Kalki 2898 AD: Review

Kalki 2898 AD: Review

Kalki 2898 AD: Review. By Samhith Ankam.

Kind of insane???? For Tollywood standards, this is such a successful reskin of conventional sci-fi without any real “take-me-outs” in relation to the budget. It looks “good”, and copious amounts of grain in the frame (digitally shot so it’s added digitally) makes it feel more cinematic even down to the obviously cartoonish de-aging for Amitabh Bachan. 

Kalki: 2898 AD is very obviously a Part 1 out of who knows how many ever parts, but lots of moving parts are working *mostly* in harmony here. Very classically about a money-hungry anti-hero trying to climb up the social ladder. Prabhas becomes a vessel of this world’s appeal from a sci-fi genre perspective. He’s fun enough as a lens to view this dystopia for all its promises. Although it’s working with the Star-Lord from the Guardians of the Galaxy archetype, it’s still successful in its own right. 



You kind of risk comparison when you wear your influence on your sleeve, not that it’s a bad thing per sè. Like kind of an icky way on my end to talk about sci-fi coming from a film industry that hasn’t had the years of experience to fully hone in on style, metaphor evoked through narrative, and, as a result, needs to work in pastiche. Nag Ashwin’s take on reincarnating the story of the Mahabharata in 2898AD is still enough to feel new however, and his idea goes down easy almost entirely down to how he maybe curates the best Prabhas for the screen in years.

Salaar was utilizing Prabhas’ introverted energy for good, taking his build and matching that with macho stoicism which is charming in its own way. A palette cleanser after the very obvious shift in his look post-Bahubali where the insistence to play him as a clean heartthrob — a 6”5’ finance bro who frequents the gym — only really led to disastrous results. Nag Ashwin showcases Prabhas like he’s our very own Jason Momoa – his beard isn’t lined up, his hair is clean only in the sense that it is tied up, and he’s bracingly huge. They’re having so much fun with the goofiness of it all.

This is all really only like 40% of the movie; this is moreso a movie about the rebels trying to destroy the social order in 2898AD — it’s more like The Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Blade Runner. It’s not seamlessly trying to chart Prabhas as he sees the world for what it is, but constantly switching characters to open up the injustices. One being Deepika Padukone’s character, Sum-80, who’s harboring “the chosen one” in her belly while stuck in the abortion ring in the Complex (the movie’s Citadel). A staggeringly sad performance from Deepika using the innocence of her character. And also, Amitabh Bachan plays Ashwathamma, who’s banished and immortal — withering away like a mummy in a cave without his “power source” until he’s given the chance to fight again, and right his wrongs. Feels very episodic more than a hodgepodge; Less crosscutting and more extended scenes that destroy momentum but allow for cohesion.

It can feel like not much happens because you’re learning at a snail’s pace to soak up rather derivative details of this world. This is a movie of plot; people doing stuff and telling what they’re gonna do without getting to the friction between the characters quick. The parallels to the Mahabharata are really interesting to talk about, but it feels like dots not lines, if that makes sense. Again my navieté regarding the Mahabharata keeps me at arm’s length to be that interested in the parallel here, but you’d wish the parallel itself is being tackled.

It does what I’m about to say with the credits sequence, keep in mind, but given that it’s a reincarnation of the story of sorts, compare the commoners’ injustices between now and then! Compare how the woman as a vessel for a man’s youth manifested in different ways between now and then! If not compare, then find despair in making the parallel existing itself! If not that, then intersect the characters sooner and see how the characters being aware of their Mahabharata origins guides their actions! — this last one essentially happens within the last 15 minutes before ending on a cliffhanger, which is annoying in its own way.

What keeps this feeling less special than it could, as well, is the choreographing of the action. It’s very amiss in terms of energy, which is a bug of the sci-fi genre in general. Technology streamlines action, guns create very clear lines of sight, and superheroic strength turns the environment into levels like a video game to keep it dynamic. But, dynamacism is not dynamic if it’s curated. It has to be organic you know? Not that masala movies don’t choreograph themselves into oblivion but it feels like bodies are the environment in those. With how people fly from punches without an ounce of blood, it’s weirdly floaty here even when many others do the same. Kalki is a fun watch, no doubt, but a movie that’s really just doing groundwork, so your commitment to the rest of the universe is paramount to your enjoyment. 

2.5/5


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