UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: Stephen S. DeKnight

 

Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, Zhang Jin, Charlie Day

Pacific Rim: Uprising – sponsored by Tsingtao.

 

After the unexpected (international) success of Pacific Rim in 2013, it seemed only natural that a sequel would eventually come. Unfortunately, Guillermo del Toro left to construct gothic and aquatic romances but fortunately Charlie Hunnam wasn’t available to star – meaning Stephen S. DeKnight and John Boyega stepped into the breach to fight the mighty Kaiju monsters.

10 years after Stacker Pentecost ended the deadly Kaiju War, his son – ex-pilot of manmade giant Jaeger robots – Jake (Boyega) makes a living grafting and stealing in the shadow of the destruction of war. Whilst attempting to thieve a disabled Jaeger power core, he comes across Amara Namani (Spaeny) – an orphan who has managed to construct a mini Jaeger from scavenged parts. It’s this invention that gets them both arrested, however, they are instead enlisted into the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps by Jake’s half-sister Mako Mori (Kikuchi). Along with his old co-pilot, Nate Lambert (Eastwood), Jake reluctantly trains the next generation of pilots against the looming threat of the Shao Corporation and their drone program headed by Liwen Shao (Tian) and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Day). Rumblings (obviously) begin to happen and on the day of the drones final assessment, a rogue Jaeger takes the fight to the good guys and begins the second war – with help from some old, alien friends.

 

Obvious, but necessary, caveat – THIS IS A MOVIE CONTAINING MIND-TWINNING ROBOTS FIGHTING ALIENS THAT APPEAR FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION.

 

OK, with that out of the way, it’s fair to say Pacific Rim: Uprising does not require an awful lot of brain activity and, hey, that’s not a negative. Whilst not the strongest of movies, this is at least entertaining and possesses some positive aspects – but the negatives weigh it down too much. Where del Toro created a mystique to his characters and antagonists, DeKnight instead delivers more of a cookie cutter approach with the emphasis solely on spectacle over substance. As the new franchise lead, John Boyega delivers an emphatic performance and his chemistry with Spaeny and Eastwood is great – it’s also fair to say without Boyega, this movie sinks into the breach. It’s big, it’s brash, it’s loud, it’s a bit cheesy and it’s dumb but it’s still better than nearly every Transformers trash that’s been released.

 

Boyega’s British accent returns to help him fight the Kaiju, and the diverse cast around him all perform solidly with the exception of Charlie Day who, frankly, was horrific here (surely after the filled nappy that was Fist Fights he would’ve learned his acting lesson and stepped up!?) though Burn Gorman wasn’t entirely wonderful either. The PPDC cadets did look a bit like Power Rangers, though.

 

At times, the movie looked visually great – the Jaegers looked menacing and imposing, some of the wide shots of the cities and landscapes looked expansive and futuristic enough and one scene of a nasty looking Kaiju attempting to escape the ocean and enter our world was strangely terrifying. The nasties themselves didn’t look particularly good in comparison as they rampaged through the streets. It’s during these moments where the movie suffered most, ironically – the editing just wasn’t that good. There’s mayhem and chaos unfolding across the screen but I was trying to keep up with the quick cuts between good robot, bad monster, crashing buildings and (frustratingly overused) slow-motion effects. Though a city-destroying movie it may be, it’s lacking the magnetism required to be too compelling and won’t leave you feeling sympathy for anyone caught in the crossfire.

 

The story is simplistic enough and includes an eye-rollingly tedious ‘twist’ halfway through - complete with whiny explanation to hammer home its naffness. The nods to Pacific Rim are scattered throughout and Uprising does feel like a natural sequel to it, and if you liked what you see you may be in luck – there’s a huge nod to a third movie (or at least, the wish for one) that happens, so if you want it, you better buy a lot of tickets to bump up the box office. Who knows what a third movie would look like, Uprising seemed to suffer from an identity problem – who was this really aimed at? Kids? Teens? Adults? It’s not all-encompassing and at times struggled to find a tone to settle on.

 

Despite the earlier caveat, it is easy to give movies like Pacific Rim: Uprising a pass on certain elements due to its general nature, but that doesn’t excuse it for not being a particularly great movie. There are some good moments, usually involving Boyega and his chemistry with the supporting cast, and some of the action is engaging but the majority is just...so-so. It’s not the worst movie you’ll see this year, but it won’t be the best – it’s just above average.

 

BUT, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a while where the audience positively cheered as the credits rolled...so maybe it’s just me.

March 23rd 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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