A Marvel Fan Reviews Ranbir Kapoor & Alia Bhatt-starrer ‘Brahmastra'
'Brahmastra' features Ranbir Kapoor as Shiva and Alia Bhatt as Isha.
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When the trailer for Brahmastra released in June, with all the VFX bells and whistles possible, several people started comparing it to Marvel. Considering how omnipresent Marvel has been in the world of superheroes, fantastical landscapes, and VFX in general, the comparison seemed inevitable.
With that in mind, I went to watch Brahmastra and as someone who has loved the MCU for a while now, I left the theatre impressed.
This is not to say that the MCU has had a squeaky clean record when it comes to creating impressive VFX (we all remember that one Black Panther fight sequence) but it’s superhero films vs an ‘astra’ (a divine weapon); it’s close enough.
Before we even get into the VFX, let’s talk about the one thing the MCU is an expert at – creating an universe.
Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva tells a basic but interesting ‘good vs evil’ story – Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) struggles to make peace with his new powers and divine purpose as he clashes with Junoon (Mouni Roy) in an attempt to protect and/or attain the ‘Brahmastra’.
In both their attempts, the film takes the audience through the several different astras, with some details picked directly from Hindu mythology – for instance, the ‘Nandi astra’ essentially protects Shiva and Isha (aka Parvati).
The lore behind the story is as intricate as the plot is simple [barring the absolutely atrocious dialogues (“DJ se dragon bana dunga”)]. Some very immersive scenes were ruined by unintentionally hilarious dialogues.
Marvel's comedy-superhero mix works well because of the time they've spent perfecting it and also because the humour comes from the situations they create and good writing. And I don't think Brahmastra was trying to be as funny as it ended up being.
Regardless, peppering such a story with just the right amount of cameos and glimpses into new characters successfully created a hype for the second film.
Despite all the criticism surrounding the film (which crossed the Rs 150 crore mark in worldwide box office collections on day 2), it has built enough of an immersive storyline with smartly placed questions that beg answers.
Why did the artist protect the nandi astra and why was the vaanar astra left with a scientist? What is the symbolism of an artist, a teacher, and a scientist being tasked as protectors? What are Dev’s motivations? Is Ranveer Singh in the film (admittedly this is more of a personal query)?
Now, to VFX. Marvel’s history with VFX has been murky for a while now with several VFX artists complaining about being overworked and exploited so Marvel can churn out its extensive slate of projects.
Perhaps because of that, sheer negligence, or an over-reliance (leading to oversaturation) on VFX, MCU has suffered in many of its recent outings. So, watching a Bollywood film with such impressive VFX, with every flame and detail intricately sketched out (we’re seeing women followed by entire oceans, and I looooved the serpent arrows), was refreshing.
The fully realised visions of nandi and vaanar were followed by excited hoots from the audience. On that note, the VFX gives every astra-wielder a distinct identity – that helps the audience distinguish between the characters especially in the large-scale action set pieces.
Not that the VFX in Brahmastra is flawless (there are some very lightsaber-esque moments) but watching a film mounted on such a scale in an industry like Bollywood creates hope for Indian cinema getting the chance to translate its wonderful stories on screen with the artistic vision they deserve.
The VFX in Brahmastra is credited to Namit Malhotra, the chairman of DNEG, the same company behind Dune, Inception, and Interstellar. By the way, they clearly know how to render space on screen because in Interstellar and Brahmastra, the way space is depicted is so different but equally mesmerising.
The mix between fantasy (through VFX) and realism is something MCU has been oscillating between recently (can we please have the old spidey suits back?)
So, it was also kind of amazing to see a hero who dresses in his jeans and shirt while fighting villains (though, I am sure that poses a lot of logical and logistical issues).
Isha deserved a much better character that someone who exists only to facilitate Shiva's mission with little to no agency of her own. This is something MCU has dealt with too and they seem to be changing. Maybe Bollywood will learn.
Beyond all that, Brahmastra clearly has odes to many films and shows that came before it – a young boy loses his mother and later finds out he has a bigger purpose in life and in the universe (I can practically hear the wheels of Hogwarts Express).
Even some scenes with Junoon are reminiscent of the Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that that is something Mukerji lifted since his film has been in production for over 5 years and Multiverse of Madness only released 2022.
In that case, the resemblance is actually a great argument for the vision that Mukerji has, and let’s hope he fixes the hitches in Part 1 for the next installments because the potential with Astraverse is staggering and was grossly underutilised in the first part.
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