddlers, who when told that they are surrounded by INVISIBLE rays, attempt to swat them away. Anyway, the big plot point is that "Barron Industries" has found a way to tap into these rays and create matter with them.

Next, it's the traditional "hero ki entry", with SRK riding a low rent Tron bike knockoff across the landscape. Instead of the Tron light trails, it has animated dust. Badly animated dust. Seriously, it looks like the animation was done in a North Korean sweatshop with sticks and spit. Also, he's Mangafied.

Mangafied?Yup. SRK must have seen a trailer for one of the Final Fantasy games. Ergo, long, spiky, streaked hair, a costume that looks like someone took a shotgun to a belt buckle convention and a sword taller than he is.

But that's not the G.One look!
Chill. It's just a fantasy sequence. Here he is Lucifer, facing off the villain "Khalnayak", a cameo by guess who, on a mission to rescue Pryanka Chopra's cleavage. Before that he has to fend off three oriental women who are called "Iski Lee", "Uski Lee" and "Sabki Lee". Bring the kids, folks!

Hold your vomit. There's more. Turns out this is all a dream of SRKs son (Prateek Subramanium) , who, in the tradition of all Bollywood brats sports long hair that makes him look vaguely androgynous and totally douchy. Like all kids in sci-fi movies, is an expert hacker. Also, he's in school. As revenge for waking him up,  bratboy plays a video of the teacher (a large black lady), doing a pseudo striptease in tight clothes on the big classroom monitor. Why he HAD such a video in the first place is a disturbing question that remains unanswered. Oh, and Prateek makes it look like a classmate played the video, doubling the sexual harassment fun. But that's ok, because the classmate is a fat kid. (who also falls and gets ice-cream all over his face later in the movie. Oh, will the hilarity ever cease?).

Oooooookkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. So, the comedy can get a bit sexist, what?
It's not limited to the child either. Minutes after appearing in his nerdy dad avatar, SRK drops his keys in a woman's cleavage. We are then supposed to guffaw as he makes groping motions and mispronounces the word "keys" to sound like "kiss".

Seriously? Isn't this film marketed as a kid's movie?
Yup. Those kid's are gonna need therapy.
Moving on, daddy SRK (Shekhar Subramanium) is a professional South Indian stereotype. He eats spaghetti with curd using his fingers, tries to emulate Michael Jackson and fails in a manner most "hilarious" and mispronounces "dude". He's also Shah Rukh Khan, so sometimes, jarringly, he strikes these typical SRK poses, especially during song sequences. Go figure. He's also a video game programmer and because his bratty kid loves bad guys (as evidenced by the Michael Jackson and Iron Maiden posters on his walls. His bratty kid apparently grew up in the 80's), he wants to make the antagonist in his next blockbuster game much more powerful than the hero. Yes, he works for the aforementioned Barron Industries which is apparently EA, Activision and Bioware all rolled into one. And they want to debut their next, and biggest game in India. Also, the entire team working on this game comprises of about ten people.

Is ANYTHING in this movie set in the real world?Well, I guess they were really trying to live up to the disclaimer about the movie being a work of fiction and any resemblance being purely coincidental.

So when do the superheroes come in?
About an hour too late. Be quiet. Anyway, so the game looks like a shitty Mortal Kombat ripoff. It also has only two characters, Ra.One, the bad guy, and G.One, the hero. Who looks like SRK.

So the biggest game company in the world is staking it's future on a game where the only playable character has the face of the lead programmer?
It's also the face of Shah Rukh Khan. Your Point?

I guess, but still, two characters? So the first fight is with the end boss?
Look, it also has only three arenas (The game calls them 'levels'). Let's accept the fact that the game is just a plot device and move on, OK? Otherwise we'll be here all week.

Anyway, so it turns out that Ra.One has become self-aware (ooooooohhh!). During the game announcement party, he downloads himself into a life-size model of Ra.One that they just kept around. He then kills Akasi, an Asian American guy who does the motion capture for the game, and steals his appearence.

Steals his appearence? What the hell?
Yes, one of Ra.One's powers is that he is T1000 from Terminator 2. In fact, a lot of this movie is from Terminator 2, with sequences entirely lifted.

But didn't he just download himself into a model? Can he manipulate matter?
Look, it has something to do with the invisible rays mentioned in the beginning of the movie, Ok? Invisible rays can manipulate matter. Simple as that.

