Review: Brahmastra Part 1, Shiva

This year, more than ever, Indian cinema is showing that it has become important enough to reach beyond its vast borders and speak to a global audience, as demonstrated by the flamboyant RRR at the start of the year, confirming the importance of director SS Rajamouli, who will soon have the right to a special focus at the American festival Beyond Fest.
And even if it means fooling around with Westerners, you might as well try to take them at their own game, by creating a dedicated cinematographic universe, for example!

Bollywood pulls the rug out from under Marvel Studios with Brahmāstra: Part One – Shivathe first stone of a trilogy supposed to install the “Astraverse”, where the superheroes are here replaced by avatars of Hindu deities, the Brahma of the title referring to the creator god of Hinduism, and the astra to super natural weapons channeling the energies of the elements such as fire, water, air…

And if you are a little lost in front of these exotic concepts, the film will bring you back to your good habits from the studio logos, since we find ourselves faced with that of “Star Studio”, which is literally played on the design and the music from 20th Century Fox!
It may come as a surprise, and it’s actually due to the takeover of Fox by Disney, which distributes the film worldwide, proof of the blockbuster status of this production, especially since Brahmāstra was granted a worldwide release with including sessions on both sides of France.
A desire to blur the boundaries which is confirmed in an animated introduction with voice-over which tells us the origins of this story, namely the creation of the famous Brahmāstra of the title (basically a divine force capable of destroying everything), warriors destined to protect it all their life and the weapons that go with it, all of which has gone through the ages until today.

The influence of Peter Jackson and his insane introduction to Lord of the Rings is still present, but in a much less convincing form, which the film will confirm on the spot with a rather funny action scene in its main scenic idea ( a character with the powers and agility of a monkey trying to escape assassins), but who also gives in to over-cutting and short shots which reminds us of one of the most annoying trends in Hollywood today , for a result that struggles to be completely satisfactory on screen. Immediately, doubt arises.
Aren’t we going back to our bad Hollywood habits a little too quickly?
Brahmāstra is it only an ersatz of its American models without the Indian madness that we love so much?

The following scene will be enough to get to the bottom of it: the presentation of the hero Shiva, a modest man in the street who arrives at a huge party and immediately starts dancing with tons of extras, all obviously ultra synchronized around the guy.
In a very honeyed pop title, he tells us that he sings and dances life as the other would say, with repetitive lyrics and a visual frenzy close to the video clip, the shots linking up in all directions, provided that we have the stage from all angles, with as many sets as possible, going from a traditional party with Hindu statues everywhere to a huge party in a nightclub where our hero is the DJ!
Right in the middle of this mess, here he is staring right in the middle of the crowd at a woman he sees in slow motion, with dripping violins galloping in, and then we go for a little stalking session as the man knows so well. make Indian cinema, which, we say every time, does not pass the #MeToo test in its current mores.

No doubt: we are in Bollywood, and Brahmāstra then leaves for an hour of romance ass-ass the praline supplement whipped cream, with his hero who grew up in the street who will teach life to the young rich woman he fell in love with, the latter following him madly despite the heaviness of the ‘approach.
Orphanage visit where we laugh and dance with the children, walk under the thousand lights of the city and the fireworks, our duo will turn around for ages, while in the background settles the fantastic plot of the film, the hero being seized with sudden visions and then discovering his powers, his nature and the whole tattoo.

If all this seems somewhat long and tedious, unfortunately it is somewhat, dragging its feet while singing the beauty and sweetness of love to better say “I Love You” 30 minutes later while being almost surprised (?!!). Clearly, our heroes are no geniuses, and the importance placed around this romance is somewhat disproportionate to arrive at a very explanatory second act, where our duo will meet the local Nick Fury / Charles Xavier and understand that they are at the heart of bigger stakes with other characters, who will go so far as to introduce themselves in the text as the local Avengers.
We are not going to tell the whole film, but its main concern lies in the lack of balance between its different ingredients, namely its Bollywood romance, the installation of its fantastic background and its desire for a great show with superheroic tendencies. , the story bombarding a whole series of supporting roles also endowed with powers and supposed to accompany the hero without sufficiently installing the said characters for them to have any real importance, or even for them to be clearly identified! In truth, many tropes of the Marvel model are there, such as the desire to fit in cameos to please by playing on superstar actors who go over the top from time to time, like Shah Rukh Khan, seen in Devdas.

Spoiler: it works, and the room did not hesitate to welcome the man in a great exclamation of cries and joy!

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Except that behind this trick that the film will repeat sporadically, the story and the exploitation of the imagination set up remain very superficial, the film promising a lot in its intro, and offering very little in the end, so much does it exploit the codes of the genre mechanically, with for example a very wicked villain whose outfit and powers seem straight from the Scarlet Witch at Marvel, including in the special effects all in smoke and red lights. There are some exciting things here and there, like a man who can deploy a huge glowing bull spectrum to stick space potatoes, but he’ll only harness it once, like the first action scene where the character sees the huge silhouette of a monkey god behind him when he makes a huge leap in the air.

Like Marvel, Brahmāstra seems better at the idea of ​​sticking some cool artwork on the screen rather than working on it in motion, and despite a refreshing imagination for us Westerners, and what’s more, it’s ultra colorful unlike what Hollywood generally offers, everything frequently falls flat, as evidenced by a climax that unleashes green screens and CGIs in all directions without really providing anything new or formally brilliant.

Therein lies the overall disappointment: while it might reinvigorate a genre that’s been going around in circles for a while, this blockbuster actually spends more time quoting its elements, never quite managing to offer a scene. that we haven’t already seen better elsewhere, all with cliché characters, quickly disembodied in their supposedly indestructible love, umpteenth victims of tropes a thousand times hackneyed, the better to plaster them on a Manichean plot that often borders on parody . The Indian character of the film gives it a bit of exoticism to make the pill go away, and there is something to laugh about nicely for a good part, with its songs (which all look a little alike), its forced candor smelling good marshmallow, the somewhat relative charisma of its characters, and a production that is generally bursting with tunes which has the merit of showing it on the screen. But the whole thing seriously struggles to fill its too long 2h45, and we never find the Herculean staging, the madness of grandeur and this refusal of the impossible that we love so much in certain local productions, whether in SS Rajamouli or in other recent films like Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy.

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Even if it means comparing with the Americans, we can also go to the other side of the globe, much less far for once, so much the story of this hero possessing in him without knowing it divine powers linked to fire recalls the Chinese figure of Nezha, recently invigorated with staggering energy in the excellent animated film New Gods: Nezha Reborn.

Brahmāstra could have been of that caliber, and entertained us at full speed with a clean style and a taste for galvanizing gigantism, by laying the stones of an enticing and singular saga along the way.
Without being ashamed, the result is closer to the slightly sickening cream pie, which does not hide its mercantile character and whose invoice is simply not up to the level of the event sold.

Brahmāstra, ofAyan Mukherjee – Theatrical release on September 9, 2022

Review: Brahmastra Part 1, Shiva