War Ready For Action. Needs Repairs For A Story

Pacific Rim Uprising

 

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!

 

LIKES:

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.

 

 

DISLIKES:

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.

 

The VERDICT:

            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. 

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5

 

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Fate Smiles On Eight!

Fate of the furious

 

A couple of years ago, we had what we thought was the final chapter of the Fast and Furious legacy, ending with the montage of the fallen hero Paul Walker.  Sadly, it seems that the cinema world can’t let it go, and thus comes the subject of my latest review Fate of The Furious (or Fast 8 for short). After the fake, ridiculous of number 7 (minus the ending), I can’t say I was happy from the trailers for this film and how it looked even cheesier.  What is my verdict?  Read on to find out my friends.

 

LIKES:

  • Action more controlled
  • Comedy stays strong
  • Soundtrack
  • Story Is Much Better

 

Summary:  If you remember Furious 7, you remember how over the top the stunts were and the sheer ridiculous factor they had (e.g. superhuman feats, near invincibility, invulnerable cars). Fortunately, Fast 8 toned the action back to the baseline ridiculous of this action franchise, keeping things reeled in to a point of somewhat believability.  While this may tone down the action somewhat, this installment still packs plenty of punch with diverse sequences including: drag racing, gun play, martial arts, and of course car combat.  It’s suspenseful, it’s fun, and at times it is really funny, providing that popcorn flick entertainment value you like.  In addition, the stellar soundtrack contains both musical scores and music that fit well with the movie, (I myself enjoyed a few original R&B/rap songs near the end of the film).

Speaking of funny, Fast 8 doesn’t hold back on the comedic antics that the second film brought. Dwayne Johnson interjects his brand of corny insults and tough talk, establishing a banter rivalry with Jason Statham, who not only has a few clever quips, but finally redeems his pitiful character in this film.  Yet the main source of laughs comes from Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. This comedic duo performs plenty of stunts, deliver plenty of well-written insults, and put their foots in their mouths so many times to keep you chuckling through the entire film. All of the laughs keep things light and relieve the tension to help ground the film into a PG-13 environment.

            Hands down though, is the improvement over the story.  Fast 8 reaches back into its roots for our plot, bringing back the character development and crime element of the film that started it all.  Dom’s tale of deceit throws plenty of nostalgic shade at our leading hero, including some unexpected twists that help tie together SOME of the loose ends. Fans will find plenty of emotion in this film, and hopefully will enjoy the action built around the plot (instead of the other way around). In addition, the fact that Statham’s character is released in this film (making the plot of seven almost useless) was a good thing for all the redemption they brought with his character.  I give the group applause for the improved story element, despite how bad it looked in the trailers (guess you can’t judge a movie by its trailer…sometimes).

 

DISLIKES:

  • Still ridiculous at times
  • Some Cameos not worth it
  • Editing Still needs some work
  • There is going to be a number 9

Summary: Let’s face it, this installment is famous for how ridiculous Hollywood special effects teams want to push the limits of cars.  Fast 8 does not escape this curse, for it is still filled with absolutely hilarious (though somewhat impressive) stunts.  I don’t wish to reveal too much, but let’s just say the submarine racing them isn’t the most ludicrous thing you’ll see, nor the biggest stretch (bad guys can’t seem to aim) of the imagination. Still it is an improvement over 7.

As I said earlier, Fast 8 has some twists you might not see coming, which leads to some unexpected cameos (unless you look at the cast list cheaters!). Some these moments are impressively, or spot on timed to maximize their appearance.  Yet there are others that were wasted and could have greatly been expanded upon to further amplify their involvement. I can’t say much, but I will admit that almost all the guest appearances held pertinence to the story, they just needed more time.

Yet the biggest flaw is still the editing of the films. Fast 8 may have lots of excitement to keep the movie going, but there are plenty of moments that could have been left for the directors’ cut.  A random cousin at the beginning for an almost pointless race, an overdramatic taunt that gets lost in the scheme of the movie, and even a few punch fests just weren’t needed.  In addition, some of the characters felt a little robbed, until that one factor comes in where they are needed.  These sloppy moments feel disjointed, unnecessary, and dilute the story into those eye-rolling moments that could have been so much better.  Perhaps these moments will be strengthened in the next movie, which is a strong hint to come (a shame compared to how well this movie could have tied things up).

 

The Verdict:

 

      Overall, this reviewer liked Fast 8 much better than Furious 7.  With a much better story (strengthening the limitations of its predecessor), toned down stunts, and an atmosphere that feels much like the earlier installments, this movie is a step in the right direction for the impending sequels to come.  Yet, it still doesn’t reach the balance some of the previous films have.  The editing and character balance still needs some work so that all the characters feel absolutely necessary instead of convenient.  Still, it is a worthy theater film, and will provide the aisle stomping entertainment you are looking for. Let’s hope “Fate” smiles on the next sequels to come from this series…and hope they can keep the momentum going.

 

Action/Crime/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0