It’s about as transcendent as Flubber. Its star looks like Ziggy Stardust auditioning for Kiss. When it’s not blatantly ripping off other superhero movies, it’s full of tired clichés.
And yet! The new Bollywood action flick Krrish 3 just logged the highest single-day opening in Indian film history, banking about $5 million against a $20 million budget. In the U.S., where it is playing in only 208 theaters, the movie pulled in another $1 million, with a per-screen average on par with the buzzy indie drama Blue Is the Warmest Color.
How to explain the smashing success of Krrish 3?
To be clear, it’s not an altogether awful movie. The film bounces happily within the safe, sometimes stupid confines of generic Bollywood tropes. It’s filmed through a Pinkberry lens, and its star, Hrithik Roshan, indeed looks like a superhero, always oily and flexing. His biggest apparent weakness: an inability to fasten more than two buttons on his shirt.
But just like the franchise from which it was spun, there is no intelligent design here. Twenty minutes after a virus gives everyone bloody sores, Krrish dances in front of a giant statue of himself. After a bad girl kisses Krrish, she dances with him an elaborate dream sequence in the desert. (There’s a lot of dancing.) Krrish can fly sometimes. Other times he can only jump really high. He’s strong enough to lift an airplane and catch chunks of skyscrapers. Then he has trouble lifting a truck. His strength, it seems, depends on how much drama the script calls for.
The character’s origin story isn’t any clearer. The first film in the series, Koi…Mil Gaya (2003), is essentially the story of Forrest Gump finding E.T. Then there’s Krrish (2006), in which Forrest’s son grows up to be Superman. Why isn’t there a Krrish 2? This is a good question. The first movie was a blockbuster, so sequels were made under the nebulous idea of “science fiction.”
Aesthetically, the movie looks 1994’s Street Fighter. Anything more complicated than a somersault looks like a cutscene from a PlayStation game.
It’s unfair to blame Krrish 3’s failure on the Indian film industry. Mission Kashmir, also starring Roshan, was a revolutionary action movie. (Yes, it ripped off bullet time from The Matrix. But at least it did that well.) That was 13 years ago.
Nor are superheroes foreign to India. There’s been a successful Spider-Man comic book series (Peter Parker and Mary Jane were replaced by Pavitr Prabhakar and Meera Jain) and Stan Lee is working on a comic about a hero named Chakra (Raju channels the mystical chakras of his bodies). Meanwhile, Marvel is introducing a Muslim girl superhero. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” says one of the creators. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”
Most egregiously, Krrish shamelessly steals from its predecessors. Here are a few examples:
Krrish lands a plane.
This is taken from Superman Returns. Once Krrish wedges himself in the plane’s landing gear, however, we switch to Spider-Man 2 and the scene where Spidey stops a runaway train with his back. The bad guy.
The wheelchair-bound, telekinetic supervillain Kaal is an amalgamation of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Unbreakable and Professor Xavier from the X-Men films. Once he steals someone’s bone marrow (yes, that happens), Kaal turns into Magneto from X-Men but looks like Robocop. Then there’s the major reveal [SPOILER ALERT] that he’s actually Krrish’s brother. (Thor and Loki, anyone?)
The ‘mutant manimal’ goons.
This is totally inspired by X-Men. Especially the guy with the enormous forehead and frog tongue who thinks that wearing a leather hoodie—in India, mind you—makes you blend into a crowd. The fights between Krrish and this gang are right out of X-Men: First Class. And of course, there’s the shape-shifting secretary with a soft spot for Krrish, who is exactly like Mystique from X-Men.
The city celebrates Krrish.
A ceremony thanking a superhero? That’s Spider-Man 3. The statue of Krrish is from the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
The evil virus scheme.
The antidote to the deadly virus is in Krrish’s blood. I figured this out, probably because I watched I Am Legend on AMC a few weeks ago. The solution of dispersing the remedy in a giant cloud above the city is exactly from The Amazing Spider-Man.
The climactic fight.
If you’re going to make a superhero movie, you might as well level an entire city. The final fight of the movie most closely resembles the battle between Zod and Superman in Man of Steel. Or when The Avengers fight all those aliens.
Krrish beats up the bad guy.
This is where things get really, really violent. Like the scene in The Avengers where the Hulk smashes Loki repeatedly, Krrish pummels Kaal.
After 152 minutes watching Krrish 3, the mantra that’s crammed into your head is that Krrish is within all of us. That’s funny, because there are a ton of superhero movies within Krrish 3.