So why does Ra.One escape? World domination? Hatred for humanity? Sheer pleasure of blowing shit up?
Actually, it's because Prateek beat him in Level 1 of the game, and then quit.

WTF??!!! That's it? That's the villain's big motivation? Killing a kid?
I know, but you have to understand that the entire game is three levels long, so it's like a major defeat. Plus, even I wanted to reach into the screen and throttle the smug SOB, and I didn't even play against him.

So what happens next?
Daddy SRK dies. The movie gets all serious, and actually, much better for a while, because the visual effects from then on are pretty slick.

So there's something good about the movie?
Sure! The stunts, the VFX, and even the look of Ra.One is very well done. Ra.One looks very creepy and angry, and in a better script, could have been an effective bad guy. Here, he strikes too many "cool" poses to be taken seriously.

So where's the hero? Where's G.One?
Still in the game. Not for long though. Once Prateek figures out Ra.One is after him, he downloads G.One to the real world. What follows is a pretty incredible chase sequence by Bollywood standards, and probably the most innovative action sequence I've seen in a long time. As long as this is on, the movie is very very good. Alas, after destroying Ra.One...

Destroying Ra.One? But isn't he the more powerful one? And he loses the first fight?
Yeah, doesn't make much sense here either. Anyway G.One destroys him and takes his HART.

Whoa, back up. What the hell is a HART?
Oh sorry, I missed that didn't I. Both Ra.One and G.One have little glowy chestpieces straight out of Iron Man called HARTs. The only way one can kill the other is by shooting him in the HART.

So the superheroes use guns here?
Not all guns. They get special weapons when they reach level three.

Level three? Level three of what?
The game, of course.

But they aren't in the game anymore!!!

So how do they kill each other?
Well, in the end of the film, they duke it out in a video gaming expo where three rooms have been designed to look like the three stages of the game.

And what if the expo never happened?
That's not explained very well.

Oooooooookkkkkkkkkkkk. So level three is essentially a shootout.
Not entirely. They both get just one bullet each.

What??!!! What if they both miss?
That's not explained either.

But G.One destroyed Ra.One and took his HART. How's that possible if the only way to kill him is in level three with a special gun?
No, see it's temporary destruction. Ra.One can re-assimilate himself.

So the fight doesn't end there, right?
No it does. Ra.One needs electricity to put himself back together.

What? Isn't Ra.One powered by invisible rays that are ALWAYS there?
Yes. And also electricity.

Urgh!  My head hurts.
Yes, that happens a lot.

So anyway, G.One takes his HART. That's good I guess. That way, in level three he can just shoot it without having to tangle with the villain.
No, it doesn't work that way. See, as long as their HARTs are not attached to them, both characters are invincible and the HARTs are also indestructible.


So why does G.One take Ra.One's HART? He already beat him once, so I guess he's gone to level 2.
No he doesn't.

That's not explained very well.

Wait a minute. So if the only way to kill a player is by shooting his HART in level three, does it matter who wins the first two levels?
Well, they do say that the winners get more powerful.

But how does it matter? All the loser has to do in level 3 is take his HART off and he's immortal.

Huh??!!!! That's like a cheat code built into the game!
Yes. Although Ra.One does say later that he's "incomplete" without the HART.

But what does that MEAN?
That's not explained very well. Look, can we move on? You're making me lose focus.

Ok. Go ahead. It's not like anything matters anymore!
That's the spirit. Anyway so Ra.One is temporarily smashed into invisible ray cubes and scattered all over the road. G.One catches up with Sonia (Kareena Kapoor), Shekhar's wife, who is trying to run from Ra.On with her son. What follows is more comedy with G.One and Sonia.

Comedy? Hasn't she JUST lost her husband?
Yes. 5 minutes ago she was sadly standing in the rain when they put Shahrukh in a coffin and then scattering his ashes?

In a coff....
Turns out the filmmakers got that right, in spite of some people being confused by it. Apparently in the UK, you have to put a guy in a coffin before cremation. It was a refreshing change of pace.

What? The somber mood?
No, the filmmakers getting something right.

Ok. So more sexist comedy.
Actually it's gay joke time. Prateek and Sonia are going back to India, but G.One cannot pass through the metal detector. So G.One knocks out a punk and takes his piercings.

