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Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day
Rated: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action, and Some Language
Running Time: 1 h 51 m
TMM Score: 1.5 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Visual Effects
WEAKNESSES: Writing, Directing
Set ten years after the events of the first film, this movie follows Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba’s character), as he leads a new generation of Jaegar pilots against a more evolved generation of Kaiju.
Guillermo Del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) directed the original “Pacific Rim”, a film that I consider to be uproarious, ridiculous, and so, so much fun. His direction and writing on that film was the main difference between the original’s success, and this one’s failure. Del Toro has proven he knows how to create realistic characters that are easy to connect to, even if the settings they’re placed in are so fantastical that we are hard-pressed to find anything in common with the protagonists. This film, helmed by Steven S DeKnight (best known for producing two of the Spartacus shows), lacked Del Toro’s magical genius; the characters seemed to lack that what made them human, they felt instead like thin emulations for the protagonists we were given in the first ones. The plotline for the sequel was so basic and unimaginative that when we came to the final battle scene my friend beside me actually leaned over and said, “I can’t believe I’m bored.”
(SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW)
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) is not his father; a point he doesn’t want you to miss because he says that like three times in the opening voiceover. His father was a hero; head of the Jaegar program when the Kaiju attacks were at their height. But Jake is no hero; he spends his time breaking into secured locations to scavenge bits of broken Jaegars so he can sell them on the black market. During one of his thieving outings, Jake runs into Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny, “Bad Times at the El Royal”), a teenage whiz kid who’s built her own miniature Jaegar. The two of then are picked up and brought to a holding cell, where they’re given the option of going to jail or going to the Jaegar headquarters where they’ll be trained as pilots. It’s revealed that the Kaiju have a plan in motion to open a rift between our dimension and theirs, and soon Jake Pentecost and the other pilots are the only things standing between the world and the destruction of the Kaiju.
Now, I suppose I can start with the good elements of this movie.
Um… ahem… uh… the visual effects looked pretty passable, I guess…
All right, well with that out of the way lets move on to the parts of this movie that didn’t work.
So first of all, while the effects looked passable, the design of the Kaiju in this installment were less than impressive. They were essentially just the exact same things we saw in the first ones, only bigger. Now, in the first movie, the thing that made the Kaiju interesting was their unique designs and fighting styles. One Kaiju had wings, another had a whip-like tail, and another shot weird light energy out of the tendrils that grew from his back. The point is, we didn’t know what to expect when the protagonists were fighting the Kaiju because all of them were different. It made the story interesting because it gave the characters another level of pressure. (Some Spoilers) The Kaiju in this movie had no unique traits; instead they all lumbered about in the same dumb fashion, until, near the end they morph together into one giant super monster like a villain in a Power Rangers Special. Still, the creature doesn’t really have any unique powers other than being really big.
Moving on, the Jaegars in this film don’t make much sense. The way that they fight ends up destroying more buildings than they save. In the first movie, though the Jaegars do cause destruction, they make an attempt to save the civilian population; Del Toro makes it obvious that humans are in danger every time the Kaiju attack, and that makes the stakes higher. In this film, one of the Jaegars literally pulls down skyscrapers on top of a Kaiju to stop it. Wait a second! You think, Wouldn’t destroying buildings full of people be counterproductive to saving their lives? You are absolutely right! The Jaegars, through their hair-brained fighting tactics, probably kill more people than the Kaijus in this film.
The characters in this film are wooden and forgettable. Nobody really has an arch at all, except for Jake Pentecost, and his arc is ridiculously weak. Throughout the film, Jake continuously says he’s not his father, but then goes about doing exactly what his father would do anyways. “I’m not a hero,” he spouts repeatedly, but then he continues to act heroically. At the end of the film he quits saying he’s not like his father, and accepts his own heroism, so I suppose that’s the closest you can come to any sort of arc.
I realize that when going into a film about giant robots fighting giant trans-dimensional aliens you can’t exactly be expecting the movie to garner many awards, but what you can expect (or at least hope for) is to be entertained. This picture fails to even do that. The characters are dull and we are given no reason to care for them or any of their problems, the fight scenes (which, lets be honest, are the reason we all showed up) are unimaginative and one-note, and the final film is so unmemorable that you’ll have forgotten the character’s names by the time you’ve passed through the theatre doors. I enjoyed the first movie from this franchise, but knowing Guillermo had little to no input on this one, my expectations were quite low, and still this film failed to meet them.
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