The essence of “Pacific Rim” in its original form lay in the otherworldlyness that always underscores a Guillermo Del Toro film. The fact that all the characters were just the slightest bit off without over-dramatizing the situation. The fact that they were slightly off center. The scenario in the first film was life or death…a world in fear that has to battle against the monsters from the deep. There was also an inherent darkness to the proceedings. Even in certain Godzillas movies and definitely Akira, the viewer got a sense that the world might actually end. That sense of dread or even consequence seems missing here..the human toll.
Granted this is a large robot movie but especially with a huge sequence towards the end the sheer destruction without perception of life including the pulling down of certain buildings lacks a certain depth. Even “Colossal” understood its texture in a larger space. John Boyega of recent Star Wars fame takes on the role of Idris Alba’s son here. Jake’s father Stacker Pentecost was lost during the Kaiju encounter and now Boyega’s character runs in the aftermath.
“Uprising” is a story about the redemption of a hero and granted here Boyega is more likable than as Finn in SW who always seems to be running away until he is caught red handed. The true heart comes though in the form of a teenage girl Amara who possesses technical know-how and a brazen personality but with a lack of social interaction. It is a perfect perception of youth today and her interaction with the Jaeger Academy works well as does her eventual authority.
The twist of the movie interceding with the villain tries to integrate the idea of Del Toro body horror in a way but it doesn’t quite work because the tone is off. Is the film fun in many ways…sure…but fulfilling in the world it creates…not so much. Even the perceived villain who dominates the business end of the film delivers only in the final minutes giving the climax a muted feeling in a way. What results is a spectacle with nacent stakes…or at least those felt in the gut.
By Tim Wassberg
The tricky question when you decide to relaunch a franchise is do you reboot it or do you pay homage and continue a story from before. With something like “The Fast & Furious”, you had to go back to what worked initially which was the original cast. With “Jurassic Park III”, that didn’t work because you took this great couple (The Grants) with push and pull chemistry and made them divorced. A similar thing happened with Dr. Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) who was a stellar character in the first one because of his humor but became more stoic in the second one. The thing that filmmakers need to understand is that many of these franchises are simply designed to be theme park rides. You don’t have to get into deep mythology. Just make sure it hits some notes for hardcore fans and stays on track and, above all, doesn’t take itself too serious. Case in point is its leading actor Chris Pratt, who through some cosmic coincidence has basically become the new era’s Harrison Ford of the early 80s. He is at the exact right age (36). Ford didn’t make his bones in Star Wars until that age. Here he has enough gravitas to make you believe that he could do some of the stuff with the raptors that he claims to do. The other is pure charm which he makes look fairly effortless which with marks and everything is not as easy as it looks. As Starlord in “Guardians Of Galaxy”, he could come off as fairly inept and still remain likeable. Here, there is a little more meat but not much. However, it gives definite creedence that he could play Indiana Jones. Bryce Dallas Howard does the same thing with her role which is less defined but definitely intersperses with the spirit as needed. She and Pratt work well off each other and have chemistry is a cartoonish sort of way. It is similar to Starlord with Zoe Saldana’s character in “Guardians”. Essentially, he makes her laugh. The secondary plot involving Howard’s two nephews is meant as a throwback to the original film. Compounded by the possible divorce of their parents thrown in as a device, it does provide a level of emotional connection. I saw it as a ploy but it still worked. The reveal of a certain location and props from an earlier film does connect the story lines as does the reveal of a protagonist at the very end. The ending sequence beyond spectacle has a little bit resonance beyond the final shot but it is more interesting getting there, especially with certain aspects of the raptors. “Jurassic World” might not be the greatest film but it is the best “Jurassic” since the original.