Very Little is Elevated in Pacific Rim: Uprising

26 Mar

pru_tsr1sheet8_john_rgb_3-720x1140By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

* Spoiler Alert

The worry with Pacific Rim: Uprising is in whether it is going to be like one of Michael Bay’s Transformers films. When considering filmmaker Steven DeKnight is part of the writer’s room for the latter franchise and is new to directing blockbusters, my fears are justified. Before this film, he’s only handled TV productions. After seeing the atrocious Transformers: The Last Knight, the thought of this film echoing a similar idea with Amara (Cailee Spaeny) and her companion ‘bot, Scrapper, in the trailer scared me.

Technically, she has to pilot this small ‘bot. Later on, it is modified for remote control. When the story jumps 10 years into the future and we are dealing with a Robotech “Next Generation” scenario, I am still worried.

When this work suggests a bio-fusion with robotics, I could not help but snicker and whisper, “protoculture” and Johji Manabe’s Outlanders under my breath. Fortunately, Amara is no Annie LaBelle, and she’s more like Rey from Star Wars. She’s a scavenger, and when she meets the main protagonist of this film, Stacker (John Boyega), son of war hero Jake Pentecost, her role as the next superstar is still to be defined.

This big boy wants nothing from his past. Life is a party and to get booted back into Pan-Pacific Defense Corps service is the last thing on his mind. I love Boyega’s performance. Much like his presence in Attack the Block, his charisma shines and he really carries this work. Without him, it might be a trainwreck. The only thing odd is his accent wavers. His conflict with Nate (Scott Eastwood) is not as fun as the ones found in the first film. It is needed to give the tale some tension. The investment is not there when compared to how del Toro crafted the first film. To see Stacker in his father’s shoes, however, is dead on.

Hermann_and_Newton

Returning favourites— Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) — gets a closer examination. Day’s character is very reminiscent of Burke in James Cameron’s Aliens. Similarly, Gorman is like Dr. Brackish Okun from Independence Day. Other characters get a brief mention or none at all. Nothing is said about Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), and I’m hoping for his return in the next film.

The tale borrows from RoboCop. Many Jaeger pilots fear to lose their jobs in favour of automation. When a rogue mech attacks Sydney, Australia, the worry becomes even more intense when scientists discover the Kaiju are behind it! To find out how they have merged with technology means having a scientist as smart as Dr. Emil Lang from Robotech to figure out the logistics. With Gottlieb back, the moments of weird science got me excited and wondering if Boomer (Bubblegum Crisis) tech is in store for this universe’s future.

I had fun trying to identify all the old Japanese animations this film was making allusions to. With no surprise, one obligatory reference had to happen and I thank Sunrise for approving the cameo. Unlike the last film, the big fight takes place in the day and I did not get a lot of excitement because the trailer gave away the biggest surprise. Unlike the first film which had a grandiose gladiatorial spirit which kept me glued, this latest one feel restrained. Also, the first film featured the ‘bots duking it out in multiple skirmishes whereas, with Uprising, we only had two.

As much as I wanted to love this film, this product is only slightly better than a Sentai television program. The 3D IMAX presentation was not an improvement, and as I recall, del Toro was intimately involved in the conversion, to make this movie jump. This film only skips; it simply lacks del Toro’s panache. He gets a visual consultant credit. It seems DeKnight understands Transformers more. He may not know all about the other anime titles to which this film could have greatly borrowed more from, like Mobile Police Patlabor and Mazinger. The latter style would have greatly elevated this movie to a level if it wanted to get old school.

The people behind the handling this film is most likely going to call it quits after the third film. Hopefully, Gareth Edwards (Godzilla 2014) schedule is open and to make it will not take long. I like to see him add to this universe. He can offer the breath of fresh air to wrap the series off. After all, he understands Monsters!

3 Screws Loose out of 5

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