Sunday 25 March 2018

Pacific Rim Uprising

The Jaeger Sanction

Pacific Rim Uprising
2018 China/USA
Directed by  Steven S. DeKnight
UK cinema release print.

Well this one took me by surprise.

I kinda half liked the first Pacific Rim film (reviewed here) but found it a bit strange when the basic premise... robots vs monsters... was a bit dull in places. I quite like Guillermo Del Toro, have a good time with about two thirds of his films and the fact that he wasn’t directing this one was kinda turning me off from the idea that this could actually be an entertaining sequel to the first.

I’m happy to say that, in no way did this film turn out like I thought it would. Pacific Rim Uprising is an extremely entertaining film and, if anything, the way it builds on the first film and eschews some of the admittedly interesting creative ideas and instead, goes full on for the action flick route is to its advantage, I think. In other words... I reckon this sequel is a much stronger film than the first one.

The film headlines John Boyega, who also jumped on board as one of the producers and... well I think this actor is just a great talent and, a likeable person away from the camera too. Although he’s still quite young and newish to movies, he really shows he can carry a big movie on his shoulders.

He’s joined by the equally likeable Scott Eastwood. Yep, I’m going to say it and I hope Mr. Eastwood doesn’t mind this comparison himself as, I’m sure he must get it all the time but... it’s just like watching his famous father, Clint Eastwood, as if a younger Clint had been ‘time scooped’ up from whatever movie he was making in the 1960s and then plonked down in front of the camera for this. Scott walks, talks and acts like his father but... he does it so well and his chemistry with Boyega in this is really quite nice.

The third of the big three in the film who carry the brunt of the story on their shoulders is newcomer Cailee Spaeny, doing a truly excellent job playing a young girl who, ten years in the wake of the last movie, illegally builds a mini Jaeger (the name of the human designed robots piloted by humans) and, for reasons you’ll see in the first ten or so minutes of the movie, is recruited, along with Boyega playing the son of the Idris Elba character from the last one, onto the government payroll to learn how to pilot a proper Jaeger (with Boyega as one of her instructors).

After a brief voice-over montage of Boyega as he gives narration on the current state of the world and what’s happened in the intervening years since his father ‘cancelled the apocalypse’, the film opens really strongly when he and Spaeny are thrust into each other lives, culminating with them inside Spaeny’s small ‘junker’ Jaeger, facing off against a huge government model.

I was expecting the film to kind of just dilute itself down after this opening but, I have to say, it doesn’t let up the pace and I was truly having a good time with it. There are only three characters returning from the last film and one of them, who was my favourite from the last one as it happens, doesn’t last very long in the movie before being killed off. Which is really a shame. Of the other two remaining characters... well one of these is used here as the reason for all the events that occur in the film but... I don’t want to give anything away because, although the storyline is kind of basic and clichéd, the first reveal that something is a bit ‘off’ about this character is still a bit of a surprise.

One of my few regrets about this one is that Ron Perlman’s character, shown to have actually survived being eaten by a Kaiju in a post credits scene of the last installment, didn’t make it into this movie. Oh well, maybe in the third one, if they get around to doing it... which I hope they do because the final, post end title scene (before the credits properly start) with John Boyega’s final line, has got me pumped to see where they take this one.

Like I said, the story on this one is more than a little clichéd but, you know, things become so because they work and the various elements of the film are so well handled here that I couldn’t have cared less if things got a little predictable. The action sequences aren’t over edited to death so you can easily figure out what’s going on and all the characters are used well... with Scott Eastwood’s exit from his Jaeger towards the end being well followed up by a scene where he comes back unexpectedly and... oh, right, this is a non-spoiler review. Can’t tell you where they go with that one.

A couple of things that I thought were a little weak in some ways are the score and the final battle.

Lorne Balfe is a marvellous composer and he does a pretty good and appropriate job in scoring for this film. That being said, Ramin Djawadi’s heroic main theme from the first film, which was all over the trailer for this one, is sadly missing from the majority of the movie and when Balfe does decide to employ it, about two thirds of the way through when ‘a new hope’ is about to be constructed to give mankind a shot at... erm... re-cancelling the apocalypse, it’s in a much changed variation which lacks the punch of the original. The theme turns up again better realised over the end titles but it’s been sadly missed up until then.

The other thing is that I was waiting for the big, final showdown and didn’t realise I had already seen it. The film felt like it needed one of these typical, modern Hollywood “oh, you thought it was over... check this even bigger threat to your depleted resources” style denouement thrown into the mix and, just when it was hinted that it was going to do just that, one of the characters you’d forgotten about negates that moment with a single punch to someone’s jaw. So... a really nice character moment, in all honesty but, at the same time, a real dampener because the film actually felt like it needed a double climax at that point.

However, the film is hugely entertaining, nicely scored, brilliantly acted and has some truly nice shot compositions to boot. Watch out for a scene in the first 20 minutes of the movie when Boyega and Spaeny are in a  prison cell talking and the long shot has each of their heads framed by different vertical sets of bars. Lovely stuff.

So... not much else to say about Pacific Rim Uprising, I guess. If you liked the original Pacific Rim but thought it could have maybe held together a little better then I think you’ll genuinely have a better time with this one. A worthy successor that more than lives up to its roots and which, I hope, makes enough money to greenlight another sequel which makes good on the promise of a certain scene in this one. And for Scott Walker’s next trick, I’d like to see him in a reboot of the Dirty Harry franchise with John Boyega playing against type as a psychotic villain. Probably won’t happen but that could be nice.

No comments:

Post a Comment