Monday, April 9, 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising

It's not as good as the first movie.

It's better.

There are two key differences.

I put the first down to the involvement of John Boyega as both lead and executive producer. His performance reminded me of Vin Diesel as Riddick: It's clear that Star Wars is how he's making his money, this is the franchise he loves.

And he's not the only one showing sheer joy, rather reminiscent of The Flash TV show. The movie has the same awareness that, yes, this is goofy. We're making a giant mecha versus giant monster movie, so of course it's going to be silly on occasion. So we're not going to take it seriously...except in the level of professionalism. Elba, an actor I love, kind of phoned in Stacker Pentecost and Charlie Hunnam's performance was, to be blunt, aspiring to be mediocre.

Boyega knocked it out of the park. His co-pilot was played by Scott Eastwood, who also put in a very able performance. The female lead was an unknown, Cailee Spaeny - this is her first role of any significance whatsoever and I keep wanting to know where they found her. Theater, maybe?

Add in the gorgeous and talented Tian Jing and there was just...a better cast.

And a better script.

Ironically, the first movie was directed by Guillermo del Toro, but he stepped away from the sequel and was replaced by...a guy who's previous directing credits consist of 7 episodes across 4 different TV shows.

And it still managed to be better.

(I realize I'm talking about the people a lot more, but I always want to acknowledge those who can bring a sense of joy and fun to a movie).

It wasn't high art - it was a mecha vs kaiju movie. But they managed to add in a couple of plot twists in amongst the tropishness (they put an entire jaegar on the mantlepiece and fired it appropriately, albeit not in quite the way I expected). Some aspects of the plot were predictable. But, like the first movie, it wasn't about the plot.

Like the first movie, it was about...the people.

The thing which makes Pacific Rim different is that it interweaves two things with equal importance: The monster fighting action and the relationships between the pilots. And the best thing on that front that Uprising did?

It acknowledged that it did not need a romance.

The first movie showed a relationship that left me wondering if it was romantic or not, like they couldn't make up their mind.

The key relationships in this movie are between Jake and Nate and between Jake and Amara: And neither is romantic. (Although it's my honest opinion that Jake Pentecost is about as heterosexual as I am. Straight guys just don't talk about other guys like that). Instead of giving us a romance, the movie goes into a theme that seems fashionable right now: Family.

The first thing Jake Pentecost says, almost, is "I am not my father." But when Amara takes issue with him calling Mako Mori his sister... The blood of the covenant is very much stronger than the water of the womb in this movie...

So, yeah. Better than the first one. Not high art, no, but if you just want to have a couple of hours of shameless fun...check it out.

(There were a couple of flaws in it, but ironically the one which annoyed me the most - if you're going to have a jaeger on jaeger fight make them different enough in color that you can tell them apart).