Pacific Rim Downsizes

Pacific Rim was not a great film, but it had good visuals and a nice score. Take both away, and we have Pacific Rim Uprising. It gives each one of the Transformers movies a run for their money, not in the right direction though. Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.

Humankind has much to be embarrassed about, and for the last decade, one of them has been the dreadful Transformers franchise.

It has been years since I have been lobbying against this franchise though not in any way that seemed to have made a dent on its box office revenue. Each outing had the makings of a terrible film: obnoxious characters, crude scenes, bad camera angles, noise and cheesy plots.

The world was slow, but it has finally come to notice. The last one in the franchise, Transformers: The Last Knight, did make a profit but it was the lowest grossing of the bunch, barely scratching 600 million dollars worldwide. This is not a small amount of money, but it is in the world of Hollywood. It signals a franchise in trouble, and perhaps one that investors are complaining about at the moment.

It has been well understood that if there is something that we could do less with, it is giant robots. But do not tell this to the filmmakers of Pacific Rim Uprising.

A measure of the unpopularity of such movies, I saw it at Edna Mall with one of the lowest numbers of audiences during the 7pm slot I have ever seen. It was a far-cry to the phenomenon that Black Panther was or even the unappreciated, unadorned Gringo.

The film picks up a decade after the events of the last movie. The Kaiju’s have long gone, but the Jaegers, the robots that were built to fight them, are still in use – retained for a possible return of the sea monsters lookalikes.

Jake (John Boyega) is a son of one of the veterans of the Kaiju wars. Kicked off the Jaeger program where he served as a promising pilot, he is brought back in after a series of events that see him befriend a young Jaeger enthusiast.

He learns quickly that the world is changing and that piloted Jaegers are about to become a thing of the past. A corporation called Shao is building the sort that can be remotely controlled. But before their launching, they start to go rogue after being sabotaged. A portal that was closed with great effort in the first movie is opened, and the Kaiju are introduced back into the world.

I can see Boyega becoming a megastar. Or he could disappear from prominence once the Star Wars trilogy comes to an end though. He has the charisma to become a screen legend, but he does not seem to be able to choose the right sorts of characters. He can either be the Mark Hamill of Star Wars or Harrison Ford. He is dangerously gearing in the former direction.

The first movie was the brainchild of the latest Oscar winner for best director. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was greatly anticipated, even after grown-up film audiences were turned off on the idea of yet another robot movie after the Transformers franchise.

One of those people was me. I felt I should give del Toro the benefit of the doubt for he has made some interesting movies. Before he won Oscars for the Shape of Water, his fascination with weirdness, or with characters that like weird things, was illustrated in Pan’s Labyrinth. I believed he could give us some new perspective on these fictional entities Hollywood seemed bewitched with.

He did not, and I regret to say that it is one of his most disappointing movies. But there was some sense of wonder in his direction – a visual brilliance that seems to haunt great directors even when they are working on their worst film.

I knew the film would be made worse in the second outing. The production company, Legendary Entertainment, had brought in Steven S. DeKnight, who is best known for TV, in the likes of Spartacus, Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is true that Joss Whedon, director of the first two Avengers movies, had a similar professional upbringing, but it is rare to source a good director from such middling TV series.

I was proven right. The original film’s visual panache is gone. There is some imitation going on, but it does not come close to that of the original. The plot is just as sophomoric as before, but this one without a single scene to allow a guilty pleasure at the sheer abundance of the visual effects.

Most unfortunate is the matter of the score. That of the previous film’s, by Ramin Djawadi, was uplifting and catchy. But it is as if it has been put through a shredder here. Lorne Balfe, who did the music, has done a massive disservice to a score that would have become a classic in the instance that the franchise was remotely successful.

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Apr 01,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 936]



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