By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers) –
Before you read this review, I’d like you to queue up the semi-one-hit-wonder “I Try” by Macy Gray circa the year of our Cthulhu, 2000. Can’t find it? I’ve got you covered.
Just go ahead a play this on a loop while you read.
I have some complicated feels about sequels in general and sequels specifically released in the past couple years (I’m looking at *you* tragic let-down, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) that this song perfectly encapsulates because I just CAN’T QUIT YOU, sequels, even when you let me down and/or moderately whelm me. Toxic relationships, not just for your family and/or significant others, campers! But seriously, with the exception of John Wick 2, it’s been a lean few years sequels-wise on the ol’ cinema frontier. Especially with Rim 2 considering writer/director Guillermo del Toro bailed on the sequel “due to timing” (the movie version of “it’s not you, it’s me”) SO HE COULD MAKE THE WORST MOVIE I SAW LAST YEAR (yeah, I’m looking at *you* Shape of Water). Here’s a fun joke: Question: How many writers does it take to replace Guillermo del Toro? (EVEN THOUGH HE ALREADY WROTE LIKE TWO OR THREE DRAFTS YOU COULD USE AND ULTIMATELY WENT WITH SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT) Answer: Five. FIVE.
Writer/Director Steven DeKnight doesn’t exactly drive this bus full of mechs and monsters off of a cliff, but he doesn’t do much else with it, either. With lead Charlie Hunnam also out of the picture (literally – also due to scheduling conflicts) Pacific Rim: Uprising was practically meh-on-arrival and I’m not surprised. We open on a ne’er-do-well Jake Pentecost (a game John Boyega so charming you almost forget the laundry list of shit that’s wrong with Pacific Rim 2) living the rough and tumble life not quite on the right side of the law a cool decade after the Kaiju/Jaeger War came to a heart-wrenchingly sacrificial close. But everybody seems to still be really worried about it as two rival defense programs compete for funding and attention (one manned and one pushing drone use) from the Council Of Important People Who Decide Stuff Like This (coincidentally headed up by Mako Mori (a criminally underused Rinko Kikuchi) from OH YEAH ONE HALF OF THE PAIR THAT SAVE THE WORLD LAST TIME. NBD. Enter scruffy girl who built her own Jaeger, a cast of multi-ethnic teen leads, and the douche I went to high school with (Scott “I grew into my face” Eastwood) and you’ve got yourself a knockoff Independence Day: Resurgence/Transformers movie to watch. So yay?
Much like selective amnesia, or giving a fake name at a bar before realizing you just hit on your possibly third cousin visiting from out of town (no reason for this very specific example), Pacific Rim: Uprising is fun in the moment but, the more you think about it later, the more you kind of really regret buying into the whole thing. There was a slightly interesting villainous Red Herring moment or two, I guess. Plus, the action sequences are slick, if hollow, and the kickass Kaiju/Jaeger shenanigans still inspire shock and AW YEAH (especially the Boss Battle Showdown Bonanza), but if you’re looking for the heart-driven, tongue-in-cheek ridiculous, and ridiculously fun, rodeo in the spirit of Pacific Rim, I’d keep looking. Somewhere else. Far far away. Possibly involving other galaxies.
*Gollum whisper* SSSSSOON
There was some seriously generic shit this movie spit out using a revolving pinwheel of action movie dialogue options that made Pacific Rim: Uprising slightly less original than dressing your dachshund as a hot dog for Halloween and slightly more creative than selling a flamethrower as “Not A Flamethrower” online. I honestly cannot remember a single line to slip in here as an example of Rim 2’s exquisite mediocrity. Thank you, internet.
Even John Boyega’s finale “Cancel the Apocalypse-ish” speech before the pretty color wheel of ethnically diverse teens go to fight in the Boss Battle isn’t very memorable. Like at all. There was something in there about trying your best? Maybe? Either way if you want me to quote Mean Girls or all of Independence Day (each over a decade old) just holler atcha’ girl and I got you covered because that’s how you write a fucking MOVIE. Buy a dartboard. Tape exclamation points and tiny explosions to it. Congrats, you just wrote Pacific Rim 3.
