When I saw the first Pacific Rim, only a few months ago, I had heard that it was just a “live action anime”, and took that to mean “stupid and full of robots.” And while that turned out to be the case, what I hadn’t appreciated until around halfway through was that it really was aspiring to be everything that anime is: melodramatic, taking itself too seriously, full of insane characters and silly expositional dialog…
Once I realized all that, I was able to enjoy it more. It was stupid, and its characters didn’t know it, and its writer, director, and actors all seemed to. What fun!
Uprising, based on the trailer, looked like more of that.
I went to see it this afternoon with my room mate, no longer confident I would enjoy it after reading some reviews. They made it sound like a soulless exercise in banality seeking to make as little effort as possible to get some of the kind of box office money Transformers movies have brought in (despite the fact that the Transformers rate of returns seems to be slowing down these days).
I’m not sure it turned out to be that, exactly. But it wasn’t good.
Due to poor timing and an insistence on securing a beer in the lobby before getting into the film, I didn’t show up until John Boyega and the little scrapyard teenager were trying, without success, to evade capture at the hands of some blue military Jaeger that we wouldn’t see again in the movie. Still, I think I was able, somehow, to keep up with the film’s plot intricacies.
And the funny thing about the plot is that I think it was fine. Structurally, it had all the right stuff. The characters, new and old; the mystery Jaeger, the twist of who was piloting it, which pointed us to a villain, which turned out to be a red herring for another twist, followed by a grand and desperate final challenge fought with creativity and all the little human interactions stringing it all together…on paper, this outline looks like movie gold, and with a better script, a different director, and a complete different editorial and cinematography staff, this could have been a good movie.
To touch only briefly on all those things:
The dialog is horrible, and some of the cast trying to deliver it is really painful to watch. There is also a sort of romantic interest character that feels like a leftover from another draft wherein she might have been more integral. The story seems to have A, B, and C plots all running at the same time, making it hard to invest in any characters. John Boyega’s Pentecost gets the most attention, but we’re also meant to care about Cailee Spaeny’s Amara and her ragtag bunch of fellow cadets, as well as the scientists from the last movie, one of whom turns out to be his own whole…thing.
There are countless times where the editing cuts so rapidly, usually in shot-reverse-shot, that it’s as if trying to illustrate how little effort was put into the cinematography. Why all this shot-reverse-shot, you ask yourself, as it pendulums back and forth. And then it starts to dawn on you that half these shots are crooked Dutch angles. And then someone says something that’s meant to endear us to their character, but that feels entirely unnatural. The whole snowball thing at the end, for example…
I don’t think this was a weak movie because of obvious attempts to turn it into the next big cash cow franchise. I think it was weak because it had all the right elements of an enjoyable film and a proper sequel, and it managed to do absolutely nothing with them. It’s a waste of time.
Also, that scene with Amara’s family on the pier. Get the fuck out of town.
Despite what this ten year old boy was saying as we left the theater, Pacific Rim Uprising was not the best movie ever made. In fact, I’d say it’s flat out Bad, a real ★☆☆☆☆ picture. If you saw the first film, you might find it worth watching just once. But don’t expect to get much of anything out of it.