Kalki 2898 AD

Kalki 2898 AD isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it might be the most movie I’ve ever seen. This three-hour Indian epic is jam-packed with elaborate special effects, bombastic action scenes, and visual mayhem. In addition to the Bible, the story shows clear inspiration from Children of Men, Star Wars, Avatar, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, among others. It’s big and unwieldy, yet the sheer excess is what makes it fun to watch.

In the distant future, elites have horded the world’s resources, which they keep inside a mammoth inverted pyramid known as the Complex. Everyone else is left with minimal means of survival. The leader of the Complex, Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Haasan), runs the nefarious Project K, where pregnant women are harvested for their fluids, which he intends to use as an eternal youth serum, provided his scientists can get the formula right.

One of the women, SUM-80 (Deepika Padukone), may be pregnant with the child of God. She escapes from Project K and is protected by Ashwatthama (Amitabh Bachchan), an 8-foot-tall ancient warrior who has been cursed to live for thousands of years. Meanwhile, bounty hunter Bhairava, played by Indian superstar Prabhas (Radhe Shyam), tries to capture her, believing he will then earn enough “credits” to buy entry into the Complex.

There are a few other semi-important characters and subplots in Kalki 2898 AD, although there’s no need to spell every single one of them out. Like I said, the movie is a lot. Being overstuffed is a detriment in some films. Here, it’s an asset. Writer/director Nag Ashwin maintains a rapid pace from start to finish, so that the story pinballs around in a manner that keeps us on our toes. Something is always happening, and it happens with such relentless energy that you don’t care if it intermittently doesn’t make sense.

As is often the case with Indian films, a little bit of everything is present onscreen. Wild action sequences give way to a hint of romance between two characters. Comedy comes in the form of Bhairava’s roguish demeanor and humorous bickering with his mini-robot companion. A musical interlude arrives shortly before the halfway point. Not knowing where the picture is going to take you from minute to minute is exhilarating. Anything can happen at any time, and it usually does.

The chief selling point is the action. From fight sequences where combatants fly through the air as they pummel each other, to a thrilling vehicle-based chase through the desert, to a brutal final showdown between Ashwatthama and Bhairava, Kalki 2898 AD consistently delivers the goods. Eye-popping CGI effects help to build a fascinating world where the adventure takes place. As the cherry on top, Prabhas gives another charismatic performance, reminding us of why he's one of the world's biggest cinematic action heroes.

Kalki 2898 AD has a single goal, which is to achieve the status of Freakin’ awesome! for its entire running time. Overstuffed plot aside, it meets that goal.


out of four

Kalki 2898 AD is unrated, but contains violence and some adult language. The running time is 3 hours.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan