The Dark Herald Recommends Enthrian 2.0The Dark Herald
Dark Herald: My beloved Unfallen Darklings, have you ever wondered what would have happened if Bruce Lee and Cheech Marin had a baby?
Darkling 1: Oh god, what’s he doing?
Darkling 2: I don’t know, and I am so not into this!
Darkling 3: I’m scared!
Darkling 4: I’m leaving!
Dark Herald: Too late! Doors are locked from the outside. Now buckle up we’re headed to…Kollywood. Spawning ground of the craziest adventure movies on the planet, the home of Tamil films.
Before looking at Tamil films we should probably take a quick look at the Tamils themselves. Tamil Nadu is in the running for the title of oldest extant civilization. The recordable history goes back six thousand years and there is a school of thought that says their unrecorded history as a people goes back quite a bit further, quite possibly back to the first migration wave out of Africa approximately 100,000 years ago. There is also evidence that the Tamil Nadu region was inhabited by pre-homo sapiens going back 200,000 years. Whether these inhabitants interbred or not is under a very big question mark.
They have their own language, their own culture, and follow their own fashions in clothing, architecture, and strange political thought. They are ferociously proud of their own tradition of martial arts. It can be argued that the Tamils are more of a race than a simple ethnicity. The facial morphology is fairly distinct…although that could just be the mustaches.
Tamil Nadu was a hotbed of resistance to British Colonial rule in the early twentieth century. Conversely, it was one of the calmest places in the brand new country in 1947.
Also, it is HOT. In July the temperature rarely falls below 88 degrees and frequently shoots past 100. As of this writing it’s in the high 80s, and then there is the problem of being drowned in the monsoons.
In case I didn’t make it clear, dynamic cultural self-expression is vital to the Tamil nationality. When they first heard about this moving picture thing, they jumped in with both feet.
I will now fail to bore you to tears with the history of Tamil Cinema on the grounds that you were only going to skip over it anyway.
I am simply going to show you the third greatest example of it, Enthrian 2.0. I’ll work my way up to number one in other posts.
I’ve heard the first Enthiran referred to as the “Indian Terminator…”
…by people who have either never seen Enthiran or never seen The Terminator. There is no point in going over all the ways this is wrong. Aside from there being a robot in lead, that’s pretty much it. Honestly, that movie is closer to Tobor the Great than the Terminator.
Admittedly, it’s Tobor with a ton of dance numbers.
Regardless, this review sadly will not be about that movie because currently there is nowhere that it’s available in the US at the moment. It drops in and out of release on Netflix and can only be bought on a secondary market DVD. There is no guarantee that it will be subtitled (or rather subtitled in English but if your Malayan is up to the job, you’re covered).
However, its direct sequel Enthiran 2.0 is currently available on Amazon Prime. Given that it is even more Tamil insane than the first one, I believe it can be substituted pretty seamlessly.
First a word about the star or rather the superstar. How is it that this guy…
… is still the biggest action star in India?
I mean Sly and Arnold are still grunting and groaning on screen, but everyone pretty much agrees they are completely past it. And they have the box-office numbers to prove it. But Enthiran 2.0 has the sixth-highest box-office take for any Indian film worldwide. And there are 1.34 billion Indians. This man still has a LOT of still active fans. The question is how does he still have them? And the answer is, fucked if I know.
Now, I do get how he was a big deal at one time. Back when Burt Reynolds was huge, so was he.
And you certainly couldn’t fault him as a worker. He has got two hundred eight credits as an actor on IMDB and who knows how many they missed. Maybe it’s the preservationist instincts in a country that is over six thousand years old but whatever he’s got, he apparently has still got it at the age of sixty-nine.
Movie begins: Silhouette of a man as he climbs a cellphone tower and then hangs himself from it. Which felt like a call back to the first Patlabor movie. Which it effectively was. Mad Scientist’s plan for revenge against the world is initiated by his own suicide.
Next, we catch up with Doctor Scientist from the first movie. Introducing a class of college students to his new hot girl robot. One of the guys had actually gotten her phone number but was now worried about what his friends would think if he smashed with a robot. Understandable. Let’s face it those guys are already with us today and they are not at the top of the socio-sexual hierarchy.
Incidentally. I’m not bothering with spoiler alerts because it is impossible to ruin this film for you by telling you the plot. If you are watching it, it’s not for the intricately crafted story, it’s for the sheer joy of Tamil insanity.
We get a brief update, the robot “Chitti” was disassembled for killing a bunch of people in the last movie. Doctor Scientist (no I am not bothering with his polysyllabic Indian name thank you very much), is still seeing his girlfriend from the first movie but apparently, they couldn’t book Aishwarya Rai this time out so she is just a disembodied voice on the phone complaining at him. We are now up to date.
Act II begins and does so with a horror beyond all imagining. The terror builds slowly, as horror should. Just one person. One man is having an average day. His girlfriend is bitching at him because he tried to cheat on her with a robot (or maybe that’s an average day in Japan, anyway) suddenly his SAMSUNG smartphone is jerked out of his hand. It just hovers there off the ground, with the name SAMSUNG in perfect focus, (*Yeah, Indian movies are actually worse than Sony Pictures when it comes to product placement. Shocking but true). Then his cell phone flies away into the sky. A human being has just been deprived of his smartphone. He is the first, but he won’t be last. He sits there in the road, a Zoomer in complete devastation.
