Ok, you are probably expecting me to tear into this one considering it is another giant robot movie and I have gone on record several times saying I really don’t like the Transformers movies. Well, you are wrong, I really like Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro doing a loving tribute to both Japanese Meck shows and Kaiju movies. The film is a good one and it was a real surprise for me considering that I was expecting to hate it, like the Transformer movies and I ended up coming out really enjoying it.
Now I personally was not a person in need of a specific Pacific Rim sequel, I felt like the story had been wrapped up rather nicely. However I wasn’t too upset by the notion of a Pacific Rim sequel. Unfortunately, this was held up because Guillermo del Toro, director of the first film was obviously directing Shade of Water and didn’t have time to direct this, so he is in the producers credit and in the role of director is Steven S. DeKnight, a showrunner who ran both Smallville and was a producer for Drew Goddard’s Daredevil series on NetFlix. While he has directed episodes of TV shows and TV movies, this is his first directorial feature. But you, know I really liked Daredevil, and if he can do that well, maybe this will be his chance to shine.
While the trailers were not giving me much confidence, I went into this with an open mind. That is important, I was giving this film the opportunity.
Taking place ten years after the events of the first film, we follow the story of Jake Pentecost played by John Boyega, the son of Stacker Pentecost, Idris Elda’s character from the first film. He’s not exactly up to the standard of his father, however, being rather brash and selling stolen Jaeger Tech to fund his lifestyle. He, however, gets into trouble when dealing with a young scrap dealer called Amara Namani, played by Cailee Spaeny and is then captured and forced back into the military programme. Jake, thinks he is not going to be around that long considering that there is a new drone programme coming out of China, which could make pilots obsolete. However, the pre-cursers are planning another invasion and are planning to hijack the drones in order to reopen the Pacific Rim and unleash the Kaiju back on the world. Are you getting all that? Good, because there is not much more to this film.
The thing about Pacific Rim is that as much as it borrowed and played tribute to Mecca Anime, it’s also very clear that it was also influential back to Japan as has been rather evident by the recent series Darling and the Franxx, which is an excellent series that men and my friends probably recommended very heavily in our last Anime Amigos Vlog. The thing is, I was kind of hoping that Pacific Rim Uprising would have some rather interesting ideas and while the drone idea is a good one, considering it does the whole “is the machine better than man or is the machine only as good as the man”, it never really goes anywhere. That is this film in a nutshell, there are lots of things that are just “there”, they are just not that well developed. I actually thought what this film reminded me of and it came to me whilst I was watching it. This feels very similar to Independence Day Resurgence, which I reviewed back in 2016, which was another late sequel to a franchise that really didn’t need to be a franchise, it could have easily stood alone with just one film. The difference between those films was that Independence Day Resurgence was much worse! Pacific Rim: Uprising still had some good moments to it. Some of the action scenes are decently shot and are miles better than any of the Transform movies. John Boyega is somewhat likeable in his role and for one time he is allowed to keep his London accent, plus it doesn’t feel like much has been lost in terms of the special effects department. The special effects are still pretty much the same, although I will be discussing them more later, since I still have my gripes with them.
Here’s the real problem with Pacific Rim: Uprising, who cares!! It doesn’t really give you much reason to care. It doesn’t really feel like much of a coherent film, it feels more like a lot of plot points that have been sort of bolted together in the hopes that it will kind of work. Granted I have seen films do this much worse, we are not talking like Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 level, incoherent plot, but everything is given the bare minimum amount of time. The possible trades to the human cause is over and done with very quickly, the new cadets which feel like they are brought in to bring in a younger audience, which is something the first film really didn’t need are very under characterised, including newcomer Cailee Spaeny who initially looked like she would be a main character before being pushed to the side lines very quickly. Now it’s no surprise that there are very few returning actors in this film, in fact the only ones that did return were Burn Gorman and Charlie Day and briefly Rinko Kikuchi, whose role is so bare minimal she feels like a thankless cameo. Most of the newcomers are also not given big enough roles to really be much of an impact. Scott Eastwood, son Clint is brought in to be a partner to Jake, but he basically boils down to be a gruff military type and him and the cadets feel more like they have come out of the more recent Enders Game adaptation.
There is actually a decent plot twist further into the film and I was actually surprised by one of the directs they took it, but again, it goes absolutely nowhere. As a result, this film feels remarkably short and it’s not actually that short, including credits, the film comes in a one hour fifty-one minutes, but if you go into this expecting a lot of giant robots versus Kaiju battles, well, you are not far off. There are a lot of action scenes involving Jaegers fighting each other but the Kaiju are not actually on screen that long, they don’t actually appear until the final thirty minutes of the film, including the even bigger one than usual that’s been bigged up in the trailers. No pun intended! As a result, the film feels phenomenally empty. I get a sense that there were a lot of scripts lying around and a lot of ideas on paper, but a lot of these were left on the cutting room floor. However, I don’t have evidence to back that up. The film just does not have as much substance as the previous one did. It’s phenomenally lacking in that sense.
What’s more the acting is not as good as the first film. John Boyega I would still say is one of the best British actors working today and frankly he has gone from strength to strength since going from the brilliant film Attack the Block to being in the Star Wars franchise and now the Pacific Rim franchise, but he is the only decent performance out of the lot! Charlie Day for example is really annoying in this film. He wasn’t great in the first film, but man did they turn him up to eleven in this one! There are also a few moments that are also really unintentionally funny. I think I annoyed the people around me by laughing at several moments I wasn’t supposed to. Not my fault!!
At the end of the day, I know I shouldn’t be taking a film like this seriously. This is giant robots fighting Godzilla rejects – how serious can you take this. But the original seemed to have a lot of heart and a lot of care put into it that you could forgive the silly nature of it. This second film doesn’t have that luxury and it ultimately feels like a cash grab. It never descends into the level of terribleness that the Transformer films do. I had some fun moments watching this film, but despite the plot holes it creates, there were a lot more moments that left me unenthused by the overall content.
I did say I would talk about the action scenes and well, despite the fact that some of them are pretty good, not all of them succeed. The action scenes also are not shot as good as the first one. There were some interesting ideas hear, but it ultimately reeks of borrowing a little bit too much from other films that have action scenes that don’t do it as well. Again, we never descend into terrible cinematography of the Transformer films and thankfully there is no shaky cam in this film, thank goodness that is dying! But, yes, this is not as good as the original.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a valiant attempt to follow off what was a very successful film with critics and audiences, but it ultimately feels like a stale cash grab. If you liked the first one, there is no guarantee you will like the second one. It feels flat, this is one of the most bland and flat films I have seen in a while and it just does not have the same charm and effort put into it that the original had. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, some parts of it really work, but when this film doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work!! I think there was an aim for this film to be two and a half hours, and if it had been I could see if having more substance since it would have had more time to build up the characters and the plot, but as it stands, it’s not really there. So, I would say watch it, but watch it with caution. There is no guarantee that you are going to like this one. Ultimately I think I came out of the film thinking it was ok at best and drab at worst.
For the love of god, I have done so many disappointing films already this year, it feels like there have been much more negative reviews in 2018 than positive, so I am hoping , really hoping that the next film I review is much better.
Next time I take a look into what has been one of the most anticipated films of this year for me, Stephen Spielberg’s pop culture epic, Ready Player One.
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