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Fri10232020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The original Pacific Rim, from 2013, had some definite problems, and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising is much worse—a big, stupid, worthless waste of time.

Uprising takes an original idea (big Kaiju monsters fighting manmade robots) from director/creator Guillermo del Toro—an idea that resulted in an OK first movie with great elements but troublesome issues (robots/monsters good … people bad?)—and turns it into something perhaps even worse than your average Transformers movie. It’s a watered-down, cheap joke of a film that obliterates anything good del Toro started.

Without del Toro directing (he dumped out a few years back to assume a producer’s role), the film loses all sense of style and artistic direction. Steven S. DeKnight, who has directed episodes of TV shows such as Smallville and Daredevil, makes his feature-film directing debut with something that screams, “Maybe I should’ve stuck with the TV gigs; movies too big for me.”

Replacing Charlie Hunnam as the original franchise star, John Boyega jumps headlong into this mess as Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba in the first movie. Jake is a former Jaeger (giant robot) pilot who, after the death of his dad and a bad Jaeger experience, has taken to partying and trading hot sauce on the black market in a post Kaiju world.

While Elba’s character supposedly closed off the monsters from our world, they find a way back, of course. I won’t give away how they come back, but I will tell you that it does involve a shit performance from Charlie Day, returning as Newt, one of the few characters from the original who remain. Others include Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), and they all would’ve been better off doing Dancing With the Stars.

During a deal gone wrong, Jake comes across Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a scrappy kid who has managed to refurbish a mini-Jaeger (almost giant robot) all by herself, so you know it will eventually be her with Jake as they pilot a big robot against new monsters and other bad giant robots (traitorous dickhead Jaegers).

As the original was, the movie is bad when people are standing around talking. Unlike in the original, the action gets even lousier when the slick CGI monsters show up. Del Toro offered a certain strain of realism to his monster battles—that is, they were as real as a fantasy movie could be, with robots that lumbered along and monster haymakers that had some real weight behind them.

Now the monster battles have a cheap, half-baked, way-too-fluid look to them. They glide around in quick-cut, super-fast battles that look more like Saturday-morning cartoons than big-budget, big-screen fare. Del Toro’s Kaiju battles were actually kind of scary. DeKnight’s smackdowns play as if Mark Wahlberg should be nearby, waiting for his glistening, slow motion close-up. Actually, Spaeny does get the slow-motion, 360-degree treatment at one point; it’s as if Michael Bay chloroformed DeKnight and directed the scene.

If crappy special effects aren’t enough to keep you away, let it be known that this movie contains what will surely stand as one of the year’s worst performances, from Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) as Nate Lambert, Jake’s former military mate and occasional Jaeger co-pilot. Whenever Eastwood spoke, I thought I was watching a derivative Starship Troopers sequel. Oh, wait, we have some of those already. Maybe he was in one of them. Let me check. No … no, he was not.

Honestly, after the subpar performance of the first movie at the box office (it lagged domestically, but did well internationally), I’m surprised Pacific Rim: Uprising even exists. If the saga continues, I presume it will be via Netflix or something like that.

Whatever they do, I’m hoping I never have to watch John Boyega eat ice cream again. Seriously … he makes really gross sounds when he eats ice cream. Yep, that’s the stuff I’m left thinking about after seeing the garbage sequel. Can you tell it didn’t have much of an impact on me?

Pacific Rim: Uprising is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

Gigantic alien beasts get their asses handed to them by robots that don’t turn into trucks and cars in Guillermo del Toro’s alternately exhilarating and stale Pacific Rim.

This movie is full-on crazy, often in a way that’s rather fun. This is del Toro’s first directorial project after abandoning The Hobbit—and he made a good call. I had a hard time staying awake during The Hobbit. Such was not the case here.

It’s the near future, and freaky beasts called kaiju are rising from the ocean depths and tearing cities to shreds. Do we nuke them? No. That would be too easy. Instead, we spend kazillions to build a bunch of hard-core robots that are driven by pilots melding their minds together. It makes absolutely no sense, and I don’t care—because it’s fun.

Nearly all of these battles take place in the dark, in the rain or in the ocean. Normally, I would scream “Copout!” because this is a technique used by directors to cheat a bit on the CGI. (Obviously, it’s a lot harder to create computer-generated monsters doing things in broad daylight.) Even if del Toro is cheating, it works. Having the battles go down in the dark makes them scarier.

As for the people inside the robots: Watching them throw their fists and move their legs as a means of controlling the robots results in something immersive. I felt like I was throwing punches and wielding swords; del Toro puts the viewer into the battles.

Unfortunately, some of those people are a little dull outside of their massive steel shells. Charlie Hunnam, who plays the main protagonist, Raleigh, has one of those movie-trailer voices. Every time he spoke, I thought he was going to say something like “IN A WORLD WHERE ROBOTS BEAT MONSTERS … .” He fails to distinguish himself. Rinko Kikuchi is fine as Mako Mori, a wannabe pilot with a secret past that is keeping her from her robot dreams.

Speaking of Mako Mori's past, it provides perhaps the film’s greatest moment. Del Toro takes us into her memory as she is running away from a monster on a city street. Experiencing the horror of one of the monsters from the vantage point of a child is powerful stuff; del Toro makes it an amazing sequence.

For comic relief, there’s Charlie Day as a hyperactive scientist who collects kaiju tattoos. The bespectacled Day is 2013’s answer to Rick Moranis; his presence here reminds of the nerdy Louis in Ghostbusters.

Ron Perlman gets perhaps the film’s biggest laughs as Hannibal Chau, a monster collector who sells their crap for fertilizer. Idris Elba lends his formidable presence as Stacker, leader of the robot guys and the deliverer of huge, rousing “Cancel the Apocalypse!” speeches.

When the movie isn’t dealing with robot on monster smackdowns, it’s a little boring—perhaps even tedious. Those looking for a summer blockbuster that delivers the action goods, however, won’t mind sifting through the sleepy passages to get to the good stuff.

The kaiju are great movie monsters, because they come in many incarnations. They look like everything ranging from a rhino to the devil; they spit plasma lasers that act like acid; and the bastards even fly on occasion.

Pacific Rim isn’t the all-time classic for which I was hoping, but it is good, and in a summer when many, many blockbusters have faltered, I’m glad to get one that is at least enjoyable.

Also: If you can catch it in 3-D, do so. It looks great.

Pacific Rim is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews