Zero Review (No Spoilers): Regressive Romance, Progressive Special Effects

This is the review to read if you haven’t seen the film yet but want an idea of what it is like before you make your decision as to whether or not to watch it.

As a Shahrukh fan, I am going to tell you all go to see this movie because he needs the box office hit.

As a film reviewer, I am going to tell you not to see this movie because it is bad.

You pick which Margaret to believe.

This movie has some great visuals, and two interesting characters, and is certainly ambitious. But at some point the special effects ended up substituting for the emotion.

Image result for zero poster
This scene could have been really great if there had been any logic to their conversation during it

Not the Little Person special effects. Shahrukh’s character is solidly grounded in the concept of a Little Person who feels any sin he does is justified because of his suffering since birth. The effects are mostly seamless for him and they aren’t pointless, they are a vital part of his character and the plot. No, it is all the other special effects, especially in the final 3rd of the film, that feel like they have no point beyond showing off. Spectacular and interesting visuals, for sure, but at a certain point I lose interest when there is no motivation behind them.

The best part of the film, for me, is the section with almost no special effects. When Katrina and Shahrukh interact, everything locks into place. All the chemistry that was missing between them in Jab Tak Hain Jaan is here in spades, and I am fascinated watching their characters together. I don’t necessarily want them to be together romantically, I just love watching them onscreen together. They are the two most clearly drawn characters in the film, and when they talk, the film makes sense. Really, I am looking forward to finding this film streaming just so I can rewatch that section.

Problem is, Kat is only there for a 3rd of the film, and the rest of it is with Anushka who is the least clearly drawn character in the film. Her chemistry with Shahrukh is still (always) there. And she does what she can with her performance. There just isn’t that much to work with, I am never super clear on her feelings or motivation scene to scene.

In the end, the only way Anushka makes sense is if I accept a regressive view of the Indian woman as loving her man above and beyond everything else. It’s a very strange message to put in this film, with all the special effects and everything else around the edges, this deadly old-fashioned ridiculous vision of womanhood. That alone would have made the film hard to swallow for me.

But added on is some basic narrative structure issues. The first half is tight and logical, but the second half wanders all over the map. I expect a plot shift at intermission, I don’t expect 4 more massive twists. Especially when they are ultimately all switchback twists, that is, we are zigging and zagging in order to take 4 times as long to get to where we could have gotten in a simple straight line.

Image result for switchback mountain road
This is the plot. When we could have just gone straight up the side of the mountain instead.

So, that’s what you will see. Several weak characters around two really good ones, twists so tight and fast you will get whiplash, and a regressive version of Indian women.

But also, it’s a new Shahrukh movie and a good performance from him. And it has one really great song. And most of all, #SRK4EVER !!!!!! He is KING!!!!! Buy lots and lots of tickets and then just throw them away just so he can be back on top of the box office race!!!!!!

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24 thoughts on “Zero Review (No Spoilers): Regressive Romance, Progressive Special Effects

  1. Looking forward to seeing this again and deconstructing it here. For now I just want to say that I didn’t find anything regressive in Anushka’s character. I reacted more like you did to Rani in Aiyyaa. Being a fully human character means sometimes loving the person you shouldn’t logically. I also see Bauua’s character as being like Ayushmann in Dum Laga…He is damaged by his father’s disdain. Like in Dum Laga, and one of my SRK faves, Chalte Chalte, I wasn’t sure if I wanted Bauua and Aafia to get back together or not. Even by the end. I guess I like ambivalence in relationships sometimes.

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  2. Khan tries, but he has clocked way too many years as a witty conversationalist and dream interviewee to reconnect with the craft that put him in those seats. The more I see him struggling to undo his self-reverence within movies, the more I feel like going back in time and appreciating Fan for its aspirations. It might, after all, be the last Hindi film to feature Shah Rukh Khan as we’d want to remember him: audacious, edgy, talented. – Rahul desai, film companion.
    ODDLY I AGREE WITH THIS!?! HEELLP! I FEEEL HORIBLE! I want to be a supportive fan but he’s making it verrrrry hard for me!!

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    • What does him giving witty interviews have to do with acting in movies?
      He was brilliant as Bauaa, just like he was as Harry or Raees or Jug in Dear Zindagi. He’s easily the best actor out of the Khans.
      Zero was a mess but doesn’t make his acting bad.

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      • In my opinion it does and its starting to get super annoying because their is a huge dissonance there.On one hand he comes across as a extremely smart person in real life however the movies he has been making barring the Dear Zindagis and the fans just aren’t. I think what he is missing is entertainment.there is a reason why movies like DDLJ, KKKG and the likes are evergreen(yes they all have their problems now). However, a lot of people foray into Hindi movies through these movies and while some people get turned off, the reason why most people stick to it is that we get sucked into the world that might look nothing like our day to day ones. The problem SR K has now is that yes he is a good actor and yes he might talk to a director and they might pitch him a smart concept but a smart concept is not the same as an entertaining film. Its not enough if his acting is good, the whole movie must be too. It’s getting damn tiring for him to prop his films as something they are not while we the audience get our hopes dashed constantly.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I disagree, just because JHMS came after Fan. Oh, and also Dear Zindagi. Okay, so I guess I disagree a lot. He has movies that fail to live up to his performances, but it’s more like every other film, not all the time. I DEFINITELY don’t think Fan will be the last time we see that kind of performance, he did 2 more equally good performances within a year after that. Raees and Zero, sure, fell victim to the Shahrukh charm and charisma over-whelming the acting and plot. But his other stuff in the past 3 years has been top notch. And there’s a vast difference between Shahrukh in Dilwale skating by on nostalgia and dimples and Shahrukh in Zero, being bitter and different from every before in any performance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Will you still read here in four weeks? I did not read anything except the titles, however I guess that your impression isn’t entirely positive… I suppose I’ll love the movie just because so many seem to dislike it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, absolutely! I know there are people on the blog who won’t be able to watch it opening week for many reasons, come back to the reviews once you have seen it and comment, they will do the same.

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  4. I’m soo sad for Shahrukh 😦

    I was wondering if you do, sort of a year round up here on your blog?
    Like a “Margaret’s Movie Awards!” Would love to see something like that 😀

    Example:
    Best actor/ best supporting actor
    Favorite male/female character
    Fave love song / party song
    Best lyrics/ choreography
    Fave love story / best kiss
    Movie that made me cry / laugh
    Best action movie / romance / drama

    And we could also name our awardees in the comments!

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    • Yep, I totally do that! Only I wait until January so the last few films can trickle out, and also because it gives us something fun to look forward to after Christmas.

      I like your category suggestions! I don’t want to do “best film” or simple stuff like that, but I love shaking things up and doing things like “hottest character” or “best all around Actor of the year”.

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    • I feel so sad for him. It’s obvious he works so hard and gets his heart broken when people don’t like what he’s offering. Why can’t the script go right for him?

      He’s on twitter quoting from a sad poem and sounds depressed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What do you make of the critics giving the movie a bad review but people from the industry showering it with praise and calling it a brave film/looking past all its flaws? I haven’t watched the film yet and still haven’t decided whether I’m going to watch it in theatres because from the moment it was announced, the whole idea of SRK playing a dwarf just turned me off. The reason I ask is because someone on Twitter likened this phenomenon to how people showered Amitabhs movies not matter how bad they were during those days with praise when he was transitioning to the older phase he is in now which I thought was interesting.

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    • In Amitabh’s day, there was no social media. National news did not cover such movie news either. There were only 1 or 2 film magazines that might have carried reports about what specific industry members felt about certain movies. Unless that person lived through that phase and was reading those magazines, there’s no way to know what the industry thought of AB’s flop movies. It sounds made-up.

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    • I think it makes complete sense actually. If I were looking at it from the industry side, I might be impressed as well. the special effects are amazing, so are the performances, and the pure ambition of the plot. It’s a great movie to admire technically and be impressed by how hard it must have been to make and so on and so forth. But I don’t think it works for the audience. I’ve seen the flip reaction to, for instance, KKHH. Industry types dismiss it because it’s an old-fashioned plot and not very impressive camera work and so on and so forth. But it has such heart that the audience loves it.

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  6. 1. This nonspoiler comments section is somewhat spoilery. :O

    2. If you are considering watching this movie, then watch it on the big screen, or don’t watch it at all. I say this because the VFX work is very professional and seemless on the cinema screen. Really well done!
    But when I’ve seen snippets of this movie on TV since then (as part of weekend BW roundup shows), the green screen work becomes super obvious (prob because of HD TV plus the close proximity of the tv screen vs movie screen), with SRK looking shoddily superimposed on the screen. It will completely change your viewing experience, and not in a good way.

