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Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

Once the Honeymoon effect finally wore off for the new Pacific Rim Movie, and I gradually put together in my head what the sequel’s story was, one important question rang in my head: have we run out of original plot lines? I don’t have anything against Pacific Rim Uprising, as it’s not a movie that anyone (or that I would recommend anyone) goes to watch for its gripping story; there’s about 50 years of giant robot fighting movies with original stories from Japan. However, it is something I do want to address simply because it’s growing increasingly hard for me to work out what audience Pacific Rim is beginning to cater for. The level of nods and winks towards the series’ spiritual past in anime would lead anyone to believe that it’s a nostalgia piece, designed to either bring in current fans of the mecha genre, or even to draw in new fans.

But at the same time, this movie isn’t anything like its acclaimed ‘origins’. If anyone was to watch the likes of Evangelion, the Gundam Series, or even the more recent Aldnoah Zero, based on what theysaw from Pacific Rim Uprising (despite all the emphasis put on reminding us that its roots are inherently Japanese), they’d see a huge difference. I noticed the same disparity watching it; the plot was more hastily put together, and less character development was shown – instead opting for oddly placed monologues.

The surviving characters from the previous movie weren’t developed, but left as stagnant background characters, and the plot wasn’t as much an engaging and cohesive story, but seemed more of a vessel to carry characters to the next giant robot fight. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I could best relate this series to in relation to the background material it was supposedly derived from – until I was reminded of another robot fighting movie that has its origins in cult animated shows. I’m sure a lot of fans of Pacific Rim are going to get very, very mad at me for making this assumption, but Pacific Rim feels like the Transformers of Evangelion. I’m not saying this is a bad thing: the live action Transformers movies have their place (or at least we infer they have their place based on the profit Michael Bay makes from them), and this ‘place’ is probably not too far from the place the Pacific Rim series currently resides, but the relationship is irrefutable now I’ve seen it.

The previous movie, despite it being ‘A big dumb robot fighting movie’, was an interesting spin on the ‘monster vs robot’ fighting genre. I would have found it hard to hate Pacific Rim no matter what state it came out in simply because one of my favourite directors of all time, Guillermo Del Toro, directed it. He did a decent job with setting up the world, the characters, and the story-line in an engaging perspective of a well-known trope of international cinema, brought to a western audience. This interesting and diverse world also passes over into Pacific Rim Uprising, set several years following the events of the first film, in a world that is slowly recovering and developing from the previous ‘Kaiju’ invasion. As far as excuses to have giant mecha suits fight each other, this is probably the most engaging, if not believable, set-up. The special effects, just like the first movie, are top-notch, and equally the designs of the monsters and the Jaegers deserve commendation. The Jaegers especially seem decidedly… Japanese, while also in-keeping with their own designs and clear influences from other cultures.

John Boyega’s performance was decent, if not a bit cliched. It is refreshing for a movie to avoid ‘Americanising’ its British actors by forcing them to put on contrived American accents; a trait unfortunately found in other blockbusters (I’m looking at you, Star Wars). His supporting actress, Cailee Spaeny also performed admirably in a rather illustrious debut role in cinema. Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, like in the 2013 Original Pacific Rim, once again presented perhaps the highlights of the movie for me in their performance, even if Charlie Day’s performance is essentially Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with a PhD in Molecular Biology. The new additions to the cast (the sci-fi high school starter pack straight out of Ender’s Game) aren’t as well written. To the credit of their actors, they perform the roles believably, but they feel like a generic excuse to have a mentor-student relationship between Boyega and Spaeny’s characters, because that’s still ‘in fashion’ right now. I think the lack of emphasis on their character development is best conveyed when one of them dies in battle, and… that’s it. One other character slaps the floor, and the rest of the cast makes an awkward shuffle, but nothing else. Their death isn’t even mentioned again in the entire movie, so I guess I’ll take that as free rein not to even count it as a spoiler. It must leave a bad taste in your mouth when even the movie you’re acting in forgets you before the end credits have started to roll. Let’s hope the pay check wasn’t forgotten.

The fight scenes are good, and the CGI is top-notch, but let’s be honest, the story isn’t really what everyone goes to watch it for these days, is it? Kind of like Transformers, but with a better plot and more Japan. It is an action movie with explosions, guns and giant aliens that fight each other and somewhere down the line, the earth is in danger for some reason. Sit back, enjoy this very entertaining movie, and bathe in the pyrotechnics, just don’t stare too closely at the bits in-between.

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