Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review of PACIFIC RIM UPRISING: Jaegers in Jeopardy

March 31, 2018

The first "Pacific Rim" film (MY REVIEW), which directed by the 2018 Oscar Best Director Guillermo del Toro, was screened in 2013. I actually liked it despite having apprehensions about it before watching it. This sequel, directed by Steven S. de Knight in his feature film debut, also had not-so-good reviews coming out before it was released in local theaters today. Again despite these "warnings", we still went on to watch it, knowing it will probably still be a lot of fun. 

This sequel takes place 10 years after the Kaiju War of the first film. The lead character is Jake Pentecost, the son of the big hero of the first film, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). After a botched illegal transaction with Jaeger spare parts, Jake was forced to return to the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) as a Jaeger trainer, alongside his former partner Nate Lambert. Amara Namani, a teenage orphan who built a scrappy little Jaeger of her own, was recruited to be one of their trainees. 

From the get-go, it was clear that this film was going to be high-energy and over-the-top, peppered with corny and cheesy lines of dialogue. Once you accept that vibe, then you're good to go and you will enjoy the rest of the film. Don't expect anything serious or deep, this is simply one fun and bumpy ride. No thinking or logic is necessary, no matter how many pseudo-scientific lines they throw at us. 

John Boyega shows us a lighter side to him as Jake Pentecost, compared than the one we first knew him for, as Finn in the new Star Wars series. I had a good laugh with the way he delivered that "inspirational" speech to his trainees. Scott Eastwood played Nate Lambert, who was generally second fiddle to Jake in the film, but he also had his own heroic moments. Cailee Spaeny played Amara, who joins a slew of other sassy kiddie-young teen sidekicks from other recent action films.

Reprising her role from the previous film is Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, who has now been promoted to be the General Secretary of the PPDC. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play their old comic-relief nerdy scientists, Dr. Newton Geiszler and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb respectively, but this time, their characters have more screen time and plot surprises. 

To make the big Chinese market happy, Jing Tian is here again in a marked role as Liwen Shao, whose company had developed drones or remote-controlled Jaegers. Jing had been the major Chinese character in Hollywood films in the past two years, with roles in "The Great Wall" and "Kong: Skull Island". I first saw her five years ago in Chinese films like "Special ID" (MY REVIEW) and "Police Story 2013" (MY REVIEW). 

The Jaeger vs. Kaiju action is fast and frenetic, mercurial and messy. The buildings and infrastructure of Tokyo were all at their destructive mercy. This final battle is really the meat of the whole film, and it only happens in the third act. All the fighting is done in broad daylight so we can see the action (and the CGI) clearly, unlike the nighttime rainy fights in the last film. 

Overall though, the first film was still much better than this one, storywise and cinematically.  For this shallower sequel, you could actually skip the first 80 minutes and just catch the last 30 minutes for the fights. 6/10. 

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