November 3, 2011

Movie Review: Ra.One

It is rare that I get to see a Bollywood film on the big screen. It is even rarer that I actually watch Bollywood films. It is not that I have anything against them, far from it. It is just that they are not a style I am often exposed to, have the opportunity, or go out of my way for. That said, I have now seen two Bollywood films in theaters this year, not to mention a third Bollywood feature that was made in English for the international market. I like them, they are vastly different than pretty much my entire experience and just give a different perspective on how movies are used, for better or worse.

With all of that said, I am not in any position to judge the quality of the Bollywood films I have see. Well, I am, since I have my own opinion on them, but when it comes right down to it, my limited experience does not afford me much perspective. Still, I have to say that while I quite enjoyed Ra.One, I cannot really say it is a good movie. It isn't a movie that really spoke to me or gave any sort of insight. This is a movie that, for me, is all about the entertainment and spectacle. Oh yes, for the curious the other films I saw theatrically this year were Delhi Belly and Bhuddah Toga Hera Baap, the latter was not subtitled.

As I watched Ra.One (which I have seen pronounced as R A One and Rah One, both appear to be accurate and are said as such within the context of the film, although the latter would seem to be more correct), I could not help but recognize bits and pieces of other movies. Some of them were fairly obvious. I saw the likes of Terminator 2, Tron, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and The Matrix. Of course, when you watch those movies you could pick out even more influences taking us back into cinema history, but these are the ones that jumped out at me. It was like the creative team watched all of these movies, picked out favorite themes and moments, filtered them through Indian culture and sensibilities and reformed them into something indicative of what they wanted to see.

The end result of this Hollywood/Bollywood mash up is a movie that is an entertaining spectacle. It is not a movie that I got any substantial deep meaning from, but it does have a very sweet father/son relationship at its core. It also provides a wide range of emotions and feelings throughout, like they wanted to get all the genres represented. It has action and effects that make it look like a Hollywood summer-type film while being a different beast, with the expected inclusion of in song and dance numbers and melodramatic acting that typifies my experience with Bollywood productions. On top of that it was post converted into 3D, which fit the subject of the film while not really being designed for it. It is not a bad post convert, but probably not necessary in the long run.

The movie open some talk about breakthrough technology that goes beyond 3D and projections. It may be talky, but has implications on the rest of the film. The scene shifts to fantasy setting, not unlike Final Fantasy featuring a hero with a gigantic sword facing off with a bad guy with the love of a beautiful woman hanging in the balance. This turns out to be a dream of a young boy named Prateek (Armaan Verma), his father is Shekhar (Shah Rukh Kahn), head game programmer at the tech company holding the opening talk.

This here is the central part of the story, Prateek is infatuated with all things cool while dad is seriously uncool. Shekhar is trying to find a way to connect with his son. He decides to do this with a game. He uses the new technology being hawked by the company to come up with a game featuring an all powerful villain and a hero designed partially on himself. However, something goes wrong and the video game characters leave the game world and enter the real world.

In short order, Shekhar's programming partner, a Chinese man they all call Jackie Chan, is replaced by the villain, Ra.One (a play on the evil god Ravaan), and Prateek is on the run with his mother, Sonia (Kareena Kapoor), and the good guy game character, G.One (a play on the Hindi word for life).

That is pretty much it. The locations are split between London and Mumbai and there are a couple of fun song and dance productions. In between we get some interesting fight sequences, chase scenes, and some inventive special effects.

All things considered, I was quite entertained. I was far from blown away, but I had a lot of fun with the sly humor, the different look the film had despite it's familiar influences, and the songs were fun. Like I said, I do not have the experience or knowledge to do any justice to the film's place in Bollywood, but I do know that I liked it and I suspect a lot of other people will too. It is fun, perhaps silly at times, but just a bunch of fun. I am not sure what else to say about it. I was glad to get the opportunity to see it on the big screen and think you should take the chance.


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