Director: Shakti Soundar Rajan
Shakti Soundar Rajan seems to have cracked a formula to appeal to a very specific kind of viewer. The director who made Tamil cinema’s first space film and the first zombie film, has returned with a creature feature that is part alien invasion, part eco-activism and wholly bonkers. Made for viewers who prefer to watch dubbed versions of Hollywood movies over original Tamil films, Shakti Soundar Rajan is most comfortable when he pushes an expensive, foreign concept that is far beyond the limitations of a regular Tamil movie.
This is most evident in the way he has designed a set of alien beings that invade a restricted area on the North Eastern border (it’s called Area 52). Designed along the lines of a film like Predator, it is our fear of these imaginary monsters that is meant to hold the film in place. Having spent close to 45 minutes establishing its world and a mystery around these creatures, you feel the film is taking the Jaws route by letting our own imagination run wild without so much as a glance of what it actually looks like. More than the drama or the characters, it is simply the wait to see these beings that keep the film interesting.
Unfortunately for Captain, there’s not much to hold on to after these creatures make their entry. The CGI is laughable and even the sounds these creatures make (somewhere between a roar and a bark) work against the fear the film wants to build up to. Instead, what we feel is a kind of amusement as we witness the makers taking the film a tad too seriously.Written around an upright army officer named Vetri (Arya), the film traces the missions of this captain’s efficient team as they enter the restricted area to find out why so many people, who’ve gone in before them, have never retuned. But when the CG around these creatures are so hard to take seriously, there’s only one way to keep yourself engaged—by letting it appeal to the part of you that grew up watching trashy B-movies.
This makes the film a lot more enjoyable with the earnestness of the actors adding fresh layers to the fun. In fact Vetri comes across as so earnest that you will always find him reading books about the art of war, even when his friends are busy drinking and having a blast. It also helps that he talks like a robot. His lack of emotions add so much to the film’s flavour, especially when he’s explaining high concept ideas to people who are actual experts in the subject.
It also helps that the film has got no chill. Instead of toning things down to deal with the limitations in the budget, the film goes even further and introduces even bigger monsters in even bigger settings. By the end of it, the CG feels so off that you’re reminded of the tacky war visuals you’d see in the Mahabharata and Ramayana re-runs of the early 90s. Even the clunky writing adds to the fun. For instance, the scene that follows right after a major life-threatening battle sequence is a gossip session that focuses on their senior officer’s fling with a rich businessman.
The emotional beats don’t work and even the major action sequences involving these creatures don’t leave an impact because of how artificial they look. The final result is a mostly funny creature feature that is most enjoyable when you’re laughing at its ridiculousness.