The hook for this one is a great trailer that promises a musical riff on 1987 Predator. And it’s a concept that took root in my subconscious and landed me a ticket to the very first show on opening day.
First thing: the way Indian cinema believes in covering as many genre bases as possible, Captain looks a lot more like a military drama with sci-fi and horror undertones – a SyFy original that happens to be in Tamil subtitled. Second thing: although there are sequences directly inspired by certain twists of Predatorthe script’s pedigree also pivots on aspects of Faculty and CHUD
There’s a time when you feel like you’re gonna get something like the remakes of Friday 13 Where My dear love, where we’ll get two different rounds of massacres before we even get into the movie proper. Alas, what we end up getting is a conventional action drama that feels very “been there, done that” to audiences who see a lot of movies. The most effective sequence comes early on, as Captain Verti (Arya) and his team go on a strike mission that sheds an insane amount of blood, but impressively maintains silence and grace for as long as possible, in using ponds, mats and Rube Goldberg. – Gym-style action to ensure nothing breaks or splatters on the floor. While jam-packed with a degree of CG violence that seems incongruous with a lot of Indian cinema (where things tend not to get too violent until the second half), this sequence sets the bar pretty high for future encounters with monsters, which makes for some internal dissonance as the script begins to jump in time for some non-linear reveals.
The monster here, referred to in the subtitles as “minotaur”, is distinctive, evoking both the Terrordogs of ghost hunters and the Caeliferad ancestors of Quatermasse and the pit. They spit psychoactive poison and operate in symbiosis with scuttling super-spiders that allow them to focus bio-radio waves in order to solve collective goals. And honestly, their life cycle is complex enough that I wonder if subtitles might cut some corners.
Arya is an imposing physical presence – imagine Kane Hodder’s physicality with Adam Scott’s cheekbones – but he’s rather uncharismatic. He can fight, he knows how to find his light, but he never feels comfortable in front of the camera. Now, that might be a deliberate choice for this character; I don’t know of his other work, so I can’t say for sure, and the narrative basis of Captain Vetri is that he is an orphan who only knew the Indian Army as his family. It seems to fit in pretty well with writer-director Shakti Soundar Rajan’s aesthetic, but the MVP here is Simran as the mysterious Doctor Keerthi. She gives Meg Foster business suit vibes, and she’s absolutely the only cast member who seems to be having fun (except for the one in charge of the spider puppet we see in some footage of end of backstage credit).
That said, it’s impossible for me to completely turn my back on a movie with a battle of giant octopuses. Your mileage may vary.