Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
While I am not generally a fan of movie testing or marketing people getting involved in the creative process, Once Upon a Warrior may be the odd case where someone should've asked, "Who are we making this for?"

In a prologue that is far too long, it is explained that an evil witch has put a curse on the children of a small town in which they all fall asleep, never to wake again. Miraculously, a woman in the town was midwife during the birth of a magical little girl who can save them.  This girl, Moksha, was taken to a monastery as an infant, and now must be brought to the town to cure the children. Ironically, the evil witch, is also in search of Moksha, whose blood she needs to attain immortality. When a scared father arrives at the monastery to retrieve Moksha, he is joined by Yodhaa, played by South Indian heartthrob Siddarth, who is meant to protect them both from harm.  Along the way they have adventures, we suffer through a forty minute flashback, and there is some terrible CGI meant to both amaze and frighten us.  In the end, it is unsatisfying, in spite of massive efforts to the contrary.  The film tries to be all things to all people, and ends up not being truly satisfactory in any of its endeavors.

The main problem in Once Upon A Warrior is lack of focus, although it is only one of many.  The film veers off on tangents every few minutes, either it is an excruciatingly long expository flashback, or it is some ridiculous comedic track that goes nowhere and completely stops the flow of the film.  Siddarth's Yodhaa is really unlikable, as well.  He's a smart-ass, but not in the endearing Han Solo way, more in the irritating, I-can't-believe-I-have-to-help-you-jerks way. The film attempts to soften him up with a love story, but that goes completely limp in part because it is the impetus behind the offending flashback, and in part because Sid's love interest, played by Shruti Hassan, gives a very flat performance that makes it hard for me to believe anyone would be that heartbroken over losing her.

The film does have it's highlights, though, and they are worth mentioning.  The biggest highlight for me was debutante Lakshmi Manchu and her scenery-chewing performance as the evil witch, Irendrhi. Manchu is wild-eyed, manic, and evil; she's like a crazy Indian Grace Jones.  The other main attraction for me is the insane art direction.  Every frame of the film is positively bursting with color and fantastic set design.  Not a moment goes by where we aren't wowed by the onscreen magic.  The CGI is dodgier than I'd expected, but the practical effects and scenery are massive and magnificent.  The only criticism I'd lay on them is that they look a bit too fragile, as though a stiff wind might carry away an entire town, but the imagination on display is breathtaking.

Too dippy for adults and too violent for children, it is really no wonder Once Upon a Warrior died at the box office. As of right now, it seems that the high water mark for Disney in is Do Dooni Chaar, a plain old family comedy.  Once Upon a Warrior had potential, but it was ruined by its complete lack of focus and inability to decide who it was made for. If you're a fan of fantasy films, you might give it a spin, just don't expect too much.

In the initial promotional material the film gave me the impression that it was a sort of Telugu take on The Neverending Story.  A fantastic epic journey, aimed squarely at the tween set, but with mildly adult aspirations.  What I get instead is a muddled piece of filmmaking that oscillates wildly between broad and childish humor, and overly dark imagery that would scare the bejeezus out of the audience I thought it was intended for. Sorry guys, better luck next time.

Once Upon a Warrior

  • Prakash Rao
  • Rahul Koda (additional writing)
  • Rajasimha (dialogue)
  • Prakash Rao
  • R. Samala (dialogue)
  • Siddharth
  • Shruti Haasan
  • Lakshmi Manchu
  • Harshitha
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Prakash RaoRahul KodaRajasimhaR. SamalaSiddharthShruti HaasanLakshmi ManchuHarshithaAdventureFamilyFantasy

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