Pacific Rim: Uprising
2 out of 5
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go to movies thinking of how they might fare at the Academy Awards. I watch them for entertainment, and as an escape from reality for just a few hours. It really doesn’t take much to win me over. If the story is good, the production values are passable and the acting is strong and believable — then I will usually tell someone I enjoyed the movie.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case with “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” The first film from 2013 was just okay for me, so perhaps my expectations were low. Usually though, that means the film will surpass what I was feeling going in…It just didn’t happen with this one.
Set 10 years after the first “Pacific Rim,” the movie starts off decent with a narration from Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who was the savior of the world from the deadly monster (Kaiju) attack, catching you up on all that has transpired. Jake makes it clear that he is not his dad, and is living in the areas where the war was most deadly, and civilization has not rebuilt. Scavenging for parts and squeaking out a living by trading those parts for food and party supplies, Jake is living the life he wants to live — far away from the large shadow of his heroic father. However, while trying to steal a part from an old Jaeger (the gigantic robots used to fight the Kaiju), Jake is beaten to the punch by a young girl who takes it for herself in order to power a small Jaeger she has been building.
Eventually, the two are caught by the law, and as restitution, Jake is sent back to the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, where he was training to be a pilot like his father, before being kicked out. The young lady is also enrolled in the Corps, as she is seen as a potential pilot for the Jaegers, given her surprising (and hard to believe) skills in building and piloting her own robot. Here we meet the future heroes of the world, a group of teenage pilots in training — who look like they all were cast from an 80’s movie along the lines of “Top Gun,” as well as Jake’s old partner, Nate Lambert, played by Scott Eastwood (who looks like his main direction for acting in the film was “try to do that eyebrow scrunchy thing your dad does”). Of course, it isn’t long before the Kaiju are back and badder than ever, destroying everything in their path, including all of the pilots who were meant to defend against attack, thrusting our reluctant hero and his ragtag team of trainees into action.
So going back to what will win me over in a film: a good story, good production values and strong acting…Those are the things that I think most would agree can make a movie at least watchable. In this case, two of the three fall short. The production values, or the quality of the filmmaking, is very strong. The CGI, sound design and overall look of the movie is as good as it gets. But generally, that is the least important part. The story and acting are where the cookies are baked, and in this case both were not good. I imagine if I was 9 or 10 years old, this movie would be fantastic, and in truth, I think that is who it is made for. If you’re looking for a cohesive story that allows you to suspend your disbelief though, that’s just doesn’t happen. Then the acting. As I mentioned, there are parts of the movie that are just flat out re-treads of many of the 80’s “military” themed films. Let’s go through the required list…All of the recruits are young, good-looking, and full of venom (all the better if you can make a couple of them hate each other) — check. Their lines are cheesy and meant to be repeated on a playground as jokes or insults afterward — check. The leaders are also young and good looking, with one being a “by the book man” and the other a “maverick,” — check. And just as it seems the group might fall apart from hating each other — they are forced to put their differences aside, unite and overcome insurmountable odds to save the world — check.
It’s all there. Maybe I’ve just seen that movie too many times. Sometimes it works, it just doesn’t this time. The way people just “know” how to do things with little to no explanation, and how gigantic problems are able to be whisked under the carpet, or solved, in little to no time — just make the film very thin. To me, the one thing “Pacific Rim: Uprising” has going for it is all the glitz of the trailer and the action it portrays — which should give it the power to KO “Black Panther” from its perch atop the box office, but after opening week, this movie will start to fall faster than a Kaiju hit with a laser whip / sword…thing. My friend, who saw the film with me said it best, “That was like Godzilla meets Transformers…But not in a good way.”