‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: An Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle

‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: An Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle

With “Kalki 2898 AD,” Telugu cinema filmmaker Nag Ashwin rifles through a century of sci-fi and fantasy extravaganzas to create a wildly uneven mashup of everything from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” to Marvel Comics movies, underpinned by elements from the Hindu epic poem “Mahabharata.” It’s billed, perhaps optimistically, as the first chapter of the Kalki Cinematic Universe franchise — which makes it part of a larger trend, since it launches the same weekend that Kevin Costner’s Looks like Kevin Costner’s multi-film “Horizon” saga does in the U.S.

International viewers unfamiliar with the specifics of the ancient Kurukshetra War between the Kauravas and the Pandavas — think Hatfields and McCoys, only with chariots and spears — may want to brush up on Indian mythology before approaching “Kalki 2898 AD,” if only to make some sense of repeated references to that clash. Such foreknowledge could be especially useful during the CGI-amped opening scenes that illustrate how Lord Krishna cursed the warrior Ashwatthama to an eternal life as punishment for a grave misdeed, but allowed him a shot at redemption if he someday assisted in the birth of Kalki, the tenth and final avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

On the other hand, moviegoers throughout the world should have no trouble identifying (and in many cases appreciating) Ashwin’s numerous visual and narrative allusions to “Dune,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Star Wars,” “Black Panther,” “Blade Runner,” “Mad Max,” the Harry Potter movies and a dozen or so other pieces of intellectual property. Extended and unwieldy hunks of “Kalki 2898 AD” are devoted to world-building and character-introducing in parallel plotlines that take a long time to intersect. As a result, there are too many sluggishly paced stretches where the passing of time is keenly felt and the storyline is obscured by confusion. But the aggressively spectacular (and, again,…

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The post “‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: An Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle” by Joe Leydon was published on 06/29/2024 by variety.com