Giant Robots or Giant Monsters, which of the two titans is the better combatant for the silver screen? That question has continued to test audience members discussion boards as behemoths like King Kong and Godzilla try to usurp the title from Optimus Prime and Megatron. Tonight’s movie though, doesn’t make you choose, because it combines the two in an epic throw down that will hopefully please both sides of the spectrum. Pacific Rim Uprising rears back to make some noise this weekend, and yours truly is here to report his findings on the latest silver screen smash to guide your viewing needs. Let’s get started!
Special Effects: Most will be tired of the CGI haven these movies have become, but yours truly appreciates the work that went into unleashing the havoc. The design of the new robots gets a round of applause, with sleek angular designs, some new tricks, and a fluid movement that fit well with the Japanese monster movie feel. Monster wise, the Kaijou aren’t as prominent as the first film, but once breached, the monsters have got their own unique design that is odd, but again fitting in theme, with movements that again work with the pace of the movie. And of course, all the lights, punches, and collapsing buildings are beautifully brought to life in all their dazzling, speaker rustling greatness.
The Story: While certainly not the best to grace the screen, the movie’s predictable plot has a few twists and spins on the mix to keep things interesting. In a movie where smashing and fights are the key, you don’t always get the deepest tale, but it works in explaining what happened in the ten years and the whole grand design of the plot. Unlike its predecessor, the movie managed to cut off a lot of fat to present this in a neat, less than 2-hour, package. As such, you have all the elements to put a reason behind the fighting and keep as many characters as involved.
The Acting: Believe it or not, the acting is a step up from other films in this genre. The main stars of John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, and Cailee Spaeny all work in that dysfunctional family united by challenging times way. Still, they all manage to bring some power to otherwise simple characters that are semi-engaging to watch. Of all of them… I think Boyega gets my vote for having the best acting of all, being pushed across all realms to make a balanced character. As for Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, they are the comedic relief and do it well, but also manage to have some involvement in the story (nice directing) and not trying to sell themselves anyway.
The Action: I’ve gone through all the stuff you might care about, but let’s face it, this series is more known for its action and that’s what you want. Well, for this reviewer it a step up compared to the first installment. Timing the movie, about 70% of the film involved some type of action, a majority involving the metallic behemoths fighting one giant obstruction after another. The battles have more variety than part 1, managing to help one differentiate one battle from another. What makes me even happier to report, is that the team listened to reviews and actually utilized their other robots more, instead of dropping them out in five minutes flat. While still not the greatest utilization of secondary robots, it was miles better for me in the long run, making the last 30 minutes of the movie, an action-packed climax to close the story out.
The Comedy at Times: The movie is ridiculous, I get it, but the comedy sometimes is a little too ridiculous and distracting from the overall tone of the movie. A random aside here and there works, but when over utilized as it is in this film, well…then it gets rusty and breaks down. In addition, there are some asides that felt awkward at the moment they chose to unleash it, jumping in amidst the action scenes when they would have fit in other realms. These culminations weren’t my favorite use of comedic relief, as I think it crossed into corniness a few times.
Shallow Character Development: Monster movies are seldom about our main characters growing a lot, but we’ve had previous installments capable of achieving this balance. Pacific Rim Uprising is not one of these movies. While Boyega’s Jake has a little more complexity in terms of everyone knowing him, the rest of the cast have less depth to them past a few traumatic backstories to garnish them up. This is highly evidenced in the other pilots outside the main crew who after getting named are reduced to the shadows given the grand complexity of the film. Uprising proves too busy to invest in its characters, but most may not care as long as they get a good smashing. Still better than the last few transformers though.
Obsidian Fury: As cool as the name and design, I had hoped the new bot would have more point to it, but this is again where the movie fails on at least a story level. The antagonizing robot brings a pretty epic fist fight, but plot wise it felt out of place, a tangent leading down a path that was as cold as the artic frontier it somewhat takes place in. Yes, there are some purposes it serves, but as the movie’s plot progresses, its relevance became less and less for me, until it was just a convenient distraction.
Trailer Syndrome: One thing this day of advertising is famous for, is revealing too much in shorter movies like this. Pacific Rim Uprising’s biggest spoiler is that much of that awesome last battle has already been shown in the trailers. Catch all three of the trailers and you pretty much have pieced 75% of that sequence, with the other 25% feeling very nostalgic/overdramatic. I had hoped for some more dynamic moments to bypass that syndrome, or less advertising, but I didn’t get my wish again. So, avoid the trailers and you’ll be okay.
Pacific Rim Uprising doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a monster/robot movie. It gives you the CGI thrills, spills, and chills in terms of design and the sound editing beautifully complements it. While the story is not the deepest, it works for the most part, allowing plenty of time to cram in the action you oh so wanted to see. Yet, the movie still has to work on its balance learning to not cram so much into the film and maximize on elements that the movie is going to be known for. In addition, stop revealing everything in the trailers and it means less elaborate scenes you have to shoot to make up for it. So, looking for a monster vs. robot’s movie? Look no further, because this film is a success in terms of the action and big battles that are theater worthy. As a film as a whole though, the movie still has a lot of repairs to make, before it becomes war ready. Oh well, we at least have a soundtrack to get you revved up.
Movie Overall: 6.5