But you have to take off all such ornaments in airports!
Not in SRK world. Here gay security officials scan you and bite their lips in ecstasy when the metal detector beeps and you unbutton your shirt to show off your pierced nipple.

Nipple? But he's a model/robot designed to promote a video game!!!!!

Invisible rays

You're just saying that now, aren't you?
Yes. We will move on.
Back in India, there's more comedy with G.One groping Sonia's unmentionables during a fight with a dozen ruffians at the airport.

So G.One gives himself away to a bunch of police officers?
No. Police or security never appear.

There's a melee right in front of the Mumbai International Airport and there's no cops?
None. But you know who does show up? Chitti.

The robot played by Rajnikant in 'Robot'. Only Sonia grins, touches her forehead and calls him "Rajni Sir".

So it's Rajnikant dressed as Chitti?
No. G.One's digital display identifies him as Chitti. Also, Chitti uses his magnetic powers on the villains.

But....that makes.....WTF.....Huh???!!!!!
Yes. G.One, Superstar Rajnikant and Chitti occupy the same universe. Invisible rays.

I feel faint.
So do I. Back home, even more comedy. Bratty kid puts on the gaming suit...

Gaming suit?
Yes. Didn't I mention this? Ra.One is a virtual reality game. You put on the suit and glasses and the game avatar mimics your exact motions.

That's actually pretty cool.
Yes it is. In theory. In practice you have to be a martial artist and an acrobat to even have a chance at this game. Remember, I said EXACT motions. So if you want G.One to do a backflip, YOU have to do a backflip.

Hmmm. That wouldn't sell very well, would it?
No. But in this movie, who cares? Anyway so the kid puts on the suit and makes G.One do pelvic thrusts near his mother.

Let me get this straight. The kid, who JUST lost his father in a violent accident. makes a robot who looks like his dead dad do pelvic thrusts near his mother?

The kid is gonna need therapy.
I watched the movie. I'm gonna need therapy.

Anyway, so what happens next?
Ra.One is able to track them down because G.One still has his HART.

What!!?? If that's the case why did G.One take the HART in the first place???
That's not explained very well. Invisible rays??

Exactly. Anyway so he kidnaps the kid and forces mommy to crash a train. Then he gives the hero a diabolical choice, save the kid or save the mommy.

Yes. Although, since the special effects take over, the movie is watchable again. It's a lot of fun to see such extravagant VFX set in Mumbai.

Very. Anyway, so G.One meets up with Ra.One, throws a few quips, gets beaten up till level three and then kills him. Oh, and he takes his HART off, so Ra.One can't kill him first.

Dare I ask why Ra.One doesn't do the same thing?
That's not explained very well. Although he does make 9 copies of himself.

So given the choice between making the job impossible for the hero, and somewhat more difficult, he chooses to make it more difficult.

But not impossible.

Ra.One is the most sporting villain EVER!

Hmm. So it was a pretty bad movie.
Actually, once could wrap my head around the fact that this was absolutely typical, run-of-the-mill, Bollywood fare, I could enjoy the film in patches. The problem was one of expectations. The movie was built up like it would be something big. Something that mattered. It didn't. It didn't have the epic feel that a superhero movie should have. Everything, from the villain's motivation to the script felt decidedly scaled down and even....cheap. Also, the film didn't know what it was. Was it a slick superhero movie? Was it typical Bollywood masala? Was it a kid's movie? Parts of the movie didn't feel like they fit with the other parts. And the comedy didn't fit anywhere. It's was vulgar, it was unfunny and it was predictable. Vulgarity can be hilarious in the right hands even in Bollywood. Anubhav Sinha clearly doesn't have them. Also, words defy how irritating the kid is.

So did you like anything about the movie?
The special effects, as I said before are really good. Unfortunately, they're good by Bollywood standards. To the urban audience used to the Matrix and Dark Knight, they will seem workmanlike at best. The fights are also well choregraphed, with the first showdown between G.One and Ra.One having a strange poetry to it.Oh, and Akon. He is phenomenal. That he has sung the entire "Chammak Challo", a song largely in Hindi, is unbelievable. Lower your expectations and wait for the ticket prices to come down. That too if you are a die hard SRK/Sci Fi/Superhero movie fan. Otherwise, there are better movies out there.

PS: Why is it that films titled with the villain's names blow? First Ghajini, and now this.

1 comment:

Anuradha... said...

good post Anirban! the movie was absolutely horrible!!