Endhiran (The Robot) is the much-touted Indian sci-fi extravaganza that debuted last year. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll have a pretty good idea what you’re getting into. A roboticist builds a lifelike robot and begins teaching him how to become human. The scenes practically write themselves, but they’re overpowered by frequent song and dance numbers that interrupt the flow of the movie. These are mildly entertaining at first for their sheer novelty, but by the fourth number I started looking at my watch.
If not for these distractions, Endhiran would fit right in with Hollywood’s blockbusters. It certainly regurgitates enough gags from them, with a particular fondness for The Matrix and Terminator films (Woo-Ping Yuen was hired to choreograph the stunts, so it’s not too surprising). Naming the origins of its low-rent scenes ahead of your friends might make for an interesting drinking game, but the lack of imagination is disappointing. It does try to put its own spin on familiar ideas, but is most successful when it pits man vs machine for the love of a woman. But it takes far too long to build up to that, and the fun action sequences are fleeting.
At nearly three hours long, some cuts here and there would be appreciated. There’s a disproportionate number of scenes with questionable value (ones with talking mosquitoes, and another where a woman gives birth come to mind), and they’re not always entertaining for the right reasons. I wouldn’t say that Endhiran is so bad that it’s only worth watching just for laughs, but it comes pretty darn close.
In the end, this is a tough one to recommend due to its taxing length and general stupidity, never mind the largely unwelcome Bollywood-style numbers (Endhiran isn’t considered a true Bollywood film because it was filmed in Chennai in Tamil). But the action scenes, with their cartoon physics and utter disregard for realism, are pretty hilarious. The grand finale, in which hundreds of humanoid robots band together like modular parts to form gigantic snakes, drills, and other stuff might be enough to sway this one into the “must see” category, if you’re in the mood for something totally crazy. Just be prepared to wade through a whole lot of cheese to get there.
Rumor has it that a sequel is in the works.
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