(Further warning - this positive review is apparently leading to disappointment when people actually see the movie. Please scale down your expectations before watching :-) )
I'd seen the two prequels ("Koi...Mil Gaya" and "Krrish"), and while there was improvement between the first and second films, I was still preparing to be disappointed by the third, because - and all Indians will know this feeling, - every time an Indian or a group of Indians (like the national cricket team) manages to get within reach of some international benchmark, they inevitably fail, disappointing their fans and well-wishers. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems to be in the national character, and we Indians have been let down far too often by our heroes. [The only real Indian achievers at the international level are the quiet ones in research, academia and technical-professional careers.] Would an Indian film-maker be able to hold his own against his formidable counterparts in Hollywood when venturing into their home territory of the Science Fiction/Superhero genre? Or, more likely, would his film drown in an embarrassing excess of maudlin sentimentality and shoddy production, to universal ridicule?
I confess I felt vicarious trepidation.
The two most frequently aired complaints about this movie are that it is "boring" and is "unoriginal/plagiarised". Both of these complaints are just plain wrong.
- A wheelchair belonging to Professor Xavier of the X-Men
- A repurposed sonic screwdriver belonging to The Doctor
- A bunch of mutants poached from the X-Men universe, including one with a prehensile tongue like Toad and another with chameleon-like capability like Mystique
- A villain with magnetic powers like Magneto (but in a confusing amalgam with telekinesis)
- A fortress at the top of an icy mountain, which some say resembles the one in Inception (I didn't think so - it was more like the palace in Mirror Mirror)
- A rescue of a plane in danger of crashing, like in Superman Returns
- Some leaping between buildings à la Spider-man, but more parkour style
- And of course the superhero's standard secret identity as a harmless civilian
On to the characters, then. Hrithik Roshan is a truly great actor. He's likeable as well as believable in all his roles. The difference in persona between Krrish and his secret identity Krishna is dramatic but expected. Besides, the two never share the screen at the same time, for obvious reasons. The more incredible switch comes from the double role that he plays as father Rohit Mehra and son Krishna. The father is naive and nerdy, with a flabby physique and shabby attire, and a childlike intonation that harks back to his history in the first prequel as an initially mentally disabled person. The son is smart and neat, with a confident voice. When the two characters appear on screen together, their interaction is so natural, it's as if they were played by two different actors.
Superheroes are at their best when they project vulnerability rather than strength. One of the most moving scenes in "Superman - The Movie" was at the funeral of Jonathan Kent, Clark's adoptive father. Young Clark's pain is evident in his words, "All those powers - I couldn't even save him!"
That sentiment finds an echo here when Krishna expresses his despair to his father at his inability to save people dying of a virus ("What is the use of my being Krrish?"). That's one of the film's finest moments. You see, it's not enough to have super-powers. You must desperately want to help people. That's what makes a superhero. And Hrithik pulls off both action and emotion with equal ease.
The one aspect in which Krrish 3 has beaten even Hollywood is in the physique of the hero. Except for Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), no actor who played a Hollywood superhero can match Hrithik Roshan's muscles. This man has worked really hard at the gym to deserve the role of a superhero! [Also, it just wouldn't be a Hrithik Roshan movie if it didn't feature a dance sequence in which he gets to show off his liquid moves. This one is no exception.]
As we cross over to the dark side, Vivek Oberoi was quite effective as the villain Kaal. [Kaal is the Sanskrit word for Time, and it was amusing that whenever he referred to time in his dialogues, he would use the Urdu word Waqt instead.]
The reason for his disability, why no one else could develop the virus that he did (or the antidote to it), why Rohit and his family were immune to it, all these were satisfactorily explained.
Of all of the villain's minions, the best was the mutant chameleon-woman named Kaya, played superbly by Kangana Ranaut (in spite of a name that sounds like she would be embarrassingly bad at cricket). In fact, she was so good, she upstaged the film's leading lady Priyanka Chopra, who played Krishna's wife Priya. [Priyanka Chopra has gone on record to assert that she (Priyanka) is the film's heroine, and the insecurity behind that statement underlines Kangana Ranaut's powerful performance.]
Priyanka Chopra should in fact be happy with her role. In the previous Krrish movie, she had only ornamental value. She has a vastly expanded role in this one, and she does justice to it. Too bad her character isn't required to exhibit superpowers or perform daredevil stunts.
By the way, super-villains should heed this advice: When going up against a good-looking super-hero with a vulnerable innocence, keep your female minions well away from him. They might just go sweet on him at the wrong time and betray you. [The Phantom: Slam Evil, Superman - The Movie, Superman Returns, Krrish 3]
Whatever the critics may say, I predict Krrish 3 is going to smash a number of records and become a super-hit like very few others. It's now even a computer game, and a player can choose to be one of four characters - Krrish, Kaal, Kaya or the mutant frog-man.
Is there anything that I think is bad about this movie? Nothing really bad, but there were a few things that could have been done better.
The songs are strictly mediocre. It may not mean much in the Superhero genre, but it's a pretty grave shortcoming in the Bollywood genre.
On a related, er, note, theme music is very important when building a franchise, and the Krrish theme (a very nice one in my opinion) isn't played or emphasised enough.
I wish the movie had been about 20 minutes longer just to give more screen time to some of the other interesting mutants. Other than Kaya and the frog-man (and a few seconds of the cheetah-woman), we didn't really get a good look at any of them. The scorpion-woman, in particular, with her poisonous ponytail, was very intriguing. A longer battle between her and Kaya would have been exciting, I thought.
Bollywood films in general could do with a better understanding of what is considered a child-friendly movie in other countries. The "masala" (spice-mix) nature of Indian films, where there's something for everyone, often results in portions of inappropriate content for younger audiences. In all three movies of the Krrish franchise, there were elements that might be unsuitable for children (disturbing scenes of violence and bullying in Koi...Mil Gaya, the death by impalement of the villain in Krrish, and the many scenes of disfigurement and death by a virus epidemic in Krrish 3, not to speak of the much higher level of violence in the third movie).
Krrish 3 is easier to understand if we look at it as a film aimed at children (with the qualifier in the above paragraph). That doesn't mean it's too childish for adults to enjoy or that it has flaws that only children will forgive. On the contrary, it's pretty close to flawless, and enjoyable by potentially anybody. It just means we need to take ourselves back to a stage in our lives when we enjoyed experiences without the blinkers and baggage we acquired on our way to jaded adulthood. When we leave our cynicism at the door, Krrish 3 becomes the beautiful cinematic experience it is meant to be. Good triumphs over evil, the world is safe, and we can go to bed at night with a peaceful smile on our face.
This is a film that's better than "Man of Steel" or "Green Lantern", about as good as "The Avengers", and just slightly below "The Amazing Spider-man", "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.