ROBO blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Telugu: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English








Non-Indians may think it’s a bit peculiar that a chubby, bald, out-of-shape, 61 year old Joe Pesci-look-a-like is not only South India’s biggest star but has been cast in huge action films from South India. Why would movie producers not cast a young hot stud in the lead role for India’s most expensive action movie which cost around 30 million dollars? It’s because the star of Robot (“Enthiran” in its original Tamil language and “Robo” in this dubbed Telugu blu-ray version), Ranjikanth, is a real-life transformer. Once he’s on screen, he doesn’t just put on his costume, wig, and make-up, he actually becomes an impressive charismatic leading man – transforming into a cinematic superstar. During his transformation, he becomes a highly entertaining, likable actor and a very believable action hero. I just watch him with a smile on my face being aware of his real-life schlubiness.

I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed by director Shankar’s Robot since I perceive him as the James Cameron of India, and his films have always blown me away. Although a native Indian may disagree, Indian action movie cinema is quite a few steps (or years) behind the standards of what we would expect from a Hollywood or Hong Kong action film. So whenever director Shankar makes a film, he raises the bar for special effects and action choreography in Indian films. Robot has some truly “Holy crap!” Matrix moments, especially during the climax. The creativity (and most of the money) in the climax of this film is totally original – I don’t want to give away any of the movie’s creative scenes, but I thought I was watching a wacky Japanese action movie directed by Takashi Miike during many of the truly visually amazing action scenes. The action choreography not only involved India’s most respectable action choreographer, Peter Hein, but The Robot also involved the master – Woo Ping Yeun – the action choreographer for The Matrix trilogy, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Fist of Legend, Once Upon A Time In China, and Iron Monkey. I don’t know how much of the movie he was involved in, but it showed. Even though the movie cost around 30 million dollars, Shankar didn’t totally balance out the spending. Many action scenes look like money well-spent and at the same level of the effects in a Hollywood action movie (mainly in the climax), while other scenes look like CGI from the early 2000s. For example, there are some baby scenes in this film – one scene has a real baby, another scene has a CGI baby, and in another scene, the baby is totally cartoon (well, it’s not a big deal since this one is from the 3D image of a baby in the womb of a pregnant woman, but it’s still unintentionally funny). Also, there are exoskeleton robot scenes of impressively built robots, great CGI robots, to early 2000s CGI robots, to a dude wearing a tin man suit. Some people may not like that. I personally love that combination – I see these faults as a charming characteristic of the film and a reminder of the way action movies used to be made, instead of being so perfectly clean and sterile, as well as being CGI overkill as in most action movies today.

I’ve seen my share of the few sci-fi/fantasy films that India has released, such as Mr. India, Anniyan, Krrish, Drona, Love Story 2050, Rudraksh, Kanthaswamy, Aladin, and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Although some of them were good for India standards, the majority of them are not so good for the rest of the world standards when it comes to a well-written sci-fi/fantasy film. But I was totally surprised by the screenplay for this film. Even though Robot is a mainstream bright colorful Masala film (an Indian film that mixes genres in one film, such as action, comedy, drama, romance, melodrama, and music), this movie is crammed with everything that you would want to see in a movie about a robot that gets artificial intelligence. The best characteristics of Wall-E, Terminator 1 & 2, Westworld, Blade Runner, A.I., Isaac Assimov & I Robot, Osamu Tezuka & Astro Boy, and RoboCop are in this film. The screenplay sticks to the basics of how to write an intense, interesting mainstream action movie. Keep the action moving and have no filler whatsoever. The first hour of this film feels like that only 10 minutes went by. I do understand why the whole movie feels like that, because the screenplay has established conflict in every scene – conflict that leads from conflict to conflict to conflict – straight from the opening scene of the movie and all the way to the end credits. That’s how you write a movie. That’s basic quality screenwriting. If no conflict is established, you don’t care for the characters, the movie gets boring and feels long, and you just want the movie to end. Robot is a beautifully written mainstream action sci-fi film. Remember that I just said beautifully written “mainstream” action sci-fi film. Those expecting something deep, dark, and analytical may be disappointed. What’s surprising about this film is that this film ain’t some PG-rated Bicentennial Man film – Robot is as R-rated as it gets. There is violence in this film – bloodygraphic violence in this film.

And by the way, one of the best looking actresses in the world, Aishwarya Rai, is in this film. Even if the main robot character in this film didn’t have artificial intelligence, I’m sure it would still fall in love with her. She has that power.

A.R. Rahman, the greatest contemporary composer out of India, did the music for this film. Regardless of the funny and goofy lyrics, every single song is catchy in Robot. The score is also very impressive during the action scenes, probably the most epic-sounding score I’ve ever heard for action scenes in an Indian film – it’s like a Tony Scott or Michael Bay score with an Indian twist.

The Sri Balaji blu-ray (All-Region Telugu version) is awesome!
The video quality is eye-popping amazing. Colors look good, blacks are spot on. The aspect ratio is correct unlike some rumored cropping (which can only be found on the awful cropped Hindi DVD version). Skin tones looked good. This blu-ray is just another impressive Indian blu-ray. Since I’ve been selective with my Indian blu-rays (owning about 5 Indian blu-rays), I’ve only seen one disappointing blu-ray (Kites), but every other Indian blu-ray I have bought is extremely impressive. The video quality is a huge, huge massive upgrade from the respectable Tamil DVD. The CGI and special effects look amazing on this blu-ray.
The Telugu dubbed DTS-HD 5.1 audio is excellent as well. Since I’m not Indian, I heard practically no difference between the way the dub sounds compared to the original audio on the Tamil DVD. The voices sound exactly the same. If any one is concerned that it’s not in the original language, you have nothing to worry about. And I’m a person that hates dubbed movies. The soundtrack is mixed beautifully, very active and sounds just amazing during quiet scenes, intense action scenes, and during any songs.

The only negatives of this blu-ray are:
1. there is a Sri Balaji logo that very subtly pops up during the beginning of each song. But it’s so small and vague, one can barely notice it. It’s no way as noticeable as the logo that popped up all the time on the Tamil DVD.
2. The English subtitles were good with some awkward translations, but overall, the English is good enough. The Tamil DVD had better English subtitles.
3. No extras
4. If you are a Tamil-speaking Indian, then it sucks that there isn’t a Tamil blu-ray yet. But for anyone happy with reading English subtitles, the audio is amazing and doesn’t sound dubbed (to me).

Robot may not be the best science fiction movie ever made, but it’s pretty safe to say that Robot is the best science fiction musical movie ever made.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for Bluray detailing.Came across as was looking for a review on Robo bluray.Getting it now. Btw All shankar and manirathman movies in Telugu are dubbed very well.Director takes special care for lip syncs etc.They do understand they have a market in Telugu speaking sector and even movie releases simultaneously with Tamil version and hence the managed well.

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