Rajinikanth’s previous outing as a mad scientist who creates a robot in his own image was, despite its sludgy parts, quite a lot of fun.
In the 2010 Robot, Rajini played Prof Vaseegaran (and Chitti The Lookalike Robot) with a hint of knowingness peppering his goodness, flirting with the doe-eyed Aishwarya Rai when not tinkering with his machines. There were some laughs to be had as the basic-as-sliced-white-bread storyline unspooled, with the help of Shankar’s give-‘em-big special effects.
Two Point Oh, eight years on, is a reboot of the good robots and bad humans theme, with the add-on of a hot button issue: the environment. And by roping in Akshay Kumar to buttress Rajini’s reprisal of his double role as man and robot, Shankar is going all-India.
2.0 is pitted as a clash of two big stars, even if the opening credits are revelatory: Rajinikanth is ‘superstar’ and Akshay merely gets top billing amongst the rest. It also takes the business of throwing everything in Shankar’s arsenal of special effects at us very seriously, leaving us with two supersize characters towering over a stadium.
So is 2.0 double the fun? Naah. All the groaning and clanking of metal, and 3D computer graphic imagery flying about is just not enough to make it compelling viewing. The writing is even more ordinary than in the first version: the best comic book stories have layers you can dig in to, and the zingiest superhero tales leave us with something to chew on.
Here you have to be content with a couple of wisecracks, one or two gee-whiz sfx scenes, and the desire to whack the evil person sitting next to you who can’t keep their paws off their cell-phone. Wait, there’s a crucial plot point attached to this, and about the only good thing in this flick.
Shankar did have the kernel of a good idea. Cell phone usage has reached epidemic proportions. It is not only re-wiring our brains and the way we communicate, but also creating environmental damage caused by cell tower radiation. Except by the time this crucial element kicks in, half the film is over.
You sit through the deathly familiar nexus of greedy corporates and politicians bartering bribes and bandwidth, wondering why Rajini is being strangely subdued, even when he is made to spend time with the resolutely red-lipped, impressively pneumatic Ms Jackson. Adil Hussain pops up as a reasonably responsible ‘neta’ but doesn’t get much to do in this to-do of the two titans. And Pandey does nothing but grimace right through.
The real film kicks in post-interval, with the appearance of Akshay’s Pakshiraja, a good man turned bad, out of fear and justifiable anger. The Bird Man will do anything to save his feathery friends, even if it means killing and smashing his way through buildings and cell towers and people who like their hand-sets. Akshay brings some much-required energy to the movie, as well as some moving moments, before he and his glittery gold eyes get encased in metal. By then it’s just a question of how much Shankar will crank it up in the climax. He does, but somehow, none of it sticks after an initial shock-and-awe flash.
2.0 is dull as ditchwater in the first half, perking up a little in the second, with a half-way watchable Akshay, and a Rajini coming into his own right towards the end, for a bit. There are some oh-wow moments, but on the whole, the film is not worth all the sound and fury.
Will there be a 3.0? Give that a thought while I deposit my 3D glasses by the door.