In Shankar’s “latest” magnum opus, the style quotient fails to make up for a glaring lack of substance (again).

While it’s been 8 years since the release of Endhiran, 20 years should have passed by now in Chitti’s world. But, there are hardly any indications of that. Vasee (Rajinikanth) still looks as oldyoung as he was, he still ignores Sana’s calls – in short, nothing has changed, unless I’m missing something.

The wafer-thin plot, which was quite evident from the trailer, is laid bare pretty soon. Shankar wastes no time in making cell phones disappear. It is then proceeded by a series of suspicious murders. Famed scientist Vasee and his hot bot-assistant Nila are immediately on the case. A cool holographic chase leads them to Thirukazhukundram, the rather aptly titled abode of Akshay Kumar’s Pakshi Raja. Interesting backstory about the place – much more interesting than 2.0 – the town is known as Pakshi Theertham (Bird’s Holy Lake) because of a pair of Egyptian eagles that are believed to have visited the place for centuries.

If his recent movies are any indication, Shankar has long given up worrying about the plot. He knows he is the best at assembling grand set pieces in the big screen, and he revels in them. After he throws some hastily concocted science mumbo-jumbo (Fifth Force) to appease the audience, it is unbridled VFX extravaganza. Pakshi (Bird Man?) wreaks havoc on Chennai by ripping every picturesque setting to shreds. The action cranks up another gear for the final confrontation at the football stadium, which is as awesome as advertised.

While these action sequences offer mild gratification, you feel your interest start sagging when the characters get back to spouting bland dialogues. The writing is lazy as characters do bizarre things for no reason other than to set up the big finale. Another problem I had was the unproven gospel the movie is trying to sell. The jury is still out on whether cell phone radiation is dangerous, while the “famous scientist, Frank Baranowski” quoted in the movie doesn’t exist. Educating the public about the “right” wrongs of technology would have made for a good social message, but this message (whatever it was meant to be) definitely wasn’t.

As I pause to draw breath after a bit of a rant, I am reminded of a recent interview by Oscar winner and 2.0’s sound designer Resul Pookutty who said, ‘to sustain Indian cinema, you have to sustain films like 2.0’. It’s a statement which speaks volumes. It’s easy to see why Tamil cinema rarely breaks new ground. While there have been those rare offbeat movies like Tik Tik Tik (space travel) and Miruthan (zombies), they failed to meet the lofty expectations of moviegoers, who are used to watching Interstellar and Game of Thrones. When movies like these bomb at the box office, there is no impetus to try something different.

For all its many flaws, 2.0 is the closest Tamil cinema (and quite possibly Indian as well) has come to replicating the grandeur we normally associate with Hollywood blockbusters. This needs to be acknowledged and duly appreciated if we want to see more producers willing to bankroll aspiring filmmakers to explore something nouveau.

Shankar might be peerless at grandiose storytelling, but his transformation from a visionary filmmaker to a visuals-only filmmaker has come at a price. Like with his other recent magnum opuses, the sheer spectacle on display tries to make for a glaring lack of substance but seems to fall short, again. Dot.