Spyder Review (No SPOILERS): An Action Movie About Human Connections

Well, this was an actual good movie!  A no shortcuts, no lack of imagination, no lack of quality, straight up good movie.  How refreshing!  Something I could see myself going to with my parents, or seeing a second time just on my own.  Not flawless, but actually really really good!  It’s been awhile since I had that.  Certainly better than the movie I saw last night. (Spoiler review for this going up on Tuesday, the usual Tuesday Telugu)

Mahesh is good, of course, but he lets the rest of the film shine with him.  The real highlights turn out to be the action scenes, and the villain.  This is a totally different kind of big budget action sequence than I have seen before in Indian film.  Or, is it?  I guess not.  I guess it’s that it’s just been awhile since I have seen something like this.

(Also, the songs are quite good)

This is an attack on humanity, on the mass of people.  Not on something abstract like a building, or a theme park or whatever.  And it is carried out not through high complex science, but through raw force.  No guns, no knives even.  Just the day to day dangers of life, tipped ever so slightly in order to cause death.

The action scenes don’t make me think of The Flying Jatt or Krrish 3, they make me think of Satyam Shivam Sundaram or Mother India or Kaala Patthar.  It’s not about the evil villain, it’s about the fragility of life, all life, and how one random event can put thousands in danger. And it’s about saving those lives more than defeating the villain.

(This kind of disaster)

The action scenes have a kind of excitement and thrill to them from our pure fear for the people involved, not just because of the spectacle.  And that’s our hero’s attitude as well, more concerned with the people involved than just appreciating the spectacle, or stopping the big whatever thing.  It’s about saving lives.

What makes the film not just good, but something approaching great, is how it mixes this message of the value of human life with the technical world we live in.  This isn’t some villain who kills people with exploding cell phones or whatever “technology is the real killer” message the scriptwriter can come up with, the dangers are basic and simple, a falling rock, a collapsing building, a man in your house with a screwdriver.  But the solutions involve the ways our new technology can connect us instead of separate us.  Cell phones and TV serials and whatsapp pleas for help, it can all be used to bring us back together instead of farther apart.

So, that’s all what’s good about it, what’s bad?  Why isn’t it a perfect movie?  Well, the romance is TERRIBLE.  And it really doesn’t belong there at all.  There’s no purpose to it, no narrative purpose or metaphorical purpose or even teaching us anything more about the hero. I understand the need for eye candy and love songs, but it would have been much much better served by a wife back home who only shows up for a few scenes and there is no need for a backstory or set-up.  Or even a long time girlfriend or fiance, if you have to make the hero unmarried.  There’s no reason to throw in this ridiculous romance in the middle of everything.

(ridiculous!)

Which also makes our heroine look sooooooooooo stupid.  That she is insisting on this romance when our hero has so much else on his mind.  A lot better to have her be a wife calling about their kids at school, or a fiance calling about a wedding plan, not just a girlfriend calling to flirt while our hero is trying to save lives.  And it’s not Murgadoss’ fault, I know from Ghajini and especially Akira that he can create wonderfully powerful and interesting female roles.  It’s not the woman that’s the problem, it’s the romance.  Terrible idea to force it into the film.  The movie would be much stronger without it.

There are some other similar things that are sort of dropped.  Our heroes’ family has quite a few scenes in kind of the first third of the film, and then disappears never to be seen again.  It’s just a little unbalanced.  Our heroes job/mission is clearly defined in the beginning, gets a bit fuzzy in the middle, and then comes back in the end.  None of them film-ruiners, just keep it from perfection.

What is perfection is the villain.  Start to finish.  The tracking him down, the first reveal, the motivation and backstory.  It’s all unique, but at the same time logical and familiar.  And terrifying because of the familiarity.  This could happen to you, this could be the person following you on the street or standing behind you on the bus.  It isn’t some remote supervillain with incredible powers, it is someone just like anyone else.

Mahesh Babu’s hero is the perfect antidote to this villain.  The villain is all emotion and terrifying nature.  While Mahesh is all control and lack of emotion and use of technology.  It’s really a great Mahesh role, it needs his kind of clean calm presence to ground us in the midst of all the madness.  As usual, it doesn’t look like he is doing anything onscreen, but in fact he is doing everything.

(Even in the romance, he’s still there making it work)

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17 thoughts on “Spyder Review (No SPOILERS): An Action Movie About Human Connections

  1. I’m glad to have your review for this movie. This is another one with wildly varying reviews – Its boring or its amazing. I’ll have to catch this one then. 🙂 It should be fun to see S.J. Surya as the villain. I feel like directors turned actors are generally really good for some reason.

    Its interesting what you mentioned about the romance because that’s been something A.R. Murugadas has been talking about in his interviews. Actually, in his last Tamil movie Kaththi, he had the exact same problem- the romance was completely unnecessary and distracted from the story. He mentioned that because he was working with big actors (Vijay in Kaththi and Mahesh here), he felt certain things, like a romance and songs, were expected. He didn’t think the audience would accept a hero film without these things so he was trying to find the right balance. Looking at the general reception of Spyder though, I think he may have point. The word of mouth for the Tamil version, where Mahesh isn’t an established actor, is generally positive. The Telugu version seems to get the more mixed reviews and according to a friend, the reason seems to be that it isn’t what people were expecting.

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    • Interesting about the break between Tamil and Telugu. It’s definitely more of an all around just plain good movie than a “Mahesh Babu Star Vehicle” kind of film.

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      • But the thing is that they kind of did promote the movie like it was a “Mahesh Babu Star Vehicle”. Both Murugadoss and Mahesh both compared Spyder to Thuppakki and Ghajini which were more of star vehicles. Plus the trailers showed shots of the fights that were shown in the Boom Boom song and people (including me) were expecting them to be full fledged action sequences.

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        • Fascinating! So it might be suffering from the Jab Harry Met Sejal problem. A good movie, but not the movie it was promoted as.

          On Sun, Oct 1, 2017 at 2:19 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

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          • Exactly! It wouldn’t have hurt if they established Mahesh’s character by setting up an intro fight. Instead of beginning with Mahesh saving the girl from those guys, show Mahesh saving that kid who was the police officer’s son. Expand that into an intro fight scene which establishes how powerful the character is. Then go on to the Boom Boom song and show the montages of the other moments as well. One of the things that didn’t exactly work for me is that SJ Suryah’s character was elevated so much and I felt like Mahesh’s character wasn’t as powerful enough to defeat him.

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          • I hadn’t even thought about it, but you are right, it’s a long time until Mahesh gets a real fight scene.

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  2. This review makes me sad. I was supposed to see it on Thursday night, even had my ticket, but an emergency intervened, so bye bye movie. It was still playing till tonight (around her we typically only get one show per movie, and a really big one like this gets three or four), but then so was my emergency. I consoled myself by saying, “Oh, well, a typical Mahesh Babu movie, I’m not missing much,” but now you’ve gone and spoiled that complacency. 😦

    Still, I’m glad you liked it and found it worth your while.

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  3. Margaret, glad you watched this movie but your review is not clear to me. Whether I should watch the movie and skip spoiler review or I should skip review and watch the movie?

    Anyway, Rakul Preet Singh is being confined to glamorous roles in all movies and I haven’t seen her acting talent in any movie. Unfortunately many other north Indian actresses also are used for skin show especially in Telugu movies. When we Telugu audience enter into theatres we already know what we get from such actresses. I think this movie also suffers from the usual ‘formula’ problem – six songs, three fights and four comedy scenes etc.

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  4. Pingback: Spyder Review (SPOILERS): Closing the Technical Gap | dontcallitbollywood

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