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AMUSING SCHLOCK: ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is average creative fare

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“Pacific Rim: Uprising” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s dumber than a sack of dead squirrels.

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Sometimes movies are entertaining for the wrong reasons—not “wrong” in an ecumenical sense or involving any kind of morality, but “wrong” as in completely unintended. Tommy Wiseau wasn’t trying to make the most entertaining bad movie ever when he decided to make the cult classic “The Room.” It was just a byproduct of bad decisions made on several levels, producing something strange and utterly watchable. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” could easily join the ranks of unintentionally entertaining movies based on some hilariously strange choices and a narrative that feels like a Saturday morning cartoon freebasing nitroglycerin.

KILLING IN THE NAME OF... Robot killing machines take down a city to save the world in ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising.’ Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

KILLING IN THE NAME OF… Robot killing machines take down a city to save the world in ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising.’ Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

It’s the future, and the world is recovering from the epic licking it took in the first “Pacific Rim” movie. Audiences who didn’t catch it (and they’re lucky if they did) missed out on giant monsters emerging from the sea to destroy humanity for reasons.

The world’s only hope involves giant robots called “Jaegers,” who are out to save the day, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot style.  The first movie was a giant, joyless cartoon with some good action scenes and terrible performances. Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is a director who everyone seems to love. But I often find myself at odds with the critical majority. It is mainly due to the fact his characters are so often one-dimensional caricatures who come across like bad TV actors from the 1950s. They never feel like actual people, which is why “Pacific Rim” seemed to have zero emotional weight.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is actually an improvement over the original in a number of ways. The characters are still paper thin, but most of them aren’t delivering over-the-top dialogue with the manic energy of “Speed Racer.” The new film takes place 10 years after the world is saved by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who sacrificed his life to defeat interdimensional beings from taking over Earth. His son Jake (John Boyega) has grown up without a father and is a crass opportunist. He has turned his back on the military and the giant robot program that keeps the world safe. Instead, he’s a low-rent scavenger for technology to sell on the black market and fund his party lifestyle. Sadly, this plot isn’t explored in greater detail.

After getting arrested for some illegal activities, Jake is sent back to the military organization that trained him to fight giant monsters. Apparently, his skills as a pilot are still valuable enough to keep him out of prison. Jake’s return isn’t all smooth. He’s had to live his life under the shadow of his heroic father and is seen by many of his peers as a selfish washout. It all stops mattering the moment an evil giant robot appears and starts blowing up the city.

And this is where the movie becomes unintentionally awesome. During the first fight scene, we see two giant robots going at it in the middle of a populated city. Each are smashed into skyscrapers that crumble and fall faster than you can say “insurance company bankruptcy.” In their efforts to stop the giant evil robot from destroying the city, our heroes end up destroying half of it.

At one point they’re using a laser beam to grab buildings and pull them into their opponents, like giant, concrete and steel-battering rams. Who approved this strategy? What’s the point of having giant robots save the world if they end up leveling civilization in the process? Supposedly, there’s no collateral damage because the entire city was able to “get to shelters” in 40 seconds.

There’s something inherently dumb about the “Pacific Rim” universe. It’s like they built giant robots and said, “OK, we don’t need any other kind of weapons anymore.”
Where are the planes, tanks and other pieces of military hardware that could help fend off evil robots and monsters? It’s like they decided on a strategy of using giant robots and every useful weapon ceased to exist. Wouldn’t some ICBMs be useful in a situation like this?

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s dumber than a sack of dead squirrels.  Believe it or not, that’s kind of a compliment. I shudder to think what a super-intelligent version of the “Pacific Rim” franchise looks like. Right now, it’s a standard blockbuster where everything ultimately adds up to average The movie’s most entertaining bits come from some terrible writing and acting, mostly from Scott Eastwood, who is so wooden his performance can only be graded using various hardwoods. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is amusing schlock, but nothing to be taken seriously.

Pacific Rim: Uprising
expressionless emoji
Rated PG-13
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Starring  John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny

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