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  7. Okay I genuinely want to watch zero but I’m reading a lot of tweets which say that the first half is really good and the second is terrible. I didn’t read your review and I want to know if you agree with the tweets.
    Also, the general public consensus(including mine) is that he has lost his touch post 2010. I’m not an srk fan but I do like him and want his films to do well. It’s been so long since an srk film was genuinely appreciated by all including non SRK fans. Probably the last was Chak De? What would be your response to the non fans?

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    • I’m not Margaret but I enjoyed the second half and didn’t have the same problems with it that I’m reading in other reviews and comments. I’ve been more bothered by the improbabilities in other films. And there are a few effects scenes that are fun to watch.

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    • I would say the last third is the bad part. I liked the first half and the immediately post-interval section, it is the ending where it falls about for me. But you should make up your own mind! Right now the comments section is pretty divided between liking it and not liking it, so I have no idea where you would fall.

      I completely disagree with the post-2010 theory. His films have always been hit and miss, his performances are always good and he gives 100% but the films have had varied reactions. The past 8 years have seen the same number of hits and misses as the previous 18 years of his career. It’s just that social media is covering them more closely, and he is being compared with Aamir who has made far fewer films in that period and they have all (until Thugs) been hits. And with Salman, who is seen as not as “serious” so no one bothers to critique his films.

      Post-2010 he gave us My Name is Khan, Ra.One, Don 2, Jab Tak Hain Jaan, Chennai Express, Happy New Year, Dilwale, Fan, Dear Zindagi, Raees, and Jab Harry Met Sejal. Pre-2010, he gave us Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, Devdas, Shakti: the Power, Saathiya, Chalte Chalte, Kal Ho Na Ho, Main Hoon Na, Veer-Zaara, Swades, Paheli, KANK, Don, Chak De India, Om Shanti Om, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Billu. Of those pre-2010 films, HTHS, Shakti, Paheli, KANK, Billu all got similar reactions of the critics and the audiences being confused and unhappy with what they saw. Only we don’t remember that now because they have either been forgotten as time passes (HTHS, Shakti, Billu) or have become cult favs (KANK, Billu).

      That isn’t to say that Shahrukh’s career isn’t changing, it is, I just don’t want to simplify it to “he lost his touch”. The film industry is changing, the release strategies for films are changing, the way opinion is spread is changing. But he has always made bad weird movies that didn’t connect with the audience, scattered between really good films.

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      • True, but between 2000- 2007, he had lot of hits in a row – Mohabattein, K3G, Devdas, Kal ho na ho, Main Hoon na, Veer Zaara, Chak De, Om Shanti Om… And so many hits in the 90s as well. That’s clearly changed now. My name is Khan – I’m not entirely sure, Ra one , Jab tak hai Jaan, Happy New year, Dilwale, Raees, Fan all of them didn’t do well. Chennai Express was the only bonafide hit.

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        • Only, Kal Ho Na Ho and Main Hoon Na and Veer Zaara and Chak De all did about as well as MNIK, Ra.One, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Happy New Year, and Dilwale, It’s just expectations that have changed. Fan was the only total flop, Even JHMS did well overseas. Ra.One and MNIK both set overseas records. JTHJ and Happy New Year and Dilwale all were hits, just not record breaking hits.

          It’s an expectations game, I think. Back in 2000-2007, it was expected that every film would be a hit. Now, it has to be a record breaking hit, not just do well.

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  8. I won’t comment on Zero here – not in detail but I want to say something about the terms “bad” and “entertaining”.
    Imo, a part of a movie is only “bad” when it glorifies/shows as an okay-good thing ‘bad’ things like indulging in violence, demeaning women, disrespecting/abusing kids, using sex to get something, being law-maker, judge & executor in one person.
    Respective to this, there is nothing ‘bad’ in Zero and no part is ‘bad’.

    I’m rather easy to entertain with movies…even with those given zero stars. When I watch a movie for the first time, I’ve zilch expectations, I’m just curious. I think, it is a very childlike approach but movies are something I mostly enjoy except if what I wrote above happens. There are so many possibilities a movie can entertain me, be it through characters, story/narrative elements, visuals, actors/actresses, imaginative/fantastic elements, action, music…I easily can overlook the so-called flaws if I’m dragged into a movie.
    I was deeply dragged into Zero.

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