Dear movie execs who feel like building a franchise around attractive, multi-ethnic young adults to the detriment of serious subject matter and with the intent to make as much money as possible- FUCKING QUIT IT. I mean, yay for representation in cinema (Black Panther is everything good in this world and does it all without sacrificing inclusivity for quality content) but can we talk about how Pacific Rim 2 is basically Independence Day: Resurgence with a dash of Power Rangers and a sprinkle Transformers? It’s the world’s most mediocre sundae. If Tom Cruise can headline a franchise at almost sixty despite questionably sane life choices, you, too, can reinvent a franchise without dipping into the puberty pool to fish out the latest twenty-year-old-playing-twelve sensation. Seriously. The scrappy “teen” who built a Jaeger is twenty.
The harsh realties of war illustrated in Pacific Rim was done at the expense of slaughtering half the Jaeger pilots, leaving the original’s narrative on a desperate edge you BELIEVED because the world’s last hope *actually* hinged on that last Jaegar standing. There was a shallow lip service paid to this ideal when one of the teens dies in the final Boss Battle, but, like, mostly off screen so it’s not icky. Pacific Rim: Uprising’s mechs and monsters slugging it out felt almost formulaic in the absolute certainty that the good guys would win because Rim 2 lacked the weight and grit and almost all the heart needed to balance out the ridiculous circumstances of a world on the brink of extinction by way of an inter-dimensional portal that spits out Goliath Godzillas who fight Rock’Em Sock’Em robots on the regular. Maybe consider making a movie based on something other than the merch you’d like to sell? Hahaha sorry, crazy idea. Let’s also not talk about how the women in this film were used to propel the male storylines forward (Mako to give Jake a reason to commit to the cause and Tian Jing’s “Liwen Shao” to give Charlie Day’s “Newton Geiszler” a reason to [redacted].
Much like a dealer’s choice season of The Bachelor, Pacific Rim: Uprising was heartless, mindless, pointless, and absolutely knew you were going to watch it anyway to see what happened since the original aired. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the experience (I did, in the moment) but the longer you think about what you just watched after you leave the theater the more you kind of realize that was actually super lazy, shallow, and ultimately unfulfilling (also like a dealer’s choice season of The Bachelor).
Do not and I mean DO NOT think about the plot if you want to remotely enjoy Rim 2. Pacific Rim was filled with a visceral thread of loss and redemption perfectly poised against a backdrop of spectacular action and fantasy to balance it out. Pacific Rim 2 has plot holes so large they’re only eclipsed by the post credits scene that teases another franchise film while at the same time invalidating the entire movie you just watched. BUT WHY IS THE WORLD OBSESSED OVER DEVELOPING JAEGER TECHNOLOGY IF YOU’VE CLOSED THE BREACH AND ENDED THE THREAT AND HAVE LIVED THE LAST DECADE IN SWEET SWEET PEACE OH LOOK YOU’VE CREATED YOUR OWN PROBLEM AND NOW HAVE TO SOLVE IT AFTER FIGURING OUT THE LAMEST RETCON REASONING OF ALL TIME TO TIE IN THE SEQUEL TO THE ORIGINAL’S REASONING OH NOPE THERE’S SOMETHING ELSE SUPER DUMB THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE DOES ANYONE HAVE A PAPER BAG? I MAY BE HYPERVENTILATING.
America in a nutshell, Pacific Rim: Uprising illustrates that more is not always better. Go see Black Panther again. Go see Thoroughbreds. Go look at pictures of Jeff Goldblum on the internet and whisper “He’s the only man I’LL ever call ‘daddy’.” All of these are probably better uses of your time and/or money.
Last Call: There’s an almost immediate post credits scene you can stick around for if you really want to have the last two hours of your life invalidated by what would have been an infinitely better plot for Pacific Rim 2 that they tease for a possible Pacific Rim 3.
Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever someone mentions Jake’s dad or the Pentecost name like he’s a Kaiju Kennedy.
Take a Sip: for every Jaeger and Kaiju mentioned by name.
Take a Drink: for each new Neural Link.
Do a Shot: RIP ethnically diverse teen.
Shotgun Your Beer: When 1+1+1 = 1. Trust me, you’ll know.