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A case of misleading teasers and marketing, but three cheers for S J Suryah![+43%]
Let's first acknowledge the few things that 'Spyder' gets right: 'Heroism' in all its cinematic sense, is pretty dumbed down in the flick - the protagonist Shiva (Mahesh Babu) enjoys a desk-job where he operates as a peeping tom in people's lives (by tapping into their phones). Borrowing a cue from Spielberg's 'Minority Report', he uses an application he has developed on his own, to serve as a (relatively unknown) vigilante by bringing criminal deeds to a standstill. It's the kind of story befitting Tier-II (or aging) stars of Indian cinema, where the punchlines are practically non-existent, public acceptance of the hero is negligible and the fight scenes aren't marred by excessive slow-motion. Kudos to Mahesh Babu (a superstar in Telugu) for taking up such a role in the prime of his career. His superb Tamil diction might even put industry A-listers to shame.
Unarguably the best thing about the film is the pre-interval stretch where the evolution of the antagonist is disclosed. Sudalai spends a good part of his childhood in a graveyard lending ears to the screams and cries of the dead's kindred. As time progresses, it slowly grows into a fiendish 'addiction' of sorts for him. When the number of visitors start to dwindle, he commits murders just to listen to people weeping - a form of perverse delight ascribed to 'Sadistic Personality Disorder'. The evil aura surrounding this character is further accentuated by the elucidation of his present exploits: people are chopped into pieces and their limbs mixed up. Reason? There is NO freaking reason! Touché Mr. Murugadoss. Thanks for not adding Sudalai to the overdone 'killing for vengeance' list.
Now, the drawbacks: The visual effects are appalling. For a film with a whopping 120 Crore budget, one would have hoped to see better work done on that front. It also doesn't help that the director is vainly attempting to outdo each set-piece fiasco with another. The settings must have sounded like aesthetic marvels during early discussions: one at a theme- park involving a roller-coaster, one involving a massive boulder crushing everything in its path, and one set in a collapsing hospital. The ideas are somewhat poorly construed - even with seasoned technicians such as Santhosh Sivan, Sreekar Prasad and Harris Jeyaraj on board, the outcome is astonishingly subpar.
Not to forget the weakest element in most star vehicles these days: the heroine. While it's quite unconventional (in South Indian cinema) to see Shalini (Rakul Preet) wanting to pair up with Shiva on a friends-with-benefits kind of relationship, this isn't the film where the topic gets fully tapped into. What we get are ho-hum song & dance routines that only act as 'pee-breaks' (why do directors consider stuffing songs in a thriller when their contribution is just to prolong the run-time?). Murugadoss in fact, wants to appease both rural and urban viewers - so on one hand, we have porn-watching women ready to experiment, and on the other, soap-watching housewives ready to save innocent lives and kick some baddie-arse.
'Spyder' is yet another case of teasers giving the wrong impression. What someone would naturally expect (by just seeing the teaser) is an international espionage thriller that makes good use of technology and advanced gadgetry (like the rather slick-looking CGI spider) to nab a villain à la Blofield from the Bond series or Thomas Gabriel from 'Live Free or Die Hard'. Which is also why I must insist on the character of Sudalai being used in a different film altogether (one with a more ghastly tone preferably on the lines of a 'Raman Raghav 2.0'.). The Chanwook Park ('I Saw The Devil') or Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy) style of pitting 'flawed-hero against menacing-villain' doesn't translate effectively on screen here, even though Suryah's act is remarkable.
Verdict: At best, 'Spyder' is an okay watch for the rendering of the near-mythical antagonist. The second half has 'exaggeration' written all over it, and surely won't go down well with most viewers!
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