Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies has taken Netflix by storm and stirred mixed emotions. The thought of Archies, video game parlors and arcades are fond memories that Millennials hold very dear. Comic books were such an important part of growing up, with Pop’s Hamburgers and Archie’s classic love dilemma we turned each page full of colorful caricatures.
In 2017, we saw a remake of Riverdale with the Archies cast, with a murder mystery plot. Every character is found struggling with personal demons, vicious takeovers, mobsters, and criminals in each season. The happy-go-lucky Comics take a completely dark turn in the series.
Zoya Akhtar's decision to makeThe Archies` a musical seems bold, given that Riverdale was already well perceived in the cinema. The film seems to be lacking the charm of the comic characters, the plot is all over the place, and the audience is confused about its focus. Showcasing the Anglo- Indian community angle is interesting in the coming of age setting but the film is not able to serve it well.
The film is set in 1964, on a hill station with its small-town charm and begins with Veronica Lodge coming back to town. The Archies bursts forth with spirited energy right from its initial musical sequence, introducing the key teenagers constituting Archie Andrews' circle of friends at Riverdale High. Within this dynamic group, we encounter the always amiable Archie, portrayed with endearing charm by Agastya Nanda, the sweet and reserved Betty (Khushi Kapoor), the affluent and confident Veronica (Suhana Khan, making a self-assured screen debut), the intense and artistic Jughead (Mihir Ahhuja) and the cheeky Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina).
The central ensemble exudes a fresh talent and effortlessly conveys a chemistry that perfectly captures the essence of adolescence. As the group navigates through the throes of heart-fluttering crushes, stormy arguments, whimsical mishaps, and poignant coming-of-age moments, Zoya Akhtar maintains a storytelling grounded in authentic emotion. She skillfully delves into issues such as identity, body image, parent-child relationships, and grief with a sensitive touch. Zoya Akhtar and cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray collaboratively shape Riverdale High into a visually captivating wonderland that seamlessly blends 1960s style with contemporary Gen Z trends.
The soundtrack, curated by Ankur Tewari, features reinterpretations of Archie Comics classic
"Sugar Sugar " alongside vibrant original tunes. The meticulous set decoration and costuming allow the youthful cast to exude charisma. While firmly rooted in the Archie Comics legacy, The Archies showcases Zoya Akhtar's adeptness in crafting intimate portrayals of youths in transition. The series promises a blend of laughter, tears, and a wealth of resonant life lessons. Akhtar successfully makes the beloved Archie characters her own without sacrificing their timeless charm.
The Archies offers a delightful journey through nostalgia while remaining attuned to the present, delivering both playful escapism and contemplative reflections. While certain elements of Zoya Akhtar's directorial style are evident in parts of the film which ultimately falls short of realizing the potential inherent in bringing the beloved Archie Comics characters to 1960s India.
Although the main cast possesses charm, they struggle to capture the distinctive personalities that are iconic to these characters. Nanda lacks the charismatic goofiness and warm-heartedness that define Archie Andrews. While Suhana Khan visually fits the role of Veronica Lodge, she fails to convey the character's entitlement and penchant for mischief. Only Mihir Ahuja manages to hint at the intellectual pretension and broodiness integral to Jughead Jones.
Greater attention should have been given to ensuring that the core friend group leaped off the screen with the humor and heart characteristic of the source material. Instead, the characters come across as superficial overlays of typical Bollywood teen archetypes rather than fully realized reimaginings tailored to the actors.
While Akhtar successfully captures the aesthetics of 1960s Riverdale High, blending color and flair with her trademark Bollywood polish, her reliance on musical montages rushes through the storytelling. Crucial moments in friendships and romances needed more space to breathe and develop to carry emotional weight. Although Akhtar devotes ample time to establishing the setting and style, the film lacks substance in terms of plot and dialogue to justify its runtime. While fluffy escapism has its place, Archie C
comics have addressed numerous compelling and relatable youth issues over the decades. Akhtar's shallow exploration of topics like grief and body image feels like a missed opportunity to delve into more impactful drama.
In the end, while The Archies possesses charm in its visuals, music, and the potential of its young talent, it falls short in creating sharply defined characters, organic wit, and emotional resonance inherent in its source material. Zoya Akhtar appears to prioritize surface-level style over the task of adapting both the lighthearted spirit and poignant relatability at the core of Archie Comics. The film, rather than presenting a unified vision, feels more like a patchwork result.
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