REVIEW: PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018)

Convoluted sequel takes place ten years after Guillermo Del Toro’s fun original with the world healing, yet still making use of the Jaeger technology. Fallen hero Stacker Pentecost’s son Jake (John Boyega) is a failed Jaeger pilot now turned black market Jaeger parts dealer. He crosses paths with teen Amara (Cailee Spaeny) who is building her own Jaeger and the two find themselves arrested and pressed into service by the PPDC. This reunites Jake with former co-pilot Nate (Scott Eastwood) as they are to train a new generation of cadets. At the same time a Chinese corporation, headed by beautiful CEO Liwen Shao (Jing Tian from Kong: Skull Island), is planning to unleash a squadron of Jaeger drones that will not need the services of internal co-pilots. Still with me? Soon Jake and company are embroiled in a battle with not only rogue drone Jaegers, but a new Kaiju invasion triggered by a familiar face.

Sequel brings the noise, but forgets the fun as directed by Steven S. DeKnight from a mess of a script by he and three other writers. What results is a very by-the-numbers film that has a lot of silly ideas, yet never takes the time to really develop any of them. Del Toro’s film was goofy, but had a big heart and was lots of fun. Some folks didn’t get what it was trying to do, but those of us who grew up watching Japanese monster movies got exactly where he was coming from. DeKnight, however, forgets that the first film was a loving homage and forgoes the love for a formula, generic and cold blockbuster that has too many subplots and doesn’t do anything interesting with them. Jaegers infected with Kaiju technology is enough for one film in itself, but here takes up maybe a half hour of screen-time before we fall back on the familiar monsters versus robots schtick. There is an interesting plot point that gives purpose to what the initial Kaiju attack was attempting to accomplish, which here only seems to serve to get our final throw-down nostalgically in good ole Tokyo. The special FX are top notch, but none of the action sequences have any of the intensity, suspense or emotional investment they need to make them resonate. It’s just, loud set-pieces that lack any weight, even when our massive Kaiju nears it’s objective with our heroes all down for the count. At no time are we ever involved in what is going on, because it’s all so paint by numbers. With Del Toro producing, I’m not sure how he allowed this unnecessary sequel to be handled so poorly.

The cast never seem to be emotionally invested either and just seem to be going through the motions. Boyega has a natural presence, but is fed such lame dialogue that even his awkward smile and roguish charm can’t makes us endear to Jake as we should. Cailee Spaeny really tries hard with a generic teen rebel role. She’s cute and spunky and with a better script, she’ll probably make a good leading lady. Eastwood tries to channel his legendary dad, but comes across more as a lesser Chris Evans clone. Too bad, he also has charm, but is given some of the worst lines. Jing Tian is fine as the Chinese CEO who overcomes her cold exterior to become a more heroic figure, obviously to appease Chinese audiences where the first film did big business. Returning from the first flick is Rinko Kikuchi as Mako, who is now a commanding officer and Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as scientists Newt and Gottlieb, respectively. Both scientist become once more embroiled in the plot in some of the more interesting story elements.

In conclusion this was a loud mess of a sequel that lacks the original’s heart, soul and sense of nostalgic homage. It is a cold, by-the-numbers popcorn flick that forgets that cinematic popcorn is supposed to be fun, even if incredibly dumb. DeKnight, a veteran of TV, seems way out of his element here and even his actors look bored and a bit lost. The script by four writers has a lot of ideas and yet doesn’t properly develop any of them, some of which could have been the bases of an entire film. A sad disappointing follow up that probably won’t produce the second sequel it so cheerfully sets up…then again, the first film’s moderate box office didn’t seem to foretell the coming of this colorful but mundane mess.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 Jaegers.

 

 

bars

Advertisements

REVIEW: PACIFIC RIM (2013)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

459323_504136132986022_245468267_o

bars

PACIFIC RIM (2013)

Simply put, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is an absolute blast! A fun thrill-ride of a summer movie that had the audience I was in cheering like I haven’t heard in a flick in a long time. Rim tells the story of a rift that opens in the Pacific ocean floor from which crawl forth giant monsters known as Kaiju. These beasts keep coming and are hell bent on destruction and carnage, so the nations of Earth unite to built a fleet of giant combat robots called Jaegers to defend against the growing invasion. Each machine needs two pilots to mentally link with the robot and the film focuses on one such pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who falls from grace after a battle costs the life of his co-pilot/brother. But the Kaiju are gaining ground and the Jaegers are being destroyed one by one. Now Raleigh is called back to service for one last, desperate mission to destroy the rift and end the threat. With him is a rookie female pilot (Rinko Kikuchi) whose past may be as painful as his own.

Under Del Toro’s guidance Pacific Rim is a spectacular and visually sumptuous popcorn movie that has the spirit of one of those old fashioned Japanese monster movies mixed in with the hi-tech spectacle of a modern day event movie. As a fan of Japanese monster movies since I was a kid, I was enjoying every bit of it. Pacific Rim is non-stop fun, even if you’re not a fan of those movies. The battles are something to behold, but don’t move too fast that we can’t understand and enjoy what is going on. The Hong Kong battle is worth the price of the admission alone with it’s epic battle action and thrills. Del Toro populates the film with some very colorful characters like Charlie Day’s hyperactive scientist and a scene-stealing Ron Perlman as a black market Kaiju body parts dealer. The military characters seem charmingly corny as if taken from an old time WWII movie with Idris Elba playing, hard-nosed commander Stacker Pentecost, who hasn’t let command soften his ability to throw down and an eclectic assortment of multi-national Jaeger pilots, including the egotistical hot shot (Robert Kazinsky). The cast all take their roles seriously but, not too serious that we can’t tell that they are having a good time…and so do we.  The design of the film is breathtaking as is with all Del Toro’s movies and the Jaegers and Kaiju each have their own unique style and personality. The FX work to realize them is amazing. The monsters come across as dangerous and lethal, making our mega-robots always the underdog which, has you cheering for them as you should be. And cheer the audience in Paramus, N.J. did and often.

The versatile Del Toro has once again crafted a beautiful to look at film that has a delightfully old fashioned style, yet with all the modern hi-tech SPFX we’ve come to expect from a summer blockbuster. But no matter how exciting the action is, no matter how amazing the visuals, no matter how spectacular the FX, Pacific Rim most of all has huge amounts of heart and fun to make it a truly entertaining summer movie blast! I also can’t respect and love Del Toro enough for dedicating the film to both Ray Harryhausen and Ishirō Honda. That is true class and a wonderful show of appreciation to two of the great all-time masters! Highly recommended and stay through the credits!

-MonsterZero NJ

4 Kaiju!

Pacific Rim rating

bars