I liked that sequence. The tension did take its time and builds slowly. Just a couple of individuals at first. Then a very well-to-do family’s phones all fly out of the window. A poor man living in the street loses his next. Then a crowd of college girls taking selfies, followed by a single farmer out in the country minding his cattle. Culminating in a Friday night rush hour commute that turns into a massive pileup when all the smartphones inside them take to the sky.
Show don’t tell, is the first rule of fiction. And this is especially so in film. There was no need to hammer home with statistics just how universal the smartphone has become in the last ten years. Not after the director showed it. From highest to lowest every single person in India now has a smartphone. A major crutch of modern society had just been kicked away.
If I was a modern teenager, I would have been left sobbing on the floor, trembling in terror at the very thought.
But I’m Gen Xer so I just laughed while the world burned.
Then the cell phone murders start. Gigantic masses of phones slithering into different shapes. Sometimes they take the form of a road and then they turn into a crashing wave and all the while they constantly rumble, it’s just a standard silent vibrate but a million smartphones doing that all once sounds like the deep throat growl of some Triassic-Cyborg Monster. It was effective. And this collectivized monster is horribly murdering one man at a time. At first.
Also, it was a clever use of their CGI budget. Cell phones are by their very nature, blocky. And blocky is easy and CHEAP to work with when you are doing CGI. It looks better than it has any right to given what their budget was.
Back to the show. So, the Triassic-Cellphone Cyborg Monster starts murdering individuals who are pretty high up in the local cell phone industry.
Government meeting is held. Doctor Scientist takes this opportunity to propose reactivating Chitti to be a robot superhero. He is successfully opposed in this by the son of the villain from the last movie, whose head, Chitti popped like an overripe mosquito full of blood, (so yeah, issues there).
The army is called in to guard the construction of new cell phone towers. Cellphone Cyborg Monster reacts to this by turning itself into Cellphone-Rodan and attacks the army.
Lots of practical effects and explosions here, and good old-fashioned blood squibs being set off as the army accidentally and for a very long time starts shooting each other. Most authentic for that part of the world.
Skipping ahead. There is a huge line at the cellphone store when the enraged Cellphone Rodan attacks the crowd but never fear, super robot Chitti has been reactivated. And now the indescribable madness of a Tamil action scene begins.
Chitti smashes through walls, rollerblades down the side of buildings on built-in skates. Steals a tank counter and attacks Cellphone Rodan. Then leads it away from the city. All the while looking as cool as a seventy-year-old man pretending he is fifty can look. Regardless, the screen is pulverized by action.
Honestly, the clunkiest scenes in this whole movie are the ones where Rajinikanth has to run. They can try to disguise his age everywhere else but it’s obvious when he runs.
Chitti, Doctor Scientist, and Hot Indian Girl American Robot (HIGAR) sit down and confer. Earlier I had compared this movie with Patlabor the Movie, that comparison fails once they start talking about science. The writer definitely believes in Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. There was clearly no difference between magic and science for this guy.
Anyway, Doctor Scientist wants to know about any cellphone-related deaths on or about the date of the first attack and instantly spots the significant one…because genius. HIGAR btw has Daddy issues because she is clearly crushing hard on Chitti.
Chitti and company track down the headquarters of Cellphone-Rodan by the simple expedient of turning on an old NOKIA and tracking it when flies away. There then begins a L-O-N-G biographical montage that literally traces the entire life of Mad Bird Scientist (yes, the one that hanged himself at the start of the movie) from birth to death. Summation: he loved the fuck out of birds and cellphone towers are killing them because of bad science magic. Motivation established.
A medium lunatic action sequence is conducted and at the end of it, the soul of Mad Bird Scientist has been exorcised from Cellphone-Rodan by the power of good science magic.
A grateful India allows Chitti to continue to exist. This enrages the son of the villain from the last movie, a guy whose head Chitti popped like an overripe melon and he releases the soul of Evil Bird Scientist because R-E-V-E-N-G-E.
Soul of Evil Bird Scientist possesses the body of Doctor Scientist and it was actually a creepy little scene. It then dismembers Chitti and then goes on a rampage. Thankfully Chitti is put back together by HIGAR with a firmware upgrade to 2.0 that turns him into an Indian mega douche.
Chitti 2.0 then builds a vast army of himself, and the final battle soon begins in a soccer stadium and Tamil Madness gives in to the rising choirs of its insanity in joyful scene after scene of screen carnage featuring but by no means limited to, a gigantic magnetic machine gun ball, a kaiju battle between Cellphone-Rodan and Mega-Magnetic Chitti and pigeon riding cavalry of… you know what? I think I actually can ruin that scene for you.
If you decide to watch this don’t do it alone and make sure you have plenty of beer on hand. A great Friday night with the guys film.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm.