Saturday, March 31, 2018

Movie Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

I want to be clear about this - I tried to meet this movie halfway. I get that this is supposed to be more of an experience than a story. You can dig through the archives of this blog and find dozens of examples of times I've been on board with dumb, enjoyable movies, including the original Pacific Rim. I understand there are times you need to accept that a writer (whether through decision or limited ability) isn't managing to sell sci-fi concepts or fails to maintain adherence to their setting or tone.

But here's the thing. This movie is just. So. Stupid.

Okay, that's only part of the problem. I've enjoyed stupider movies, including some in the same genre. But Uprising fails to balance the elements necessary to overlook its intellectual shortcomings. In other words, it's just not all that much fun.

I'm being a little overly critical. There are moments in the movie that are quite a bit of fun, starting with an opening robot chase featuring a smaller, agile mech built and piloted by teenage genius Amara. I suspect if more of the movie had revolved around her, rather than Boyega's Jake Pentecost, it would have been a more enjoyable film.

But what we get of her is essentially a retread of Mako's arc in part one. Contrast that with Boyega's story, which is... also a retread of Mako's arc. As for Mako's role... ugh. Yeah. Turns out Becket was smart to sit this one out. Newt and Hermann are still fun, at least - I did like the twists they took there.

A lot of Uprising's issues revolve around the movie's tone. It's not that this doesn't know what it is - Uprising seems to realize it's essentially a scaled up version of Power Rangers or Voltron - it just doesn't quite pull off the recipe. There's a tug-of-war going on here between drama and camp, and at some point, the rope just breaks. Del Toro succeeded well enough in part one, but DeKnight never quite figures it out. The camp winds up undercutting the drama, and the forced drama and inflated stakes distract from the camp. You never really form much of a bond with anyone, but the movie keeps cutting away from the cool robots to put them in frame.

Meanwhile, the action sequences are very uneven. There are some cool moments, particularly in the closing brawl, but there are too many missed opportunities and bizarre choices. It's especially shocking how often this movie fails to deliver on the main selling point of the franchise: scale. The first movie consistently succeeded in selling the size of the robots and monsters at every turn. But there's only a handful of moments in Uprising that seem to understand or care how big anything is. There's a sequence early in the second act where a pair of robots fight and interact with their environment as if they're human-sized (how thick is that ice supposed to be?). Likewise, try to keep a straight face when someone states a monster that's got to be at least a kilometer long is two kilometers from its goal and closing fast.

Even more egregious is the way the movie teases potential twists and scenarios, then drops them in favor of the same kinds of fight scenes that permeated part one. This occurs at least twice - you're shown something new and fascinating, only to see it facilitate a return to the norm.

Again, I'm willing and able to forgive errors and suspend disbelief - all that's part of the price of admission to this genre (and I honestly love this genre). But when you strip out the aspects that make this stuff worthwhile, I'm left wondering what the point was. Because there's really not much left over that's not a rehash of part one.

1 comment:

LEon said...

I guess many feel the movie can be better if they can empathise with the character emotion which in this movie there was zero. Surprising thing is the hero of the movie seems to be the chinese female boss who suddenly can remote a robot and save the day. Even my kid find part 1 is nicer than part 2. well no more part 3 for us unless its on TV. LOL