Film review #350
SYNOPSIS: Dr. Vaseegaran, an expert in robotics and artificial intelligence has developed a new robot named Nila, after his older robot Chitti went on a murderous rampage and was disassembled. When everyone’s mobile phones start flying away of their own accord, it turns out to be the work of the spirit of Pakshi Rajan, who is using them to stop their overuse from killing birds. With no way to stop him, Vaseegaran suggests reactivating Chitti, as he is the only one strong enough to defeat this new menace…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 2.0 is a 2018 Indian science fiction film and the sequel to the 2010 film Robot. The film opens with Dr. Vaseegaran introducing his newest robot Nila to a group of students. Shortly thereafter, people’s mobile phones throughout the city begin flying away of their own accord. Without these phones, the city is in a state of chaos, and attempts to bring in new phones are met with suspicious accidents. The phones then combine to take the form of a giant bird, which causes more chaos by uprooting signal towers. Vaseegaran suggests to the government to reactivate Chitti, but his murderous rampage that was the result of an upgrade means they are reluctant to do so. When the military fails to resolve the situation, the government then gives Vaseegaran permission to reactivate Chitti to counteract the mobile menace. The plot of the film is fairly robust, with a good amount of time dedicated to all the characters, with some decent set pieces that give the action scenes the space they need to stand out, as well as a decent amount of character development.
One issue that arises with the story is the pacing and it’s organisation: some scenes go on for too long and put the film into a bit of a slump that make it lose focus through its inconsistency. The big example is when Chitti encounters Rajan (or his energy spirit…thing) and asks what his motivation is. This leads to a twenty minute flashback essentially telling his life story. I think the aim is to get the viewer to empathise with his message about how mobile phone signals are killing the birds, and will ultimately endanger our own existence, but this could have been done in a much more interesting and provoking way other than this biographical picture of a villain to make us feel sorry for him. Rajan’s kill count in this film is pretty high, and is portrayed with a very evil look, so ultimately he is being played as a straight, typical villain that doesn’t really need this backstory. His whole life being centred around birds from the moment of his birth onwards also makes him seem like a very one-dimensional character. The rest of the cast are given just the right amount of development, and the performances are all pretty good, with characters from a number of different perspectives on the events that are transpiring. One character that doesn’t serve much use is Dhina Bohra, the son of one of the villains who was killed in the first film. He serves as a good reminder of Chitti’s legacy in the first part of the film, but his part gets muddled and loses it’s way as the film progresses.
The message of the film concerning the effect of mobile phone signals on birds is not a subtle one, and I have absolutely no idea how much of it is true or not, which makes the message even more confusing. The film does try to explain how and why everything is working, even when it probably doesn’t need to. The explanation of Rajan’s spirit being a 5th form of universal energy that is binding together the mobile phones is needlessly complicated, but probably should be commended for its effort in elaborating on details. Any criticism of the subtlety of the film’s message should also be balanced out by saying this is not a subtle film in any other regard either. Like it’s predecessor, 2.0′s biggest strength is its over-the-top action sequences that defy reality, logic and sense. Again, this contrast with the exasperating exposition of the antagonist give the film a very uneven feel in places. Nevertheless, the action itself is pretty solid, with some implausible stunts and plenty of destruction. The fights are also pretty varied, with the first fight of Chitti after reactivation showing off Chitti’s strengths, then after Rajan possesses Vaseegaran’s body, Chitti cannot defeat Rajan because it would also harm Vaseegaran, and conflict with his programming against harming another human. With this in mind, Nila activates Chitti 2.0, the upgraded version that caused the destruction of the first film, as it is the version that would not be averse to harming a human. This version partakes in the more absurd action, with an army of Chitti robots combining to make a giant ball of machinegun fire and even a giant bird cage to trap the giant mobile phone bird. Some of the sequences feel a bit similar to the first film (the “Chitti ball” for example), but it’s more of what made the first one so memorable and entertainingly insane, so that’s not too much of a problem. The special effects that support the action are also well done, and while not as good as the top Hollywood films, still deliver a credible, colourful and visual treat.
Overall, 2.0 continues the story of Robot with more of the excessive action that made the first film so good. The direction and set pieces of the action sequences deliver an entertaining bit of cinema, even if it does not evolve too much from its predecessor. Away from the action, the film suffers an uneven pacing with too much focus on the villain’s backstory and his motivations that drain the film of it’s energy for some time before it can regain its momentum. Apart from that, there’s plenty of content and story to fill it’s runtime, so it’s a worthwhile watch.