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Enthiran is an Indian film that mashes up the major tropes of Indian cinema (weddings, elaborate song and dance numbers etc) with a completely over-the-top James-Cameron-lite action film, heavy science fiction themes of robotics and artificial intelligence, and some completely ridiculous surrealistic non-sequitors worthy of David Lynch.  There's a love triangle between a scientist, his fiancee, and the scientist's robot creation.  It's the sort of thing Neal Stephenson would put into one of his novels to show just how much cultures will mix in the future.  This cut of brain-melting action sequences has been going viral on the internet, but I looked at other parts of the movie, and there's a *lot* going on.

Here are some quick screenshots:

OK, so why would I think this might be one of the most influential movies of 2011? 

I will say, the special effects are ambitious but poorly executed by Western standards, there are plenty of predictable plot elements and piles of trite dialogue, and the very limited number of female characters are mainly there to look pretty. 

The film is obviously geek-bait (scientist-hero with sexy girlfriend, heavy technology focus, quirky enough origin and delivery that it's seen as "alt-y" and therefore embraceable by the subculture), and I'm sure it will take its place in the geek canon with The Matrix, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and whatnot. 

So why is this movie important?  I think it signals a lot of interesting developments:
- Increased acceptance of many new technologies into popular culture, including very traditional non-Western cultures.  (They're *singing* about *Google*!)
- Reorganization of social networks around the world along lines of shared interests as opposed to shared location.  We may get to a point where IT professionals in the US may have more connections with IT professionals in India than with people in a different cultural cluster in the US.   (I just about flipped my lid when I saw Freakonomics show up)
- Less American cultural dominance in media production.  This film cost $40 million to make, and there are only 70 million Tamil* speakers in the world, so this was definitely intended to be a global film.  Over time this will probably help more Americans realize that there's no one way to be a first-world country.  (There's a common misconception among Americans who haven't traveled much that all the gleaming cities in all the first world countries are similar, culturally speaking.  This is so far from the case that it's kind of laughable.)


The movie is headed for a US release soon, but if you're so inclined, you can watch the whole movie on youtube here, at least until the copyright cops take it down.  I'm also thinking of getting some people together to watch it at my house.  Let me know if you're interested.


*The film is not in Hindi but in Tamil, a language spoken primarily in the southern tip of India.  (Although only ~7% of India is Tamil, that's still ~70 million people). 
mattbell: (Default)
Hey... leave it to Pixar to find a way of sneaking in transhumanist themes for the little kids to absorb.

Without giving any spoilers, I can say that the film explores issues of neural modification, implanted memories, cloning, telepresence, and the nature of identity.  Of course, it's really just a bunch of toys, not people, that are having these experiences, so it's not so revolutionary.  :-)   Last summer's Up had transhumanist themes as well, primarily in the form of talking dog / machine AI hybrids. 

Overall, I really liked the film.  It's the best movie I've seen that has a "3" in the title.

Pixar movies all have a similar feel to them -- compared to Disney films and other mainstream offerings, they're more witty, brainy, and playful, with interesting, complex characters put into relatively mature situations.  They're not afraid to deal with real issues and have strong moral messages. 

I should go before I start comparing The Incredibles to Atlas Shrugged, especially since I haven't actually read Atlas Shrugged. 



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February 2011

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