Thursday, November 03, 2011

RA. One

There were probably only a half-dozen of us in the theater for Saturday's 3D screening of RA. One, although I don't know how much of that is down to interest in the movie, not particularly caring to see it in 3D - especially considering that it only ran that way for the 10pm show, which would have made for a really late night for kids - or the fact that it was snowing outside despite October not yet being over and who wants to go out in that?

(Me, obviously, and I must admit that I got a certain amount of amusement out of the college-aged girls who clearly had not anticipated this sort of weather when choosing their skimpy costumes and high heels for the night's Halloween parties; some were having a pretty rough go of getting home afterward.)

I was actually pleasantly surprised at the quality of the projection; the last time I tried to see a 3D movie at Fresh Pond was miserable, and while I still think that the digital 3D they use isn't quite as easy on the eyes as the Real-D/IMAX/RPX branded screens elsewhere in town, it was much better than the mess of Shark Night. The movie also looked surprisingly good in 3D, especially given that it seemed mostly post-converted, if the endless closing credit scroll is any indication - everything was much more textured and natural-looking than is usual for that process, and some of the action and dance scenes at least seemed composed with it in mind. And those closing credits did go on forever; it's the only time I can remember the music running out a good three minutes before the text, with the rest unspooling in silence. I'm guessing that the stereo conversion people are only listed on the 3D digital files, and rather than pulling more music out of the film, we're subjected to an uncomfortable quiet.

One thing I found myself wondering while watching it was how much Endhiran (aka The Robot) influenced it. Big action movies like this tend to have long gestation periods in Hollywood, but that may not quite be the case in India, so even though this was pushed back to a Diwali opening from summer - in part to accommodate a Rajinikanth cameo that directly references Endhiran - there are a lot of similarities. Some of them are very basic - the robot with the same face as the scientist developing it, for instance - but the two big chase scenes also seemed very familiar. There's a car chase that defies a fair amount of gravity, and a robot running through, on top of, and on the side of a train to rescue the leading lady, with very similar staging to the equivalent chases in Rajini's movie.

The big trouble with these similarities (and the fawning cameo) is that their main effect is to remind that audience that RA. One is not really as good a movie as Endhiran. Both are kind of silly, but S. Shankar really embraced that last year - Endhiran doesn't just have bigger action scenes, but it gets more absolutely bug-nuts as it goes along. Anubhay Sinha, though, never really creates something in his movie that is big and crazy enough that the dumb stuff doesn't matter.

RA. One

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 29 October 2011 in Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond #3 (first-run, digital 3D)

It may be hard for those who haven't seen many Bollywood productions before to believe, but RA. One is kind of disappointing because it just goes through the motions. Oh, sure, it's a musical sci-fi action/adventure comedy, and those aren't even a dime a dozen in India, but the filmmakers don't put those things together in a particularly interesting way. It's a combination of the most familiar and sometimes annoying parts of those genres, with the occasional clever or surprising bit only occasionally making the audience sit up and take notice.

Ten-year-old Prateek Subramaniam (Armaan Verma) loves video games and is great at them, but that doesn't mean having a father who programs them is cool. That goes double when one's father is as nerdy as Shekhar Subramanium (Shah Rukh Khan), an accident-prone dork who clearly won the heart of Prateek's mother Sonia (Kareena Kapoor) with his big heart and surprisingly good dance moves. Shekhar tries to please Prateek by giving his newest game an unstoppable villain, modeling it on Ravaan, the ten-faced demon of Hindu mythology. Prateek play-tests the game and pronounces it good, but it gets crossed with another piece of tech the company is developing and "RA. One" manages to escape to the outside world, looking for the boy who beat him. The best shot of stopping him: "G.One" (Khan), the game's hero, although bringing him to life may be a bit trickier.

There are a half-dozen credited writers on this thing, including star Shah Rukh Khan and director Anubhay Sinha, and yet there are some pretty severe flaws to the screenplay. Ignore that the technical details for how RA.One and G.One escape with all the powers that they have in a video game world are stupid even by the standards of bad science fiction, but the timeline frequently makes no sense. The comedy is generally lame and often inexplicable (Shekhar sees a Bad-era Michael Jackson poster on Prateek's wall and decides imitating MJ will make him seem tough and cool - really!). And as exciting and unexpected as one of the movie's big cliffhanger moments is, the rest of the movie is crippled character-wise because of it.

Full review at EFC.

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